A Walk in the Darkness in Second Life

Terrygold – Carla: Walk in the Darkness

Substance abuse – be it “hard” or “soft” drugs, misuse of prescription drugs or over-indulgence in alcohol, to name but some of its forms – can be a difficult subject to represent. It can come about due to a variety of means and reasons, often with the person or persons caught in the cycle either trying to hide their dependency or deny it. Circumstance often plays a role in misuse, and that circumstance can vary widely.

With her latest installation, Carla, Walk in the Darkness, Terrygold attempts to weave a story of how substance abuse can grow out of the simplest of situations: peer pressure coupled with parental pressure.

Terrygold – Carla: Walk in the Darkness

Though a series of written chapters presented in text, interlinked by a series of 3D vignettes and photographs, the installation traces the story of Carla, a young teenage girl who is apparently content with her lot: school and studying to be a dancer – until she runs into some of her peers into smoking some cannabis.

From this seemingly innocent start, Carla’s life spirals – kicking back and just enjoying the heightened mood associated with cannabis, then skipping dance lessons and rebelling against her family’s concern / pressure that gives her a need to seek “freedom”, which itself is a further opening of the Pandora’s box of needing to recapture the comfort and escape of that first high through every more damaging ways – damaging to both herself and members of her family.

The story is set out in a series of descending rooms, starting from the uppermost, where a general introduction to the installation can be found, together with information on how best to view the installation. Spiralling downwards, each room offers a piece of the story, the physical descent from room to room clearly a metaphor for the descent into the darkness of substance abuse / dependency. Following the path down can be a little difficult in places, – so just cam around if you feel your are stuck; there are clues in places – green triangles on the floor or roses spread across them.

It is ultimately a dark tale that does not end happily – as one might expect – and the ending is made that much starker because after it, we get to see what might have happened if, instead of succumbing to a need to be accepted by peers, Carla had uttered a simple word.

Overall, the story is well told; the words of the story have in places obviously been carefully chosen to have maximum impact, and the individual vignettes (some of which may have interactive elements, so be sure to mouse around them rather than simply passing through) emphasise the key points of the tale. That said, there is a risk some might find the story a little too artificial in structure (long has been the debate around whether medicinal use of some drugs can lead to a need / dependency on them or carry a person into the realm “hard” drug abuse). However, as I’ve noted, this isn’t a subject that is easy to represent or broach; as such some license in the structure and outcome should be allowed.

Terrygold – Carla: Walk in the Darkness

Carla: Walk in the Darkness officially opens at 13:00 SLT on Saturday, January 4th, 2020.

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Aradia’s Winter in Second Life

Aradia’s Winter, January 2020 – click any image for full size

Update, January 12th: Aradia has now been re-dressed for spring.

Aradia is a Homestead region designed by LadyOnia that offers a mix of public spaces and rentals for those seeking a home. We first visited in November 2019, not long after the the region had opened, and when it was dressed for autumn. I jumped back with the start of the new year to take a look at it under winter’s blanket.

The landing point sits to the west of the region, above a broad spread of beach – although given the snow and the winds, it might take a very brave soul to take a dip in the waters or attempt any sunbathing on the sands! The rest of this predominantly low-lying region spreads out eastwards, cut by channels of water that serve to break it up such that exploration is a case of findings ways across the water (and even then, once or twice a little wading might be required!).

Aradia’s Winter, January 2020

I say “predominantly low-lying”, because the north-eastern corner of the region is raised slightly above the rest to form a circular table of land on which the rental properties are located. This looks across the region to where the land unmistakable bulks up in a rocky hill to the south-west.

The rentals are clearly separated from the “public” parts of the region, with just a single point of access by foot to their round plateau. Five cottages and a lighthouse form a ring around the outer extent of their rocky table, the centre of which forms an open space marked by ancient stonework built around a water feature.

Aradia’s Winter, January 2020

Rental information on the properties is available at the information board located on the steps that form the access point for the rentals, spaning the channel separating them from the rest of the region. However, I understand from LadyOnia that she is currently using two of the properties, leaving just four with rental options. Wildlife is very much a feature of the region: herons and egrets keep an eye on the waterways, doubtless watching for unwary fish, although they may face some competition for fishy meals from the otters floating on the water or playing nearby.

Away from the waters, peacocks strut around the territories they’ve claimed for themselves, while rabbits and deer take a more relaxed view of things, content to hop through the snow or graze on the grasses poking up through its blanket. Weasels are also to be found as they scurry through the snow, while sheep and goats can be found at various points, with the sheep laying claim to the ring of standing stones to the north-west.

Aradia’s Winter, January 2020

For those fancying a bit of a climb, the south-eastern hill can be reached via log bridges and a rocky arch, the climb made easier by the stone steps winding up its flanks. The hill’s lower shoulder is broad enough to be home to a large frozen pond, a little café raised to one side of it. The latter offers a place to sit and rest and perhaps enjoy a hot cocoa before carrying on up to the peak, while a sign at the edge of the pond will deliver skates for anyone wanting to make use of the ice as a rink.

The central and eastern lowlands offer open spaces and various features of their own – some of which may be changing a the next few weeks as they are decidedly Christmas oriented, and LadyOnia noted to me that she’s looking to introduce a spring setting to the region in the not-too-distant future. Much of these lower areas are marked by trees with trunks bent so they stand as if crouched against an unrelenting wind. Places to sit and cuddle can be found under some of them, with more places of to to be found scattered around, from simple benches to a giant stone-carved hand to winter’s crescent Moon swing.

Aradia’s Winter, January 2020

One of the pleasing aspects of this region – for me, at least – is that the volume of snow didn’t impact my system’s performance as much as it has elsewhere. However, it does combine well with the region’s windlight to add a natural softening to the landscape as one looks across the region, just as now does in the natural world.

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