Dancing in the Moonlight in Second Life

Hotel California – Dancing in the Moonlight, September 2019

I make no apologies for returning to Hotel California, the homestead region held by Schmexysbuddy just a month after my last visit (see: A touch of HollyWeird in Second Life); the designs he creates each month are amongst the most imaginative and eye-catching within Second Life, consistently offering environments that straddle the line between landscape and art.

For September, Schmexysbuddy present Dancing in the Moonlight, which is – for me – captivating in the rich juxtaposition of ideas and content, bringing together as it does art, sci-fi, a sense of dark humour, fantasy, dream and nightmare, all with what might be a very subtle underscore of an ecological warning. It is born out of suggestions from his partner, Racey, that served as the fertile ground on which the design grew. It’s also a place in which you can actually become a part of the setting and art.

This is a place that is genuinely hard to describe and which my images fail to do justice. Caught under a sky heavy with cloud that appears to form a roiling inverted sea-scape as it rolls overhead, the land is a uniform grey and pockmarked with impact craters, many of which are scudded and partially filled with wind-blown dust. Together they present the first enigma of the setting: are we on a Earth or on the Moon?

Hotel California – Dancing in the Moonlight, September 2019

This quandry is added to by the bay that cuts into the land, the foamed see passing under a great wrought iron bridge under which a submarine is passing, its twin grounded on the shores of the bay close by. This suggests a place on Earth – or at least a world with air and water. Yet, space suited figures can be seen near the shoreline of the bay. A further enigma comes in the form of a metal galleon drifting overhead, sails unfurled and stubby wings extended from its hull…

And that’s just the start of things. To the east of the region sits the brooding bulk of some form of structure that looks like it would be perfectly at home on the Moon or crouched on an asteroid (even with the advertising boards rising from its roof). It sets something of a tone in keeping with the space-suited figures and more such figures, these in red suits – albeit  without their support back packs gathered close by.

Hotel California – Dancing in the Moonlight, September 2019

Also close by is a network of pipe-like corridors snake over the ground and into the air, some fully enclosing the walkways within, others are open to the environment. All can be explored as they twist and turn, while further elements hang suspended in the sky or partially buried below. In this, the network offers something of a faint and static echo of A Petrovsky Flux (long since sadly gone of SL, but which you can read about here and here (2014) and here (2016)).  However, it is not the most obvious nod towards artistic expression in the region.

This comes in the form of the many sculptures by Mistero Hifeng that are scattered across and over the landscape. These are hard to miss, a fair number of them having been greatly scaled up. The manner in which these sculptures are mixed with the rest of the setting gives Dancing in the Moonlight something of a dream-like feeling. By this, I mean not so much that it is a dream (although it might well be), but rather it is a tapestry of imagines that are left at the edges of consciousness upon waking from a sleep marked by dreams; the kind of mental flashes we get when trying to recall the dreams. And if you are seeking the dreamer of these dreams, perhaps a look up at the flying galleon might yield a clue…

Hotel California – Dancing in the Moonlight, September 2019

But the dreams are perhaps not all pleasant; there is a hint of nightmare here as well. When examined, the NASA astronauts are revealed to be dead; their helmet visors smashed and their skulls devoid of flesh, tissue or muscle. Their cosmonaut colleagues across the bay are no better off, and the nightmare’s edge is increased with them by the presence something loosely resembling the space jockey from the Alien franchise – except where its chest should lie burst open, it instead offers a bed…

It is with the astronaut figures that the ecological message might creep into the setting. This is a place with an atmosphere, with all the familiarities of Earth So why would the people here be confined to space suits? Could it be the dream formed a warning of what could come of humanity’s excesses, with the statues standing as monuments to humanity’s lost creativity? I leave that to visitors to ruminate.

Hotel California – Dancing in the Moonlight, September 2019

What is without doubt is the sheer striking uniqueness of Dancing in the Moonlight, a place that is gloriously imagined, marvellously photogenic and quit mystifying in its presentation. It is absolutely not something to be missed. Oh, and that being a part of the scene I mentioned? Just accept the request to animate your avatar on arrival – and make sure your AO is turned off (you can move around while the animations play).

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