Spring at Florence in Second Life

Florence at Low Tide

It’s been a year since Caitlyn and I last visited Gnaaah Xeltentat’s Florence at Low Tide. As that time, the region offered an early spring setting with a lean towards the Mediterranean in some of its styling. As we’re heading back towards spring, and needing a break to compose thoughts on another blog post I’m working on,  I hopped back for another look and see what early 2021 has brought to the region.

Most noticeably, it has brought the eyes of Iska (Sablina) to the work of landscaping the setting. Responsible for the likes of La Virevolte (see here for more), Ponto Cabana (read more here), and before them Field of Dreams / L’intangible (more here), Sablina has a proven track record of eye-catching region designs. Here, her work sits alongside interior designs by Tippah to present a new and attractive take on the region’s core elements as they were revealed a year ago.

Florence at Low Tide

As with its previous iteration, the current design has a distinct south-north orientation, complete with lowlands to the south and a truncated peak to the north-east. A fenced road still winds through the landscape, sitting above the southern waterfront to encircle the main part of the region, while the land remains split by the line of a narrow stream spanned by two bridges that between them carry the road over it.

However, within this, both Sablina and Tippah have added their own unique touches. For the former, this is seen in the gentle moving of the region’s architecture away from Tuscany and more into France – at last in terms of the names of the selected buildings. One of these is an eye-catching water mill by Silex (Silex Zapedzki) that has been converted into an almost ideal home. It sits above the southern estuary of the river, which retains its familiar scattering of rowing boats.

Florence at Low Tide

Across the river and more central to the island is an attractive cottage design by Hisa (Hisastore) that has become a popular choice among region holders and designers of late. It sits on the mid-level elevation of the land, bracketed on the one side by the river and on the other by the stream tumbling down from the north-east peak.

The peak and its uplands sit apart from the rest of the setting in that they give a reminder that winter has yet to fully pass: snow covers the land and frosts the trees. It’s not a solid cover – the warmth of the Sun is taking its toll the grass and rock is becoming visible under the greying blanket. An old windmill sits among the trees here, another new touch to the setting, I believe, although it has clearly seen better days.

Florence at Low Tide

As noted, the houses are all comfortably furnished, and as with the landscape as a whole offer numerous opportunities for photography. In terms of the latter, a Romany camp presents a further point of interest and  sits as a new feature – at least since my last visit.

For those who want to get away from things, the cottage tucked into the north-west corner of the region could be just the place. While it appears to have once been the home of the local lighthouse keeper, the typewriter outside suggests it might now be a writer’s retreat. Or perhaps the lighthouse keeper has taken to writer their memoirs!

Florence at Low Tide

Retaining its richness of detail and familiar lines whilst offering new sights to appreciate courtesy of Sablina and Tippah, Florence at Low Tide remains a place in which to wander and spend time.

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Khaos in motion in Second Life

La Maison d’Aneli: Khaos Part 1

Khaos Part 1 is the title of a new 3D installation currently open at La Maison d’Aneli, operated and curated by Aneli Abeyant. It marks the latest collaboration by Cherry Manage and YadeYu Fhang, two artists noted for their distinctive style and for presenting art installations that tend to be layered and nuanced, and which require time to experience, rather than simply observe.

All three of the attributes mentioned above are very much in evidence with this latest work, particularly as there do not seem to be any liner notes supplied by either artist as to their intent with it, this requiring the grey matter to be cranked into action.

La Maison d’Aneli: Khaos Part 1

Reached via the teleport disk at the gallery’s main landing point, it is important that visitors take note of the basic requirements for visiting the installation. In short, these are:

  • Make sure your viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) is enabled (Preferences Graphics make sure the Advanced Lighting Model option is checked).
  • Enable Used Shared Environment (World menu Environment make sure Use Shared Environment is check).
  • As you walk into the installation space, make sure you accept the local Experience when asked to join (this happens as you walk towards the installation from the teleport).
La Maison d’Aneli: Khaos Part 1

To these I would add a moderate Draw Distance of around 150-200 metres is ideal for viewing the installation, and that visitors should be prepared for some fairly visually violent interactions. Finally, if you’re in a position to freecam / flycam, you most definitely should do so, as this is a 3D installation with multiple perspectives and where the local verticals are not necessarily oriented to the plane on which you walk.

