Isolation’s Passengers in Second Life

Isolation’s Passengers – click any image for full size

Archetype11 Nova, aka Schmexysbuddy Resident, has been responsible for some of the most evocative / thought-provoking region builds in Second Life. I’ve covered a number of them in these pages – notably his Hotel California builds; his work embraces landscape design and artistic statement, often mixing ideas and sentiment, ideals and imaginings in an eclectic whole that captivates the eye and challenges us to look deeper, think a little harder and take a closer look at what is being offered.

With Isolation’s Passengers, Archetype11 offers what might be his most provocative  – and possibly his most personal – region design yet. It occupies a private full region that has the additional Full region LI bonus, although it does not currently make use of the extra land capacity. This additional space  – previous builds by Archetype11 / Schmexysbuddy have tended to be on Homestead regions – appears to offer plenty of opportunity for expansion or (perhaps) for multiple environments within the same location.

Isolation’s Passengers

The foundational aspect for this design is that of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic. This is not an uncommon theme within art and region design at present, but with Isolation’s Passengers, Archetype11 offers a different perspective on the pandemic, one which – as noted – touches on the personal for him, as he noted to me whilst I was visiting the region:

It’s intent is the onslaught of 2nd and 3rd order effects of isolation that aren’t readily visible…the invisible passengers of this pandemic. It was inspired by the death of a friend and brother of mine.

– Archetype11 Nova, describing Isolation’s Passengers

The story of that death can be found here, and should be read as a part of a visit to this region, as it helps to frame some of the motifs to be found within it.

Isolation’s Passengers

For those unfamiliar with the concepts of the 2nd and 3rd order effects of isolation, in the 1980s and as a part of studies into the long-term impact of isolation can have on the psyche among groups such as submariners, small teams on long-duration expeditions in the Antarctic and crews aboard the International Space Station. In particular, they noted three distinct reactions to being so isolated, linked to different points in  the isolation period.

The first order comes early on, encompassing the initial weeks / months of isolation.  It is marked by heightened anxiety, possibly mixed with periods of confusion and panic (think of the early stages of the the pandemic: anxiety over lock-downs, panic buying of toilet rolls, etc.). The second order (sometime referred to as the “sourdough order”) is marked by a sense of routine, possibly edged with a sense of newness / novelty (again, in terms of the pandemic: the novelty of working from home, the formation of a new routine based on self-motivation, etc). And then there is the third order. This is more negative: the dropping of routine as everything blurs into a never-ending whole where days are difficult to separate, and encompasses resentment towards our situation and towards those who are around us (not so much because of who they are but rather because they represent the fact we cannot interact with anyone else), and is a time that can be marked by emotional outbursts, aggressiveness, rowdy or anti-social behaviour.

Isolation’s Passengers

The 3rd order can often include a further emotional response that might appear as contrary to the others listed for it: that of anticipation – the sense that things will soon be over, and life can “get back to normal”, which in turn can lead to further frustration as “the end” doesn’t seem to get any closer, despite the passage of time.

Within Isolation’s Passenger’s we see many motifs representing elements of the second and third order effects of isolation – take the line of large masks with waterfalls falling from one eye: their repetition suggestive of routine; painted bodies suggestive of excitement that the freedom of expression isolation and working from home appears to initially present. Then there is the large clock sitting to one side of the region, representing the dragging passage of time and the resentment it can cause – the reminder of how long its been, and how long, potentially, we may still have to go before things “get back to normal”.

Isolation’s Passengers

But there is more here as well: the personal element of love and loss of a friend beautifully offered through these suggestions of life and death, love and loss through the use of angelic figurines (some partially dismembered), the shrouded busts with their crowns of thorns, the floating bodies under their own shrouds, the great church, the huddled skeletons, the shiny Morgan sports car with its “Just Married” sign and the promise of a bright future,  sitting amidst the wreck of several junker cars suggestive of age and decrepitude – and loss.

The layering of images and ideas within this build is compelling in their sheer diversity. Take the line of masks noted above; within them might also be seen the cracking of our daily façades – the faces we present to the the rest of the world that are becoming increasingly redundant in this age of isolation; also to be found within them is the sense of tears offered by the falling water. Between two of them sits  the carcass of an ageing ship, an orchestra playing even as pumps fail to keep the water at bay. This is rich in multiple motifs: there’s the idea of trying to carry on as normal in the rising tide of change; the echo of the Titanic and the idea we’re facing the sinking of all that can be normal in an increasingly  confusing, isolating world; the hint that despite the current disorder, perhaps normality can return; and then there’s the personal element again: music played in remembrance of a loved one.

Isolation’s Passengers

Poignant, beautifully presented, and watched over by the floating spores of a virus that hang in the sky – a reminder that as per that title of the build – we are all just passengers in the unfolding situation in the world today. Even the region’s core name – Solveig – seems to reflect the intertwined themes presented in the build – Sol and Veig being old Norse words meaning “house” or “hall” (the place where we most commonly have to isolate) and “strength” or “battle” (reflective of the strength we draw on from within in handling the battle we face in moving beyond the 3rd order of isolation).

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