Catching a little Zen in Sansar

Sansar: Zen Garden

The Zen Garden in Sansar is one of the experience produced by the Lab’s Sansar Studios team, and has been one of the more frequented locations, visitor-wise. One of the reasons for this has possibly been because the Zen Garden has opportunities for interaction with things within the scene – particularly for those using VR headsets and controllers.

A visit begins on the upper level of a large artificial structure floating in the sky. The top of this  – split into two levels – comprises a rectangular (non-accessible) building, a swimming pool, a games area and, on the lower level, an observation ring surrounding the sunken zen garden of the scene’s title. Steps connect the two main outdoor levels and provide access up to the building, where a set  of stairs zig-zag their way up the side, almost like a fire escape, providing access to and from the roof.

Sansar: Zen Garden

The games on the greensward in front of the building are playable by those with VR headsets, although those in Desktop mode might try their feet at kicking around one of the large beach balls. However, it may not be these or the immediate surroundings which hold the new arrival’s attention; this structure is far from alone in the sky. It is orbited by a number of rocky islands, some near, some seemingly far. These are home to a variety of building, from blocky buildings similar to the towers and buildings resembling mosques or orthodox churches, topped by minarets and spires. Others are simply the home of trees and little else. Around and between all of them, smaller rocks tumble or rotate along their own orbits.

The sky is also occupied by two vehicles – sky taxis, if you will. One buzzes like an industrious bee from rocky island to rocky island, apparently carrying passengers back and forth. Alas, it doesn’t come to the central structure, so there is no real opportunity to go island hopping. The second vehicle follows a more leisurely path, gently flying around the main structure, carefully descending to hover near the swimming pool once per circuit, giving people an opportunity to climb aboard and take a ride. This is surprisingly smooth – if a little disconcerting as the vehicle turns beneath you and you remain solid as a rock, staring in the same direction unless you opt to move. It’s also a little one-dimensional: a single circuit on the taxi is enough to suffice.

Sansar: Zen Garden

The Zen Garden is designed to be reached in two ways: via one of the two staircases which curve down through the rock into which the garden has been built, or via an open-topped elevator located to one side of the structure surrounding the garden. Those adept at teleporting could attempt a “jump” down to the floor area of the “foyer” cavern just to the front of the garden, if they are so minded – but a walk down the stairs is just as easy.

The garden, sitting in a circular well open to the sky, is a simple, elegant affair. Surrounded by a curtain of bamboo, it is open to the sky above while descending in three tiers from the cavern it faces. The lowest of these is water-filled, the two above it covered in raked sand. Floating above the innermost tier is a series of disks, with lotus leaves floating around them, which seem to form a path leading up to a mysterious red door sitting slightly ajar upon a rock.

Sansar: Zen Garden

The door beckons invitingly. Is it a portal to another place? I’m sure many have attempted to climb or teleport up the floating disks to reach it (or simply teleported directly up onto its rock). But sadly, the promise is an empty one. No gateway to another scene awaits; perhaps in the future, this may change.

Another promise which will hopefully be fulfilled within this scene (as well as elsewhere in Sansar) is the ability to sit down. Zen Garden offers a lot of seating – out in the sun, in rocky corners or in the shade of the building or at the bar – but sadly, the ability to sit isn’t something that has as yet been granted to avatars – although it will be coming.

Bumping into Papp, Tina and Gin (that’s me in the white) at Sansar’s Zen Garden

Zen Garden is perhaps one of the easier places to start with when first joining Sansar. There is enough to see and (potentially) do to keep the novice moderately occupied and  gain familiarity with their preferred mode of using Sansar, by it VR or Desktop.

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CioTToLiNa’s Hope in Second Life

Solo Arte: Hope

Now open at Solo Arte, curated by Melania (MelaniaBis), is Hope, an exhibition of sculptures and art by CioTToLiNa Xue.

CioTToLiNa is an extraordinary artist, working primarily in 3D sculpture, although she also produces unique 2D art as well. She is entirely self-taught since joining Second Life, and I’ve long admired her work, having first encountered it at Art on Roofs in 2015, where she has a few pieces placed out as a part of the gallery’s setting, rather than directly on display. I was immediately captivated by her work, and when invited to present a full sim installation at LEA that year, I knew I wanted  CioTToLiNa – despite her own shyness – to share the opportunity with me, and worked to include a number of her pieces into that build (see: Impressions: a personal view of Second Life).

Solo Arte: Hope

Since that time, CioTToLiNa has clearly grown in confidence as an artist, producing ever more complex pieces which are not only beautiful and highly collectible (we have a number in the gardens of our island home), but also reflect her own interests / concerns for the world, and  how we relate as a species one to another and the world around us. So it is that she has produced pieces focusing on women’s rights, the environment, LGBTQ rights, racism and more, as well as pieces which reflect things like a love of music, thoughts on love and relationships, and so on.

With Hope, CioTToLiNa has selected some 24 of her pieces – three of them 2D art, the rest sculptures – which are displayed around the paths and canals of Solo Arte (itself a beautifully coordinated venue designed by Terrygold) and within one of the gallery buildings. These present many of the facets of her work and concerns, with several marvellously scaled up to fit the spaces within which they sit, offering a perfect opportunity for her work to be properly appreciated.

Solo Arte: Hope

These are evocative pieces, both in presentation and in naming. Many directly represent an emotion, reaction of desire – such as  Tenacia (Tenacity), Pace (Peace – using the CND symbol),  Il Desiderio (The Desire) and Escapology. Others are more layered in meaning, such as Babele (Babel), which carries within it assorted cultural references as well as reflections on relationships and the entire male / female dynamic.

What is particularly fascinating to me is the way other artistic influences on CioTToLiNa’s art have been incorporated with her work. For example, and as noted above, I first came across her work at Art on Roofs, which at the time was exhibiting Mistero Hifeng’s work. He also as a unique and evocative approach to sculpture in Second Life, and often moves within the same artistic circles as CioTToLiNa. Little wonder then, that one or two motfis that he perhaps pioneered in SL sculpture are reflected in some of the pieces included in Hope – such as with Donna Spremuta (Juicy Woman) and Salvezza (Salvation). However, in doing so, CioTToLiNa is by no means copying his approach: she is incorporating techniques into her work whilst producing something equally as unique and attention-holding.

Solo Arte: Hope

Hope is another superb exhibition at Solo Arte featuring a marvellous talent. It is a delight to visit and I have no hesitation in recommending you hop over and spend time wandering the canal side paths and gardens of Solo Arte to admire  CioTToLiNa’s work.

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