Situated in a sharply-defined sky – while below, a black, star-studded sky above across which square clouds pass, the installation might be described as an artificial, geometrical landscape made up of translucent blocks. Almost transparent around the teleport point, these become more opaque towards the far horizon, where they form a tumble of large cubes and blocks suspended in such a way as to suggest a wall frozen in the act of collapse.

La Maison d’Aneli: Khaos Part 1

Before this wall are humanoid figures, some of whom appear to be falling from the wall, tucked into tight balls, others appear frozen in a motion of action – some mid-fall, some apparently trying to run away, two caught mid-fight. Many appear to be coalescing out of smaller blocks – or perhaps breaking up into them, depending on your viewpoint. Lines of light spear they way through some, adding to the impression they are breaking up; elsewhere solid lines pass through others, slanted as if to present a visual  indicator of their motion.

The overall sense of the setting is one of disordered randomness – which is added to by the fact that within this basic setting, nothing is constant. Light shifts and glimmers, other figures both large and small appear and vanish, some performing actions, some caught in whirlwinds of blocks swirling around or a maelstrom of wind. As time passes, a forest of rectangular beams many appear, some seeming to rise and fall as light plays over and through them, or avalanches of white cubes will suddenly rain down the “slope”, or masses of while lines will roll and twist in place, like streamers of snow caught in a storm.

La Maison d’Aneli: Khaos Part 1

Nor is this all – as you explore the scene on foot, and having accepted the local experience, you will suddenly find yourself part of it, being shaken violently, or pulled roughly into Mouselook as your body hang bent doubled only to be slammed several time into an invisible floor before being released to fall – and then returned to the platform.

Disconcerting, chaotic, ever-changing within the main backdrop, what is to be made of all of this? For my part, I was drawn to the idea that Khaos Part 1 is perhaps a reflection on the idea of chaos theory; the concept that while dynamic systems may well have apparently random states of disorder and irregularities, they are in fact governed by underlying patterns and deterministic laws that are highly sensitive to their initial conditions. And in a mirrored reflection of this, perhaps there is also the idea that whilst life can appear to be well-ordered and subject to patterns and laws as defined by society, it is at its core the product of a chaos that is never far from the surface, simply because of the unpredictable nature of basic human emotional response and outlook.

La Maison d’Aneli: Khaos Part 1

However, I’ll leave further interpretation to you; as noted, there are no liner notes provided with the installation, and I’d prefer not to to colour reactions with my own interpretations, and will leave things here, other than to speculate that given this is “part 1”, there may will be a follow-on installation at some point.

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John and Tempest at Raging Graphix

Raging Graphix Gallery: Yin and Yang

Currently on show at Raging Bellls’ Raging Graphix Gallery is a joint exhibition by Second Life partners, John (Johannes Huntsman) and Tempest Rosca-Huntsman (Tempest Rosca) entitled Yin and Yang.

It’s a title that reflects both the art on display and the artists themselves on a number of levels. At its most literal, the title reflects the fact that whilst opposites on several levels (e.g. male and female, the fact that they originate on opposite sides of the Atlantic, etc.), Tempest and John naturally combine to form a whole. There’s also the fact that all healthy relationships contain within them the ability to grow and change, for both sides to contribute to the whole – and through their art and other endeavours in Second Life this is very true of John and Tempest.

Raging Graphix Gallery: Yin and Yang – Tempest Rosca

The title might also apply to their respective art: Tempest’s work is primarily Second Life focused, with a strong – if far from exclusive – lean towards avatar photography; John’s palette tends now to be a strong mix of art produced in the physical world that is then brought into SL. Thus, like yin and yang, there is a strong mix of what may appear to be different or even contrary forces (physical vs. virtual), which ultimately comes to form a whole.

This is certainly the case within this exhibition. With images presented exclusively in monochrome – again, something that might be a reflection of the black / white symbol of yin / yang – the pieces displayed here form a contrast that comes together towards the centre, allowing both halves of the exhibition to be seen as individual displays by individual artists, and also as a unified whole presented by a couple.

Raging Graphix Gallery: Yin and Yang – Tempest Rosca

For her part and along the outer walls of the gallery, Tempest presents a series of images that have been taken in-world. Whilst they can be considered portraits, in difference to my statement above concerning her work, they are not of avatars but of objects – cars,  a lifebuoy, a tram and a Hawker Hurricane.

