Arranmore in Second Life

Arranmore; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Arranmore – click any image for full size

Now open in Second Life is Arranmore, the latest region designed by Lauren Bentham. Although its name from Arranmore (Árainn Mhór, essentially “large island”), the largest inhabited island off the west coast of County Donegal, Ireland, this is an entirely a fictional place of dark fantasy – and extremely atmospheric to boot.

Lauren has a long history of region design in Second Life, offering some of the most popular destinations for SL traveller on the grid. From the Baja group of region (Baja Norte, Baja Cove, Baja Bay and Baja Sands), through the likes of Storybrooke Gardens (a personal favourite – see here and here), Bentham Manor, Everwinter, to her most recent prior design, Netherwood (see my April 2016 review), Lauren’s work is deservedly known and appreciated. I’ve little doubt Arranmore will be the same.

Arranmore; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Arranmore

Visitors arrive on the west side of the region, on a small platform alongside a single railway line which curls south-to-north along the west side of the island without actually going anywhere: the two extremes of the track end in buffers. Perhaps it once went further – the fallen mass of a lighthouse suggests a calamity befell the north-west end of the island, so perhaps the tracks were washed away in whatever storm may have been responsible for bringing down that tower.

Ringed by the high peaks of surrounding islands, Arranmore broods beneath a sombre, storm-laden blanket of heavy grey cloud. Thunder rolls around the rugged peaks of the other islands, a deep booming against the plaintive cry of gull and moan of wind. Lightning flickers and forks, reflected by the mist rolling in from the sea as it drifts inland between the island’s trees like a living thing, watched over by the ever-rotating eye of a surviving lighthouse.

Arranmore; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Arranmore

On arrival, newcomers are invited to take a torch, offered alongside the region’s rules. If you’re keeping to the default windlight – which I suggest you do while initially exploring – the torch is a handy thing to have. Across the tracks from the little railway platform sit the entrance to the grounds of a once great manor house. This, we are told, was had been the home to Lord & Lady Inman and their family, all of whom mysteriously vanished whilst on holiday. Since their disappearance, the house has slowly fallen into ruin and the fortunes of the island had declined.

It is along the path leading towards the brooding form of the manor house that we come across the first signs that this is indeed a place where those still living on the island might be somewhat Lovecraftian in their ways – or perhaps it was the Inmans themselves? Just over the wall from the path sits a rotunda, its broken dome still offering some protection for a statue of an adult figure holding an tentacled infant child close to his or her chest. Even along the path to the house strangeness can be found: an empty hearse, a mildewed stuffed toy, its eyes apparently cut out, occupying the basket of a tricycle, and the gaunt figure of a local, funereal in his top hat and tails, holding aloft a lantern – whether in greeting or warning is yours to decide.

Arranmore; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Arranmore

As with all of Lauren’s region designs, there is a lot to see here, be it in the manor house as it slowly moulders away, or in the surrounding grounds and other building on the island. All of it is beautifully composed to create an environment that is a curious mix of the dark, the beautiful, the mysterious, the unsettling, and utterly captivating. One which really needs to be experienced rather than simply written about.

Lauren notes that the region is primarily for enjoyment and photography – those wishing to rez props in support of their photo work can join the local group for L$175 and do so – but role-play is welcome. There is a warning in the rules that weapons are not allowed – although seeing a member of the admin team walking around carrying an assault rifle seemed  a little at odds with the spirit of the rules :). There’s also a Flickr group for those so minded to add their pictures.

Arranmore; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Arranmore

Definitely a must for any SL traveller’s itinerary.

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Rain songs and cipherscapes in Second Life

Song About Rain
Song About Rain

Song about Rain is an ensemble exhibition now open at the Pretentious Art Gallery, Crestwick Island ( a location I blogged about in June 2015), featuring images by Panteleimon Aeo, Burk Bode, MaryFelicity, Cold Frog, Nur Moo, Charlie Namiboo, Laura Richards, Mr. S., Sugar Silverstar, Maloe Vansant, and  Anita Witt.

As the title suggests, the central theme of this exhibition is rain, with each artist submitting a single avatar study on the subject. Thus, it is an eye-catching exhibition of subtle contrasts in using rain  to frame a scene, focus the eye and  / or tell a story. All of the images have much to say, but I confess that where storytelling is concerned, I found myself particularly drawn to The Rain Song by Mr. S. (featured at the top of this article), which suggested an entire novella to me whilst admiring it. All of the pictures are offered for sale at the set price of L$300 each.

Song About Rain
Song About Rain

Next door, at the Broad Street Gallery, Cipher (Ciphertazi Wandin), co-holder of Crestwick Island, presents eight of his superb images which mix landscapes, avatar studies and images of personal space together in an intriguing set of pieces. All are superbly and evocative of mood and place, and can be purchased for the exceptionally modest L$100 each.

Both the Pretentious Gallery and Broad Street Gallery are modest in size, making trips to see the two exhibitions easy to combine. Doing so also offers visitors the opportunity to explore Crestwick Island which, if you haven’t done so before, is very much worth taking the time to see.

Cipherscapes
Cipherscapes

Note that due to the landing point in operation, you’ll need to walk into town to reach the galleries – but again, this gives you the chance to enjoy Crestwick Island more fully than if simply plonking down in front of the galleries 🙂 .

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