A slice of old Nordic life in Second Life

VARGSÅNGEN, February 2021

VARGSÅNGEN (Wolf Song in Swedish) is a homestead region designed and held by Camila Runo that has been coming in for a lot of attention of late, having been featured in a number of blogs and in a Destination Guide short video. And it entirely right that it has, because the region is home to an engaging build that is fully evocative of the Viking era.

A regular meeting place for the SL Norse and Viking Society (group joiner at the landing point), the region’s About Land panel describes it thus:

A land in the far North, a long time ago when there were gods and giants, Valkyries, dwarfs and trolls. A land where the winters were long, dark and cold and the summers not so warm either but exploding with flowerage for a short period of time. Everyday life was a challenge, sometimes ending way too early.
VARGSÅNGEN, February 2021

And I have to say, having just waded through all six seasons of Vikings, with its re-imagining of the legends of Ragnar Lothbrok, Lagertha, Björn Ironside, Ivar the Boneless, Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson, Horik I, et al, on landing within VARGSÅNGEN, I felt as if I had just arrived in Kattegat, not far from the town of the same name held as the setting for so much of that series.

The region presents a small settlement straddling two islands occupying what might be the mouth of a fjord – it faces an opening to the sea on one side whilst a river flows through the surrounding mountains from the other. It would appear to be of some strategic import, as a huge craved figure towers over the islands, sword held aloft. shield at the ready. Whom it might be – god or man – is yours to decide.

VARGSÅNGEN, February 2021

This statue stands on the southern tip of an island dominated by a huge domed hill of rock and grass, doubtless formed by its resistance to the passage of ice down through the fjord, and which is now home to a (quite literally) high alter where blood sacrifices appear to be a part of the order of ceremonies, watched over as they are by standing stones.

The path up to this summit comes via the lowlands on the north side of the island, using a combination of stone slabs that have in places been set as steps into the steep slopes, and short climbs over grass that feels both slippery and wet to the eye in perfect accompaniment to the overcast sky.

VARGSÅNGEN, February 2021

These low northern reaches of the island also contain reminders of the harshness of life back in the times of the Vikings: bears are to be found among the trees together with wild boar, whilst a stag attempts to defend its already dead mate from the wolves that brought it down and which are hungry to finish feeding on the carcass.

The second island is smaller and lower in nature, separated from its neighbour by a small neck of water easily spanned by a couple of hewn tree trunks. This is the location for the setting’s landing point and settlement. The latter is made up of half-a-down structures presided over by a stone-and wood watchtower where keen eyes keep watch on the fjord’s mouths, and strong legs are ready to descend and run to the great horn in order to sound warning should anything undesirable opt to slip into the channel.

VARGSÅNGEN, February 2021

Within the settlement is a wealth of detail that really needs to be seen to be appreciated, and it is clear that a huge amount of care has been taken to present life in those times as we currently understand it to have been. Humans and livestock share living spaces (making it easier to protect the latter); food is taken wherever it may be found, be it grown from the land, slaughtered after rearing, or taken from the sea in the form of fish or whale meat.

The ties to the sea are also much in evidence: a longship is drawn up at the settlement’s wharf, shields still in place and cargo (the haul from a raid, perhaps?) is being off-loaded. Just across a low ridge from the wharves lies an second ship under construction, the shipwright’s house close by. Could this be Flóki developing his improved hull that would make possible voyages so far out to sea, he’d be able to make his expedition to Iceland?

VARGSÅNGEN, February 2021

Norse mythology is touched on throughout, from the little carvings of Odin (some of which stand as teleporters along with the smaller boats that can be found), through the the menacing form of Jörmungandr, one of Loki’s three children. It circles within the fjord rather than encircling the world – so perhaps Odin has only recently tossed into the waters of Midgard?

And what of the name of the region itself – VARGSÅNGEN? Whilst meaning wolf song, as noted above, might it also be perhaps taken from the writings of Astrid Lindgren?  Specifically, the lullaby from Ronja Rövardotter (Ronia the Robber’s Daughter)? It’s a haunting song that both in tone and lyrics fits the region perfectly.

VARGSÅNGEN, February 2021

The latter is pure supposition on my part, but to me it adds twist of mythical romance to the region. However, even if the lullaby has nothing to do with the region’s name, VARGSÅNGEN is a rewarding visit in and of itself, and offers a doorway through which enquiring minds can discover more about medieval Nordic life.

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The digital mastery of Kraven Klees in Second Life

The Janus Gallery: Kraven Klees

Currently open at the Janus I Gallery at Chuck Clip’s Sinful Retreat is a truly magnificent exhibition of the art of Kraven Klees which is an truly must-see event.

Working in the digital medium, Kraven specialises in the creation of pieces encompassing a range of techniques –  art, photography, mixed media = whilst also embracing a spectrum of approaches and styles including fractals, abstraction and photo layering, to create pieces that explore the boundaries of what we might consider art to be, and what it means to us personally.

The Janus Gallery: Kraven Klees

As a result, his pieces are both highly esoteric and instantly captivating. There is both a richness of presentation and melding – conscious or otherwise, given the artist notes he deliberately embraces an aleatoric approach to his work such that the final appears of each is a mix of predetermination on his part and circumstance encountered in the creative process – that gives them immediate visual appeal while can be immediately experienced and enjoyed, whilst also calling the eye and mind to look again, and more deeply.

This approach to mixing concious decision with the passage of chance taken by the artist means that while many of these pieces many be linked by a core theme – portraiture, living study, the very richness of colour palette – each and every piece is genuinely unique content, form, colour, style, and expression. This adds enormously to multi-faceted appeal of the exhibition as a whole whilst giving each piece a sense of individual beauty and depth that sets it apart from its neighbours.

The Janus Gallery: Kraven Klees

But there is more here as well; even within those that may appear to be “straightforward” portraits, there are elements that can trigger our emotions and alter our perception. Neural Network, for example, initially appears to offer commentary on the nature of intelligence and our growing reliance on  technology. But a closer examination offers other potentials for interpretation – the potential for, and form of, artificial life; questions on the nature of life  – are we simply little more than the filaments of the brain and the neurons that fires across them? and more.

Alongside of it, Bamboo Man sits as an intriguing study on the human form: flesh, sinews, bone; but at the same time, the entire image in form and colour opens the door to discomfiting thoughts of evisceration and / or hints of Geiger-esque horrors. There is also a certain psychedelic aspect to many of the pieces that comes to us through both the stylised  use of expressive colours and fragmented, fractalised form that heightens our response to them. Like the effects of a drug, they seem to expand our consciousness, reflecting the artist’s desire to increase the dynamic between audience and art / artist.

The Janus Gallery: Kraven Klees

All of this makes The Art of Kraven Klees an exhibition a rich exploration of art, ideas, emotions and outlook. Whether you are drawn into the deeper layering of individual pieces or chose to admire them for their natural beauty and styling, this is a collection that will attract and beguile. As such, this is very much an exhibition that should not be missed, and it will remain available through until the end of the month.

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