MetaLES, the arts region operated and curated by Ux Hax and Romy Nayar celebrates its seventh anniversary this year, and is marking this achievement with a special retrospective exhibition.
Since its creation, MetaLES has been a mainstay of the arts in Second Life, hosting remarkable installations, a fair number of which I’ve written about in these pages. These have been designed by some Second Life’s most remarkable and enduring artists, including Alpha Auer, Igor Ballyhoo, Rebeca Bashly, Giovanna Cerise, Cica Ghost, Cherry Manga, Patrick Moya, Bryn Oh, Maya Paris, Betty Tureaud, and Ux and Romy themselves, to name but a few.
The retrospective presents many of the region’s exhibitions and installations as seen through the eyes of photographer Anita Witt. In typical MetaLES style, the exhibition sits upon a desert-like plain, itself perhaps offering a faint echo of the desert which once surrounded Anita’s own Dryland gallery (itself now gone, but not forgotten).
Above this plain, Anita’s framed photos float, anchored to the ground by rocks, and in places preventing some rocks drifting off into the sky themselves. Lanterns also rise from some of the rocks, while scattered between them are various objects: here an oversized tea-cup and saucer; there a great stone throne, elsewhere the boxlike form of a piano, and so on, all of which further encourage the visitor to wander and admire the art.
The images, offered individually or in pairs or small groups, are presented with the name of the installation and the artist responsible for it. For those familiar with the installations staged at MetaLES, it presents a fair trip down memory lane, as well as offering an accessible exhibition for anyone with an interest in in-world art, whether or not they are familiar with MetaLES’ distinguished history.
Congratulations to Ux and Romy on reaching their seventh anniversary, and my best wishes to them both for many more.
I’ve long enjoyed visiting It All Starts With A Smile, the photogenic Homestead region by Kaelyn Alecto and Maxx (Maxxster). I first dropped in far back in May 2013, and have since blogged about it several times in these pages. However, over the course of the last year, I’d actually lost track of the region, and so was delighted to receive news the latest iteration would be opening in mid-June, and made a point to put time aside to visit as soon as I could.
In this new design, It All Starts With A Smile has become a tropical paradise of five islands. Four of these are little more than idyllic stretches of sand rising out of the water, offering banyan shaded escape from the worries of the world; places where visitors can simply relax under an early morning default windlight. Standing over them like a mother guarding her brood, sits the largest island, offering tiered opportunities for exploration which reach from beach to grassy plateau, where gazebo and ancient castle await discovery.
Nor does it end there. Tiki huts vie with cabins, pergolas, and shacks in tempting visitors to tarry within their comforts, the waters idling gently between the islands further inviting wanders to take a dip or rest on a raft or snuggle on a rowing boat; the latter also form one of the means by which visitors can move between the islands, while bridges also connect four out of the five for those who prefer exploring on foot, with smooth stepping stone crossing the water to the fifth.
The landing point is located on the largest island, offering visitors the opportunity to make their way through lush foliage, over sand and beach and up stone stair to the plateaus and tiers above, where sit the castle and gazebo. Continue northwards, and the first of the wooden bridges will carry you over the water to the first of the smaller islands, where sits a bar offering the chance to quench any budding thirst, the opportunity to dance, or the restful retreat of Tiki huts reach by wooden stair.
Continue onwards north and east across the region, and more beaches will offer themselves to you, one with a seaplane drawn up onto the sand, newly offloaded luggage alongside, perhaps destined for the cabins just across the water. Then there is the hulk of an old man-o-war, raised upon rocks, her broken hull offering more shelter from the sun and a place to rest and snuggle.
It All starts With A Smile has always offered consistently delightful designs, guaranteed to please every SL traveller and visitor. But I have to confess, there is something especially delightful about this tropical world Kaelyn and Maxx have created. There is a very natural beauty about it which is wonderfully enhanced by both the wildlife found scattered across the islands and waters, and in the marvellous ambient sound scape.
Should you enjoy your visit – and I have absolutely no doubt you will – please consider a donation towards the upkeep of the region so other might enjoy it as well. You can also join the IASWAS (it all starts with a smile) group for a modest L$250, which gives you rezzing rights for photography props, your payment also going towards the cost of the region. Visitors are also welcome to post their snaps and images to the It All Starts With A Smile Flickr group.
Now open at the Art Gallery the Eye is an exhibition of physical world art by Morlita Quan, entitled Organic Geometry. Presented under her physical world artistic name of MorlitaM, the exhibition presents some 22 images, and is presented with a number of and several pieces of 3D digital art by Morlita within the exhibition and the gallery entry foyer.
“Inspired by nature,” Morlita says of the exhibit, “This collection tries to show an abstract concept about the beautiful nature’s shapes with a strong touch of the geometry, always guided by the feelings.” Abstract the images may be, but the influence and inspiration of nature is evident within each piece presented here, the majority of which lean towards monochrome, while those incorporating colour do so in a soft, subtle and – dare I say – organic manner.
The geometry within the images seems to exist on two levels. On the one, we have very clear geometric inferences: the use of grid lines, the balance of shapes within the images, division of elements within each image; all of which are immediately apparent. Then there is a more subtle geometry of form and shape, gentle sweeps of line and form, repeated over an over, much like the gentle, organic geometry of the petals on a plant. All of this adds to the depth and captivating beauty of the images.
