How It Began

About the Exhibition

image This site came into being in a very unusual way. As a writer and photographer with a particular love of astronomy and sci-fi, my imagination is always in constant overdrive. One idea that kept knocking around my head was a fictional region of the universe, inhabited by a wide variety of species, ranging from tribal to highly advanced, humanoid to utterly alien, existing in incredibly different environments and within cultures so far from our own. With no experience in creating digital art, the idea of bringing the images in my head to life seemed impossible. Then I discovered Solar Voyager and Renderosity...

Diving into the space art communities, I came across some incredible artists who simply blew my mind. I asked if any of them might be interested in doing some compositions based on my ideas, just for fun and as a personal favor. But in order to get my thoughts across, I had to put together detailed descriptions of my vision, so that they had a clear idea of how it should all look. Since it would have been counterproductive to send the information to each artist one by one, I threw it all onto a single web page for the sake of convenience, with a list of bullet points of what was in my head (the Designing Xilon page is essentially a cleaner version of the original website).

One thing led to another and soon, there were a large number of wonderful artists who were interested in depicting different planets and landscapes. As these ideas grew, I thought that it would be fun to give those planets a background and develop a species that lived in the region. I have always been fascinated by the idea of the human perception of gods, angels and other mythological figures actually being aliens that our ancestors mistakenly worshipped as deities, and wanted to put my own spin on that concept, giving the "angels" a tribal twist reminiscent of the ancient Celts.

image In my intial visualization of the Xilon's physical appearance, I was heavily influenced by haunting descriptions of the Nephilim from one of my favorite books, Many Waters by Madeleine L'engle, in which she paints a spectacular picture of beings with soft skin the color of moonlight, wings and eyes of violet and red, and their golden brothers. But more than a moonlight glow, I wanted these beings to literally be made up of light rather than skin and bone, pure cosmic energy housed within a translucent crystallic casing.

Before I knew it, the entire project had snowballed and taken on a life of its own, turning into a complete narrative experience through which people could envision another part of the universe. Since the project's inception, the sheer amount of change that's taken place continues to amaze me. The original exhibition went up in 2008 as a dinky little homemade site with a stock nebula background and a terrible accordion menu that activated upon hovering, making the buttons rather difficult to chase around and catch. It was a small layout with the bare bones basics...brief descriptions of the Aeradisphere, a disorganized collection of art contributions, half of which were experimental in nature as folks tried to figure out exactly what they were supposed to be portraying, and a couple of early story drafts. I wish that I had a screencap for nostalgia's sake but, sadly, I didn't think of it at the time.

After over two years of constant growth and creative expansion, Xilon needed a new home. It moved at last from a subfolder on my personal site to its own domain, with a brand new design that I created, this time around, from scratch. It still wasn't professional, but it got the job done and better accommodated the increasing amount of content. Happily, I do have a screencap of that one. Another couple of years went by before the third version of the exhibition was launched, this one far more structured and with more of a professional mainstream appeal, geared towards an expanding audience rather than the artists involved.

This is The Xilon Project's fourth incarnation and I am still altering and adding new aspects of Xilon culture, physicality, history and language, the various planets and other alien life forms on a regular basis, influenced by art and ideas offered by so many others. The more visual interpretations that are done, the more I am able to develop the intricate details of the Xilon universe, which in turn inspires new art.

image For example, one artist might choose to create a series of images using the same few characters. Upon seeing those images, I would give the characters names and a backstory, and create a tale that ties together every single scene that the artist has done, perhaps even incorporating landscapes or wildlife images that someone else has sent in. After seeing the finished story, the artist might do additional images inspired by that story, to flesh out the characters even more. The result is an inspiring creative cycle in which we all build on each other's visions of the same basic concept, throwing in our own twists along the way. One of the most wonderful things about having so many different people involved, from so many different mediums, is the opportunity to see such unique visions of the same locations and how the same idea can be portrayed in so many different styles.

The very existence of this site is due to the work of the many artists who were kind enough and brilliant enough to put the time, energy and creativity into bringing to life a concept that I never thought I'd see done. Without their contributions, the world of the Xilon would still be trapped inside my head. So I want to extend an enormous, heartfelt thanks to everyone who has made this exhibition possible, with an extra special (and extremely grateful) nod to artists Andy, JoeE, Martin Roes, Craig Marshall, Darien, Gigi, Jebora and Elaine, who were among the first to jump on board and really helped to shape things and get the ball rolling with numerous images of the Xilon landscapes, planets and people. On behalf of everyone involved, I hope that all of you lovely visitors enjoy yourselves as much as we've enjoyed bringing it all together.

Best wishes,
Reese Nanavati

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