Inanimate they might be, but thanks to their black-and-white nature, lines stand out clearly, giving each of her subjects a depth of life much as the lines and creases found on a face speak to the life within it and experienced by it.

Raging Graphix Gallery: Yin and Yang – Johannes Huntsman

Across the hall, John offers a collection of quite marvellous abstract and abstracted pieces, some of which appear drawn / painted and others produced with digital tools. All  are striking in their form, with a sense of the dynamic presented through line and shape, and that sharply contrast with the more familiar subjects found within Tempest’s images.

Also to be found within several of these pieces is an organic element:, form the flow of a liquid substance complete with spheroid droplet, through the creation of a human face within the sweep of line and the patchwork of light and dark, to suggestions of crops and a desert seen from above, the former being brushed by the wind, the latter left as ripples formed by the winds of the past. Thus, these pieces also give a sense of life within them, and in doing so, they create a natural flow before the two halves of the exhibition, unifying them.

Raging Graphix Gallery: Yin and Yang – Johannes Huntsman

Having opened on February 6th, I believe Yin and Yang has a further week or so to run, and recommend a visit.

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Paddling around a Curiosity Lake in Second Life

Curiosity Lake, February 2021

I’ll start out by saying I’m getting to Curiosity Lake, the homestead region designed by SadyCat Littlepaws somewhat late in the day – or rather days, given it will closing on February 28th. I’m not sure how it slipped through my net of landmarks of places to explore, but it did. So to fix matters, I  suggested to Caitlyn we hop over and take a look this past weekend.

It is a place clearly put together with both a love of, and attention to, detail – which might actually be something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it means there is a lot to see and appreciate and photograph; on the other, it also  means that in some places there is a lot of mesh and texture data the viewer has to grapple with, and this can be reflected in some hiccuping of performance.

Curiosity Lake, February 2021

This is a setting evocative of the changing of the seasons. The two islands that make up the region are cast with autumnal colours, with trees heavy in browns and golds and fading greens, while the hills and peaks of the off-sim surround have their peaks crowded with fir trees frosted white with snow that also lies in drifts and patches on the slopes running down to the water’s edge. It’s a combination that suggests that while the island has yet to feel the first bite of winter, it is eyeing them from across the water, just waiting for the opportunity to throw a white blanket over them.

The islands are fairly low-lying and rugged in places. Three houses sit upon them, two on the larger, which includes the landing point, and a cosy lodge on the smaller. All three homes are fully furnished, and it is clear considerable time and effort has gone into their décor to make each one photogenic and home to a wealth of ideas visitors might find useful when decorating their own places.

Curiosity Lake, February 2021

Both of the houses on the larger island sit reasonably equidistant from the landing point with its gazebo warmed by a wood fire – one of several outdoor sitting points waiting to be found. which house you visit first is up to you, although I’d be tempted to suggest heading north to the imposing bulk of the large stone-built house with its tall chimneys.

As well as allowing you to take in the house, this route will take you past a couple more places open for visitors to sit outdoors in the form of a blanket-strewn rowing boat and a wooden pergola, it will deliver you to stone steps that will take you up to the islands “highlands”.

Curiosity Lake, February 2021

Forming a flat-topped low hill, there are home to a trio of further outdoor spots that are all attractive in their own right, two of them fashioned as little camps set around a couple of old vehicles and the third a tree fort platform. These are all close enough to be within easy walking distance of one another but far enough apart to be nicely separated as individual spots to share times with someone close.

Southwards from the landing point, steps also lead up to a low thrust of land and a wood-and-stone cottage where the garage has imaginatively re-purposed into a lounge, giving far more space for an expansive kitchen in the house proper, and comfortable bedroom at the back, exiting onto the rear deck.

Curiosity Lake, February 2021

More steps run down from the eastward brow on which the house sits and point the way to the footbridge that connects to the circular dome of the smaller island and its chalet-style lodge, the verandah of which is set out ready to entertain with a filling meal warmed by the outdoor fireplace.

It is around the houses that we found performance issues came to the fore – as noted, there is a lot of mesh and texture use around them, and this did make itself known during initial loading. However, it’s worth bearing with such niggles if encountered as the region is extraordinarily photogenic and naturally invite exploration.

Curiosity Lake, February 2021

However, if you’re going to do pay a visit, make sure it is in the next few days, because the region is due to close on February 28th, again as noted earlier.

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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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