Milena’s treatise on war through art in Second Life

Milena Carbone: Apocalypse

There are probably very few of us who have not been shocked by the events in Ukraine that started on February 24th, 2022. The global reaction against Russia’s invasion of the country under entirely false pretexts has in many ways been seismic, involving everyone from governments down to individuals.

Within Second Life, Milena Carbone (Mylena1992) – an artist renown for her use of art to offer political and religious commentary – found herself unable to remain silent on the matter, and has developed a three-part exhibition that is both a direct response to the war in Ukraine and also a wider commentary on global relationships which may well prick at the consciousness (intentionally or otherwise) it may appear to contain; certainly, I know that viewing all three parts caused me to reflect more widely on such things.

Milena Carbone: Paroxysm

The first element of the exhibition is located in Milena’s gallery space within her Carbon Art Studio. It is entitled Paroxysm – a term that might be used to define what should be the reaction of any caring, humanitarian individual to the news of any massive military incursion by one nation state into a neighbour, and the reaction of the people of that neighbour on seeing their worse fears realised as tanks and rocket launchers roll across their border. It charts Milena’s initial reaction to the news, and the reality of the fact that, almost one hundred years after the last rise of unbridled authoritarianism was allowed to go unchecked only to plunge Europe – and eventually the world – into the cataclysm of war, we have once again allowed to bring us perilously close to the brink once more.

In six images produced in a day, Milena offers up both hard truths and also a measure of hope. Those truths include the fact that war has always been a tool of political power, allowing the victor to bend history to their interpretation of matters; all that has really changed is the destructive power laying at the fingertips of those who would wield the machinery of war to suit their ends; the hope is expressed through identifying people’s willingness to fight for their (and our) freedoms, and that a more politically aware globalist movement of younger generations are increasingly able to see through the masks of so-called “great men” who seek only their own aggrandisement and adulation by others (and thus hopefully curtail their rise to power).

Milena Carbone: Fury

The Second element of the exhibition, Fury, is located in the open air setting of Calypso Bay.  Again the title might be said to have a dual meaning, referencing they increasingly brutal response of the Russian military in directly and intentionally targeting civilians as their campaign fails to proceed as planned (thus underscoring the truism that no order of battle survives contact with an opponent), and the almost world-wide anger in response to the bombing, shelling and missile attacks direct at the Ukraine civilian populace.

Here, the setting plays as much an important role within Milena’s triptych as the art itself. The café setting, the quaint little shops, the blue skies and beach speak to the idyll of life as we expect it – the ability to wander, shop, share, enjoy, without fear of disruption or hurt – indeed, without the shadow of fear itself. These are all things the people of Ukraine are now denied; no-one is safe, not even the innocent new-born. In this, Fury is presented as a personal appeal to the people of Russia not to stand for what is being done under the false claim of being “for them” – as indeed, many are doing in cities throughout Russia, and at no little risk to themselves.

The concluding part of the trilogy is Apocalypse, located in Dido’s Space within Dido Haas’ Nitroglobus Roof Gallery. It is a personal look at what yet come out of the unfolding situation. To achieve this, Milena uses six images to depict one of more outcomes (“children”), each accompanied by Milena prose to give each form and meaning – although the images themselves are deeply evocative.

Milena Carbone: Apocalypse

As noted towards the top of this article, these three exhibitions not only voice a reaction to the 2022 situation in Ukraine, they also prick the conscience. The Ukraine war has, to a degree, been on-going since 2013/14, although this escalation is markedly above anything previously seen, and has rightly led to the aforementioned global outrage towards Russia and support for Ukraine. But one has to ask, when it comes to the response of Europe, where was it in 2008 when Russia launched an offensive against Georgia?

Back then our response was far more muted, with nations such as Germany and France unwilling to even apportion blame. Could it be that Georgia’s geographic location (as much in western Asia as Eastern Europe, with the “buffer” of the Black Sea between it and Western Europe) helped to make that conflict appear less relevant? Would America have been so vocal in it response, but for the manner in which another would-be authoritarian dictator put it front-and-centre in recent US politics? Or is it that we are finally awakening (once more) to the realisation that not only is war unjustifiable, but the Chamberlain approach to dictators rarely yields positive results, and a stand must be made?

Milena Carbone: Paroxysm

And therein lies the power of art: to challenge; to cause us to question, to re-evaluate, to ask hard questions of ourselves. All of this, as well as a highly personal – one might say visceral – statement makes Paroxysm, Fury, Apocalypse well worth a visit.