There are two additional dimensions to this exhibition as well, the first of which is sound. Morlita is a musician as well as an artist, and is working on the final elements of a noise experiment album. Organic Geometry presents a sound scape through local sounds (not the music stream) which adds further texture to the exhibition. The other element is poetry, a piece, My Gaia, Gaia of My, written by Morlita to accompany the exhibit can be found in the note card introducing it, which can be received along with Morlita’s biography via the board at the entrance to the gallery.
I admit to being a newcomer to Morlita’s work, despite her having exhibited widely in Second Life. I will, however, be keeping an eye out for future exhibitions she mounts.
Update, July 1st:the video of this session has been released by Linden Lab on YouTube, and is embedded at the end of this article.
Meet the Lindens is a series of conversations / Q&A session with staff from Linden Lab, held as a part of the SL Birthday celebrations in-world. These present opportunities for Second Life users to get to know something about the staff at the Lab: who they are, what they do, what drew them to Second Life and the company, what they do, what they find interesting / inspirational about the platform, and so on.
Friday, June 24th saw Dee and Patch Linden sit down with Zander Greene and Saffia Widdershins, and this article hopefully presents some “selected highlights” of the chat, complete with audio extracts from my recording of the event.
About Dee and Patch
Dee Linden is the Land Operation Supervisor for the Lab, and her introductions often includes the phrase, “older than the terrain itself”, reflecting her experience from the physical world realty market. She discovered Second Life in 2003, and quickly decided she wanted to be a part of the Lab’s and of Second Life’s growth, taking to dropping note cards on various Lindens, including Char and Philip, encouraging them to consider hiring her.
This happened in around 2005, when she was recruited as a liaison, prior to joining the concierge team, where she was responsible for training Patch. When he moved to set-up the land team, she lobbied him to join the team, where she has a particular interest in supporting non-profits and groups seeking land for events.
Patch Linden started as a Second Life resident, first joining the platform in 2004, and has been a male fashion designer, mentor, and community lead. His efforts with the latter brought him to the attention of the Lab, and it was suggested he consider applying to work for the company.
Initially working as a support agent, he worked his way up through the concierge team, eventually becoming the team’s manager. He later moved to the role of Operations Support Manager for a year prior to pivoting away from support entirely and joining the Product group at the Lab, the group responsible for defining the features, etc., found within Second Life. Here he developed the land operations team, which includes the Land Department of Public Works (LDPW) and the Moles. He’s now the Senior Director of Product Operations, a role in which he is also responsible for the Lab’s support organisation.
Can you tell us about the LDPW and the Moles? They’re actually residents, aren’t they?
Patch: They are, they’re resident contractors … most of them have been working for us going on over five years, and the bulk of the core team is still together today. And we’ve added a good few, many more, to that number; I think we’re up to 22 now. And they run around and enjoy building experiences and fun things for residents to engage in in-world, like PaleoQuest.
And We’ve got another new big and exciting project that’s on the horizon that’ll probably come out in the near future that I’m not going to talk too much about, but there’s something coming, and its going to be pretty big … It’s a big project, I think the count of regions is somewhere above 20, maybe below 30, and it will be an addition to the Mainland, and there is an actual gaming experience attach to it.
How many sims is PaleoQuest? I know it is six, but there are several iterations aren’t there?
Patch: Right, the region count itself for PaleoQuest is six, the core gaming regions. And there are, I think we’re up to three or four instances right now … But we load balance the traffic across the regions so that the game play remains smooth and stuff when it gets busy, in the evenings especially.
Linden Realms is, surprisingly, still the biggest experience out there. It’s about double the size in region count and we have the same amount of instances on it, and it sees about three times the amount of traffic that PaleoQuest still does today.
It’s kind-of built its own community around itself, hasn’t it? With people who go and play there regularly.
Patch: Yeah, there’s actually a lot of in-world groups that have formed around it; residents just love playing the game, and socialising and stuff while they run around and collect crystals and complete the quests and such. It’s actually really interesting; in the rare occasion that we ever have a breakdown in the experience, we have to take it down and repair something and bring it back up, the amount of people who reach out to us and say, “Hey! What’s going on? When is it coming back?” and stuff. And we actually have to post status blog messages and stuff just because of the pretty big following that it has …
And a lot of the work that we do, and the experiences that we build, that is one of our primary goals. We want to see people build up communities and enjoy what we do and socialise in them, have a good time; find something to spend some time doing. And really most importantly, to answer the big golden question for us, which is what is there to do in Second Life, especially with new users when they come in. We put these experiences out there so that they can go in and get a taste of the various things that they can do.
Dee … you talked about being around since ’03 … Take us back to 2003 and some of your first impressions, and how some of those have maybe evolved and changed as the platform has over these 13 years.
Dee: Wow! That’s a big question! 2003 we were paying for teleports, we were paying prim taxes for every prim you have rezzed, and the higher up off of the ground that it was, the more you would pay per week. We had the leader boards back then.
Back then there was so much transparency between residents; every week you would see who has the most Linden dollars in-world right now, and I took a screen shot of the week I was number one with L$20,000! That was huge! We’re talking about when there were 17 regions on-line … There were who has the most calling cards, that was one of the leader boards, who has the most land, but like I said, the one with the most money, that was, “Oh my god! I made it! I made it! I’m the richest woman in Second Life!” So I took a picture of it.