The vulnerability of a Tough Man in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Tough Man – August 2021

The terms tough guy and tough man are generally defined as a person who is  strong or resilient; a durable, often pugnacious and of undoubted resolution and resilience, able to deal with hard or difficult situations or a hard life. Both tend to bring to mind the hard-boned loner – cowboy, warrior,  etc., perhaps battling the odds.  Someone of a disposition to be reckoned with.

All of this is true enough, as far as it goes. But the “tough” part of these terms isn’t just about being a hard man, a fighter, or similar, or in having to show any particular prowess off. The genuine “tough man” is a person of confidence, understanding, and strength of conviction and ethics such that he is willing to do the right thing; he is a person that doesn’t see the need to hide behind façades of toughness or be afraid to should emotions or vulnerability. 

It is these latter points that make Hilaire Beaumont’s new exhibition Tough Man, which opened on August 11th at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, an outstanding selection of single-frame stories.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Tough Man

Hilaire is well-know for his avatar studies, although he does not tend to exhibit that often in-world – something that makes Tough Man even more appealing. He also does not regard himself as an artist – a point I would dispute, because his works contain all the richness to be found in any true work of art, not just from a technical perspective: framing, lighting, colour, etc., but because of the sheer depth of story each and every image carries with it, together with the richness of life, vitality and emotion each conveys.

This is doubtless in part because of his background in role-play in Second Life. Creating and inhabiting a character is very much an artform it itself; bringing that character to life such that they can be believed and interacted with requires a strength of imagination and willingness to emote and remain in character.  Coming from that background gives Hilaire, I would suggest, a deeper connection with his characters, and this is evidenced in the twelve images presented in this selection.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Tough Man

In this 12 images (the exhibition poster is actually by David Silence, albeit based on an image by Hiliare), all of them new for this exhibition, gets inside his characters in a manner that sets his work above others; whereas an avatar study is generally posed  and framed to convey an emotion such that the image is essentially a moment out of time, the avatar a puppet in the telling of the story, Hiliare’s work genuinely conveys the story of the character within each of these images. Thus, rather than being a moment out of time, these are very much moments in time, capturing a specific point in the life of the character.

And while they well be framed in “tough man” situations, they go further than the typical archetype; each one offers a depth of emotion that is the true hallmark of the tough man – that willingness to stand firm for what is right, to show vulnerability, to stand against odds for something worth believing in; to be someone who finds not loneliness in being alone, but the comfort of his own company.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Tough Man

As pieces of art or as stories or missives on the nature of the tough man, these are pieces that have a lot to say, and as an exhibition, Tough Man should not be missed.


Walking the path to Buchhaim in Second Life

The Path to Buchhaim, August 2021 – click any image for full size

Back in May 2020, Num Bing-Howlett (Num Bing) and her partner Clifton Howlett) invited me to visit The Empire of Dreaming Books, an environment to honour the Zamonia series of books by German comic creator and author, Walter Moers (see: An empire of books in Second Life). The setting quickly – and rightly – became very popular among Second Life travellers, who now once again have the opportunity to travel to Zamonia, as Num and Clifton present The Path to Buchhaim.

The couple were kind enough to extend a personal invitation for me to visit this latest installation of their vision of Moer’s mystical land over the weekend, which I was delighted to accept – although offering a write-up has taken a while for me to get to. 

The Path to Buchhaim, August 2021

With Empire of Dreaming Books, Num and Clifton set a scene fairly focused on the city of Buchhaim, with its myriad bookshops, printers, and publishers. Now, in The Path to Buchhaim, the focus switches the focus a little away from the city to expand on the landscape of the Dull Plateau that was to be found in part the previous design, and which here offers some of the many trails that cross the plateau to converge of Buchhaim whilst also offer some of the steppe-like feel of the Dull landscape (a name that while taken from the Zamonia books, is a contradiction in terms here, given the richness to be found as one wanders the undulating landscape, whether keeping to the trails or walking through the long grass and seas of flowers).

The Path to Buchhaim, August 2021

A portion of the city is still to be found tucked into a corner of the region. It offers what appears to the end-knot of the winding alley of Schwarzmanngaße, and shop number 333, the home of Phistomefel Smeik and his bookimistic laboratory. Here – should you decide to accept it – an Experience awaits with the opportunity to be teleported to three further destinations.

I had hoped one of these destinations might be the the catacombs, as presented in the previous Zamonia build. However, two of the listed options will carry visitors to Hidden Bottle, another region design by Num and Clifton, and which I wrote about in May 2021, while the third goes to The Digital Apperture, a skybound gallery Clifton and Num present. At the time of my visit, the latter featured an  exhibition by the couple entitled A Day at Elvion (a destination also on my list for a return visit, as I understand it has expanded to  Full region).  

The Path to Buchhaim, August 2021

Whilst not a part of the theme of The Path to Buchhaim, both of these destinations are very much worth dropping into, with Hidden Bottle offering a further bewitching visit for those who have not previously seen it, with the portals there obviously offering a gateway to reach this setting, those coming through them – and returning from the gallery – being delivered to the cobbles in front of the good professor’s shop. 

Of course, I may have missed an entrance to the catacombs if they are still present – in which case, silly me – but even without them, this is still a setting where the central character is that of the book. Across the region books offer places to sit or stand as walls or stepping stones or rise rise in piles – they even form a kind of landslide as they fall away down a slope and into the waters of the island’s coast. 

The Path to Buchhaim, August 2021

Also to be found throughout the setting are numerous places to sit, both for individuals and for couples or groups of friends. Most of these are outdoors, although a couple of the bookshops in the little corner of Buchhaim offer quiet retreats as well. And needless to say, the entire setting is beautifully photogenic, the region’s environment settings making for an ideal backdrop for images.

All of which makes for a richly engaging visit, and rather than prattle on here, I’m going to urge those of you who have not done so already, to jump across an immerse yourself in this introduction to Zamonia and explore the Paths to Buchhaim.

The Path to Buchhaim, August 2021

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