SLurl Details

Note that all three elements of the exhibition have teleport board to the other two.

March 2022 Web User Group summary

The Web User Group meeting venue, Denby

The following notes cover the key points from the Web User Group (WUG) meeting, held on Wednesday, March 9th, 2022.

These meetings are generally held on the first Wednesday of the month, with dates and venue details available via the SL public calendar. A video of the meeting, courtesy of Pantera, can be found embedded at the end of this article (my thanks to her as always!). Again, the following is a summary of key topics / discussions, not a full transcript of everything mentioned.

February Work Summary

[Video: 1:23-4:53]

  • The Marketplace variants project is now officially titled Marketplace Styles:
    • Most of the back-end infrastructure work to support different styles (e.g. different colour variants for an item in a single listing) is now complete.
    • The design of the front-elements (as will be seen by users) has now been approved.
    • It is hoped that prototyping will be available for viewing (e.g. through the Web User Group meetings) in the “next couple of months”.
  • Search Relevance project is now seeing plans being put together, and some of this may be available for viewing at WUG meetings in April / May 2022.
    • [Video: 43:59-45:24] Work currently underway is to track the relevance of a given search result (e.g. “user searched for X and gained these results. User then took option Y in that list of results” – where if Y= the first item in the list, relevance can be considered high; if they take the 100th option, then that suggests the relevance of ordering is not as good as it could be). The idea here being to be able to feed this back into improving the relevance of search results.
  • Premium Plus – an announcement is expected in March 2022.
    • The overall page of benefits has apparently been agreed (no details at present).
    • There are still some elements to be finalised (pricing?).

Marketplace Q&A

  • [Video: 5:00-6:16] Could Marketplace order history be sorted by item cost (e.g. most expensive at the top)? – seen as a reasonable suggestion, and a feature request – BUG-231907 – has been filed.
  • [Video 7:04-8:01] Sales tax: a reminder that as per the official blog post on the introduction of US sales tax, sales tax on applicable US purchases will be applied in accordance with local jurisdictional requirements (e.g. state-level laws, etc.). So if your state / jurisdiction does not charge for the sale of virtual goods and services, then LL will not apply it.
  • [Video: 8:37-9:39] Marketplace Sub-Brands: following the discussions in the February meeting, a project is now being scoped based on the feedback given. However, the development of any project is unlikely to surface in 2022.
  • [Video: 9:55-12:00] The question was asked if LL could provide the means for creators on the Marketplace to run collaborative sales / events – a shared page with links to items the creators participating in the event are including in it. This was referred to as an “interesting idea” and for a feature request Jira to be filed, preferably with some details on how this might work.
  • [Video: 14:26-15:00] A request was made for further community categories on the MP. Again, a feature request as been requested.
  • [Video: 20:52-22:10] A request was made for sellers to be able to disable customer reviews on the grounds it has become “normal” to see negative reviews. Whether or not this is the case, the majority of reviews are left in good faith, and while it can be frustrating to see negative reviews where the purchaser has failed to try a demo / not read supplied instructions, the view is that disabling reviews is not the answer.
    • [Video: 22:44-24:50] The suggestion was made in text later in the meeting to allow up / down voting of comments. However, unless carefully controlled (e.g. only allowing those who have purchased an item to up / down vote), then this is potentially open to abuse as well (e.g. a creator getting all their friends to down vote a negative review – or even one person down vote multiple times). As such, any implementation would require considerable forethought and design.
  • [Video 25:09-26:07] Could MP store owner be allowed to include links between their stores and the social media platforms they use? This has been tried in the past, but has not worded out. While there is no objection to trying for a better mechanism again, there is currently no work planned in their area. Again, specific ideas welcomed via feature request Jiras.

In Brief

  • The wiki has (after all) bee updated to HTTPs, and the syntax highlighting issue for the LSL pages has been addressed.
  • The Destination Guide is on the Web Team’s roadmap to receive and overhaul / face-lift, but no ETA at present. One of the aims of this work is to make it easier to find places that actually have people in them.
  • There was some discussion on the “new” look for Search, with some criticism for the places summary not showing traffic (a location must be clicked and seen in the expanded view to get traffic numbers). However, whilst experienced users find this useful, new users found the traffic reference confusing, and so it was purposefully placed in the expanded view.
  • It was again noted in the meeting that LL are looking at the new user experience from “top to toe” – from sign-up through getting in-world to customising an avatar, to finding things to do and people with whom to interact.