Nine talents, five staves, four hours, three spirits and one ball

Dickens-2014. . . the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room as you would desire to see upon a winter’s night.

Yes, it’s that special time of year of a very special Second Life Christmas tradition: the telling of Charles Dickens’ popular seasonal tale, A Christmas Carol. And this year, it will be a very special event.

Since its first performance in 2012 by the folk of StoryFest SL, under the title of The Dickens Project, and in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth, the telling of A Christmas Carol has become something of a very special Christmas event, with readings taking place right across the the holiday period,

For 2014, things will be a little different. Forming a part of Fezziwig’s Ball, which will be held on Sunday, December 21st, commencing at 11:00 SLT, there will be a special reading of A Christmas Carol by the StoryFest SL team, taking place over approximately four hours, and Second Life residents are invited to drop in and listen throughout.

The timetable for the event is as follows (all times are SLT, and from noon onwards, approximate):

  • 11:00 Stave One, “Marley’s Ghost” – Shandon Loring and Caledonia Skytower
  • Noon: Stave Two, “The First of Three Spirits” – Bhelanna Blaze and John Morland
  • 13:00: Stave Three, “The Second of Three Spirits” – Kayden Oconnell and Aoife Lorefield
  • 14:00: Staves Four & Five, “The Last of the Spirits” & “The End of It” – Corwyn Allen, Freda Frostbite, and Dubhna Rhiadra.
Caledonia Skytower, Shandon Loring (centre) and Kayden Oconnell in an evocative shot of the virtual / live performance by Bear Silvershade
Caledonia Skytower, Shandon Loring (centre) and Kayden Oconnell in an evocative shot of the virtual / live cross-over performance of The Dickens Project’s A Christmas Carol in 2013 by Bear Silvershade

Shortly after the conclusion of Stave Five there will be a very special ball / party, with suitably festive music supplied by Dubhna Rhiadra, and to which all are invited, “put on your dancing shoes and dance like it’s 1843!” (period costumes welcome, but optional!). The ball will celebrate both the festive season, and mark the closing of the StoryFest SL storybook, as the organisers seek to focus more of their time and resources on some exciting new projects and work. 

Having attended previous readings of A Christmas Carol by the folk at StoryFest SL, I can state without hesitation that they are always a pleasure to attend. So, if you enjoy this story of grumpy old men, ghosts and redemption, then pour yourself a glass of mulled wine, grab a mince pie or two and hop over to Imagination Island.

On a personal note: as this is the last event that will be held under the StoryFests SL banner, I’d like to offer my thanks to those who have, since 2011, both organised and participated in StoryFest events: StoryFest itself, BOOFest, Bard on the Beach and, of course, The Dickens Project.

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Note: while this is not a fund-raising event, any and all tips received will benefit The Community Virtual Library, who are hosting the event on Imagination Island.

The algorithms of art

Art and Algorithms Digital Arts Festival
Art and Algorithms Digital Arts Festival – Jo Ellsmere: Biomechanical (click any image for full size to see the details)

The Art and Algorithms Digital Arts Festival, currently located on LEA8, will be closing at the end of December 2014, and if you haven’t already paid it a visit, I would recommend that you do. It is a continuation of the Second Life element of the art festival of the same name, which was held in Titusville, Florida, between October 3rd and 12th, 2014.

Arranged around a central landing point area are eight individual exhibition spaces offering one or more pieces by well-known SL artists. Each exhibit is highly individual in terms of subject matter, and despite the fact they are all packed into a single region, they each offer an individual environment, complete with custom media streaming and parcel windlight presets.

The landing area, designed by Pixel Sideways, initially served as a tutorial area for people entering SL for the first time from the Titusville festival; as such, it may not appear to hold much of interest to the established SL user. However, I’d suggest having a little look around, as there are several points of interest to be found, including a teleport to Pixels’ own display area located high over the region. The music stream provided in the arrival area might also be of interest as well, given it is being driven by solar radiation levels being recorded by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter as it orbits the Moon!

Art and Algorithms Digital Arts Festival
Art and Algorithms Digital Arts Festival – Ub Yifu: The Tree People, “an absorbing immersive environment, which is at the same time a tribute to Nature and its many gifts, the mysterious duality of life, and the creative people who explore virtual worlds in search of their holy grail”

The first of the installations on display to capture my attention when visiting was Jo Ellsmere’s Biomechanical, picture at the top of this article. A homage to V. Meyerhold’s biomechanics system developed to help train actors, it was first seen as a part of the digital element of The Golden Age of the Russian Avant Garde, by Peter Greenaway (UK) and Saskia Boddeke (Holland) which I wrote about in May 2014, and makes a welcome return here. The piece features five avatars beautifully scripted to move through as series of synchronised actions, both as a single unit and as five unique elements within that unit, a slight syncopation to their movements giving them a time-lapsed grace.

Jo also shares the stage with Pyewacket Kazyanenko for Interstellar Princess, which they disarmingly refer to as simply, “a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all”! Featuring a small army of bots named for the phonetic alphabet, and a similar number of televisions (make sure you run media in the parcel), it’s a curious piece.

Art and Algorithms Digital Arts Festival
Art and Algorithms Digital Arts Festival – Lollito Larkham: Petit-Gris (Little Gray), the Plutoian who passes the days listlessly, moving about his home, reading about alleged “humans” and tale of the wonderful planet Earth, his mood swinging between hope and despair that he’ll ever be able to see it for himself

The origins of ALEA FUKUSHIMA apparently lie in a dream artist Artistide Despres had, in which he imagined a scientist-musician who was able to neutralize the radioactivity at the Fukushima nuclear power plant by transforming the energy into music. This is an interactive piece, musical instruments in the “reactor building” responding directly to avatars.

In another of the overhead domes, Feathers Boa offers visitors Painting in Three Dimensions,  retrospective of her work from the period of 2007-2010. All of the pieces here also respond to the presence of an avatar, changing as you approach them and then step away from them.

Art and Algorithms Digital Arts Festival
Art and Algorithms Digital Arts Festival – in A Comfortable Skin, Gracie Kendal continues her exploration of society’s obsession with appearance, identity, and acceptance, using both physical and virtual avatars. Don one of the paint-splattered skins she offers, jump into the images of physical world locations and similarly-attired “avatars” and take a picture of yourself. Are you comfortable in the skin you’re in?

Glyph Graves presents three pieces for the price of one: Ghost Flora, Breeze, and Forest of Water. The latter two pieces are presented in one of ground-level exhibition spaces, while Ghost Flora can be seen in the waters surrounding the central landing / tutorial area.

Together, these works make up an interesting exhibition, each of them showing various facets of artistic expression and the versatility available within virtual environments like Second Life for immersive art.

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