Of Heritage and Vestige in Second Life

Heritage: Vestiges - Gem Preiz
Heritage: Vestiges – Gem Preiz

Heritage is the over-arching title of two immersive installations created by Gem Preiz. The first, Vestiges, opens On Thursday, January 7th,  with the second, Wrecks commencing on Monday, March 7th 2016.

“Heritage is the theme of the two exhibitions,” Gem explains of the pieces. “The heritage passed to us by our predecessors, and the one we shall bequeath to our descendants in the endless fight of life against Time.”

Vestiges evokes the first of these aspects: the heritage passed down to us by others; a journey through the past, visiting the ancient places and secrets of long-past civilisations – but are they the civilisations which gave rise to us, or are we perhaps archaeologists travelling through space and time, witnessing the past of worlds and those who inhabited them, the examination of their past causing us to reflect upon what we might leave for those who follow us?

Heritage: Vestiges - Gem Preiz
Heritage: Vestiges – Gem Preiz

This is a huge installation, eighteen rooms in total, through which the visitor travels as if on a quest. Those who are familiar with Gem’s fractal art will know he can produce huge and beautifully complex pieces, rich in detail and grandeur, and the rooms the visitor travels through are intended to enhance the feeling of being immersed within the scenes they present.

The arrival point offers notes  on the installation, presenting a wealth of background material as well as providing guidelines on how to both best experience your time spent exploring them, and how best to set your viewer.

Heritage: Vestiges - Gem Preiz
Heritage: Vestiges – Gem Preiz

A teleport system (which will only be available to the public once the installation has opened to the public on January 7th) then carries visitors to the first room, and the start of their journey. Do make sure you enable the music stream here to enjoy the compilation of music Gem has created specifically for the installation.

From here you journey comprises alternating between witnessing the exteriors of vast citadels and then visiting “hidden” chambers within them, each with its own treasure to be found. The way forward is variously indicated by rocks on the ground marking a path, or pillars between which a footpath is set, or arches under which you must travel. Guidance is given in chat, and invisiprims help to ensure yo stay on the right track, gently nudging you in the right direction and lifting you to the phantom passages between rooms (use CTRL-ALT-T to see them if you find this easier).

Heritage: Vestiges - Gem Preiz
Heritage: Vestiges – Gem Preiz

Some of the citadels have a certain familiarity about them; there is s distinctly Egyptian feel to the second, for example, while another suggested to me an echo of the ancient orient. Whether these citadels represent our own distant past or that of another civilisation entirely is for you to decide. For while all we see is somewhat familiar, so to is it so very alien; And thus the installation – and the images within – toy gently with our sense of perspective, causing us to stop, examine, and ponder.

The intricacy of Gem’s fractal art is always a marvel to behold, and this installation is a veritable tour de force of his work, where the extent to which he has used fractals may not always be immediately apparent, and so considered study of both citadels and chamber images is required. The former are of such a huge scale that only careful camming can really bring out their beauty, allowing our impressions about what they are and represent to flow freely as we move across them. Similarly, it is only through considered study of the images within the chamber we can fully appreciate the extent to which Gem has used fractals in their construction.

Heritage: Vestiges - Gem Preiz
Heritage: Vestiges – Gem Preiz

If I’m totally honest, such is the scale and presentation of some elements, that it can, on repeated visits diminish their overall impact. But these instances are in the minority, and more than compensated for by the knowledge of what is to come. One thing I would recommend is that if you plan to make one more repeat visits (I found myself drawn back a number of times to specific rooms and scenes), they try to do so in the company of a friend who hasn’t previously visited Heritage; sharing in their reaction experience of seeing these cityscapes and images for the first time can be as involving as any first solo visit.

As noted earlier, Heritage opens to the public on Thursday, January 7th.

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