Revisiting Poetry of the Planets in Second Life

Poetry of the Planets: Uranus – The Magician

I returned to Caledonia Skytower’s Poetry of the Planets because when I first previewed it at the start of April 2017,  Jupiter and Mars had yet to open. This has now changed, with Cale recently completing both and opening them to the public, completing her “suite” of seven settings inspired by Gustav Holst’s famous suite, The Planets. Given this, and the fact that Bringer of War and Bringer of Jollity (the names of the planets were only added to the suite’s movements after their 1918 premiere) are perhaps the two most well-known pieces from the suite, a return to visit them seemed entirely appropriate.

Bringer of War, as one might expect takes us to the remnants of a campaign somewhere in the out reaches of Roman’s empire. From the landing point of the army’s camp, complete with banners and tents, visitors can follow the path down to the battlefield itself, where fires burn and the heaviness of death hangs in the air.

Poetry of the Planets: Mars, Bringer of War

It’s a setting entirely in keeping with Mars and its role as home to the Roman god of war, dark and foreboding. However, my own view of Mars is biased, being shaped by the images of Mars returned to us by the probes we’ve sent there: the winding depths of Vallis Marineris, the fractured chasms of Noctis labyrunthus, the towering peaks of the Tharsis volcanoes and the great cone of Olympus Mons. There is a grandeur to Mars as we know it today which I feel brings a new meaning to Holst’s piece; one less threatening, but more majestic than might have previously been the case. Which is not in any way to negate Cale’s vision, but rather demonstrates how our perceptions of the suite can be as much influenced by the planets as the music can influence our thinking about the planets.

Bringer of Jollity takes visitors to a marvellous crystalline maze, filled with columns reflecting and refracting light, through which a path runs, leading visitors between the columns to a set of golden steps. These in turn provide the means to climb up to a ballroom. One again, the theme of Holst’s piece is marvellously interpreted. It is not heard to image the passageways of the maze filled with the laughter of children as they chase one another up and down them, seeking whatever secrets the hallways might hide. Meanwhile, the ballroom offers a place of adult happiness among the dances – and dance itself might be said to reflect the beat and tone of the movement, with the almost eternal dance of Jupiter’s cloud system forming a backdrop.

Poetry of the Planets: Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity

Poetry of the Planets has a supporting website, and visitors to the installation are invited to submit poems, haikus and even short stories (up to a maximum of 2,000 words) inspired by one of more  of the settings, for publication on the website (authors retain the copyright on their work). Submissions can be made in-world via note card at any of the mail boxes within the installation, or directly to Cale herself.

Also, Poetry of the Panets will feature in the May 22nd instalment of Designing Worlds, and the show will be embedded in the Poetry website. The installation itself will remain open until the end of May for those wishing to visit or re-visit. As I noted in my preview, it is an inspired idea, bringing together fable, mysticism, music and words – and a wonderful means by which we can immerse ourselves in Holst’s suite.

Poetry of the Planets: Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity

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Kubrick and Wells in Second Life

The Kubrick Rooms

I was recently alerted to a couple of small exhibitions in Second Life with could be of interest to lovers of film and of science fiction: The Kubrick Rooms and the Wells Exhibit.

The Kubrick Rooms are the work of Rumpledink Robbiani. As the name suggests, this is something of a homage to legendary film-maker Stanley Kubrick. First opened in 2008 and available to visitors for a year thereafter, the rooms have been in limbo since then. However, Rumpledink’s friends encouraged him to bring them back in-world and he notes that this time, he hopes the money received in donations and from sales will help keep it around for longer.

Rooms is neatly designed around three of Kubrick’s most notable films: The Shining, 2001 A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, with The Shining taking overall centre stage by providing the setting. Visitors arrive at a small anteroom where instructions are offered (set the viewer’s time to midday), together with a single door. Step through this, and a familiar – to anyone who has seen The Shining – hallway from the Overlook Hotel opens up, complete with child’s tricycle.

The Kubrick Rooms

As one would expect of a hotel, the hallway is lined in either side with room doors, some of which have their keys in the locks. They offer access to sets from The Shining – a lounge, the restrooms, the bathroom – as well as to the main rotating hallway of Space Station 5 from 2001 A Space Odyssey, where Doctor Heyward Floyd stops-over en route to the Moon and TMA-1, and another featuring A Clockwork Orange.

Within some of the rooms there are videos which delve into The Shining and 2001 – just ensure media is enabled on your viewer and click the screens as you come across them. A small cinema at one end of the hallway offers the 2014 documentary Kubrick Remembered, looking back on the great man’s life. At almost 90 minutes long, this is more than worth watching, presenting a fascinating retrospective on the man. Alongside of this is a small gift shop.

Wells Exhibit

The Wells Exhibit can be found on the floor above Netera’s Coffee Lounge in Snug Harbour, and is curated by the lounge’s owner, Netera Landar. Use the teleport door set into the wall of the lounge, the disk on the floor, or the outdoor staircase to reach it. Examining the life and works of Herbert George Wells, the English writer, this is a somewhat more modest affair than The Kubrick Rooms, designed to fit within the space provided by the upper floor of the coffee lounge.

Information boards provide biographical information on H.G. Wells while the walls are home to archive photographs of him and a note card giver listing his publications. However, the majority of the exhibit focuses on Wells’ science fiction works. There are posters celebrating The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897) and The Sleeper Awakes (1910), together with small pictures dedicated to A Modern Utopia (1905) and The Shape of Things to Come (1933).  Two slightly larger displays touch upon what might be his most well-known novels: The Time Machine (1895) and The War of the Worlds (1897).

Wells Exhibit

Information on Wells’ writing is actually a little light and could perhaps benefit from two or three additional information boards. However, the Wells Exhibit still makes for an easy-going visit for those with an interest in his work. For those looking for a more unusual outing, it and The Kubrick Rooms might be just the ticket.  

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