Offering Atonement in Second Life

Atonement; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrAtonement – click any image for full size

Occupying the full private island aptly named Canyon Creek, and making use of the additional 10K land capacity bonus, Atonement is a relatively new – and utterly stunning – rental / public region.

We were pointed towards it by a number of friends, including MorganaCarter, Miro Collas and Shawn Shakespeare – and our thanks to everyone who did so.

Atonement; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrAtonement

Designed by Aiden Caudron and Zᴏᴍ V. (Zomborg Vollmar), the region comes with an intriguing description:

An overgrown forest sim that has been abandoned overtime leaving homes buried between thick brush and twisted vines. You can find residential properties scattered around the sim with enhanced privacy provided by mother nature. Hidden caves leading to special destinations within the sim. Blogger friendly.

Atonement; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrAtonement

This is a region that is perhaps best not described as experienced. Represented a mountainous region, far off in the wilds, it’s easy to imagine coming across Atonement in the Rockies of North America, and its elevated setting is given an added sense of depth through the careful positioning of region landscaping and sim surround, such that from most viewing angles within the region, the two appear to blend seamlessly together in to whole as the mountains rise beyond the tree line.

Falling from east to west in a series of tiers, a single narrow gorge, feed by tumbling falls and fast-flowing waters, the region is as the description states: richly forested and with a feeling of abandonment. The road winding through it is unpaved, footpaths are bare rock, the grass tall and wild where trees aren’t casting their shadows. Throughout all this are houses and buildings that have all seen better days, the bridges offering links between roads and paths looking as though they could perhaps benefit from a little TLC.

Atonement; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrAtonement

Many of the houses are available for rent – so exploring with care is advised to avoid accidental trespass should any be occupied at the time of a visit. Elsewhere – such as the local pub – which most certainly has seen better days – there are twists of whimsy and humour that when discovered, are an unexpected delight.

Perfectly photogenic, the region’s mystique is given further depth by the question of why it should be here. Why locate a small town so deep in the rocky wilds? Perhaps the answer lies within the network of tunnels and caverns awaiting discovery  – be sure to accept your torch at the landing point. While appearing entirely natural, there is a hint that perhaps they might have once been worked, perhaps for mining gold or silver or something else equally enticing to the hands and pockets of humans.

Atonement; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrAtonement

Although to be found throughout the region are places t be enjoyed when visiting, such as the rusting metal carcass of an old observatory far up at what is effectively the region’s peak: a table of rock that the old conservatory shares with a radio mast. Within the old frame can be found a cosy setting that is both at odd with, yet complimentary to, the overgrown interior of the old building. Elsewhere, those who explore far enough might find a games room / clubhouse, and there’s also the aforementioned pub.

Beautifully conceived and executed, Atonement can be a little taxing on systems if you’re running with a lot of the viewer’s bells and whistles active. however, it more than counters for this with its detail, unique approach and highly photogenic nature.

Atonement; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrAtonement

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Love at Artful Expressions in Second Life

Artful Expressions: Kazrakk

Love is the title of the latest exhibition of photography to go on display at Sorcha Sanvean’s (Sorcha Tyles’) boutique-style Artful Expressions Gallery. Featuring the work of Australian photographer Kazrakk,  the exhibition present six engaging pieces that offer insight into the many facets of the love between two people.

Featuring Kazrakk and his SL partner, Ninna, as the subjects in all six images, Love also might be seen as offering a window into their own relationship. There is something very personal about each of the photographs within this selection that embraces tenderness and lover – but which does not, by any measure leave the viewer feeling discomfited by thoughts of being a voyeur; even the images featuring near full-body nudity have a tenderness and grace within them that imbues of a feeling of sharing, rather than that of intrusion.

Artful Expressions: Kazrakk

Presented in both colour and monochrome, there are pieces that perfectly showcase Kazrakk’s ability to frame a moment in time, each picture captivating in both style and in narrative. There is a richness with each piece, whether it is focused solely on the avatars themselves, as three of the pieces are; or whether it offers a broader canvas, where the background plays a role in setting the tone of the narrative (the two here using Norderney and Chochou’s Memento Mori to marvellous effect); or whether it is an expression of pure artistic styling that offers a unique perspective on love and attraction, as seen in the first piece in the series, simply referred to as nr. 1.

Love is a small exhibition, true, but it is also one that leaves you wanting to see more of Kazrakk’s work, and this can be done by visiting his Flickr photostream. Now set within its new mainland home, Artful Expressions once again offers an alluring and engaging exhibit.

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Kun-Tei-Ner: a water world in Second Life

Kun-Tei-Ner; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrKun-Tei-Ner – click any image for full size

Kun-Tei-Ner is the name of the latest region design by the combined talents of Lotus Mastroianni and Fred Hamilton (frecoi). Between them, Lotus and Fred have been core parts of the design teams behind the likes of The Missing Whale (see The Missing Whale in Second Life), Little Havana (see A trip to Havana, with a little Voodoo In My Blood) and, most recently HoPe (HoPe: a world without humankind). In some ways, Kun-Tei-Ner, which opened on May 19th, 2019, is a continuation of HoPe.

With HoPe, we were presented with an environment that had suffered some kind of catastrophe, at least one part of which appeared to have been some form of natural disaster. In Kun-Tei-Ner, the theme of the natural disaster / event is continued, with the world apparently having suffered a massive ecological and environmental change, leaving it pretty much a water world, as the description of the region explains:

This is a place years ahead of us with no land. Humans have produced a lot of things…and many things are [now] useless. A city grows up on a huge mountain of containers filled with broken technological stuff, abandoned or fallen from ships.

Kun-Tei-Ner; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrKun-Tei-Ner

And so it is that we are invited into one of the most unique and original environments currently to be found in Second Life: a marvellous mini archipelago of tall, close-packed islands rising from the sea, built from shipping containers gathered from who-knows-where, brought together to create the shoreline, hills, apartments and places of commerce this corner of humanity’s survivors treat as home.

Stacked together like Lego® bricks – and almost as colourful – the containers form everything one might expect from a close-packed group of islets: there are high peaks, valleys, ocean fronts, low-lying “flatlands” … Yes, all are obviously painted metals, but attempts have clearly been made to make things look more natural and return a hint of nature to the setting, with ivy and vines strung from the sides of some containers, well clear of where they might otherwise be splashed and contaminated by salt water.

Kun-Tei-Ner; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrKun-Tei-Ner

The containers that have been converted into homes have had holes cut into their sides or have had their end or doors removed, the holes replaced by wooden frames, sliding doors, and windows cut from what looks to be sheets of acetate plastic. Others offer places of commerce: a pizza bar here, an little Japanese-style food market there ….

These, with their lit neon signs, at first look incongruous given the overall theme of the setting, but it is clear that power is not an issue here: the upper reaches of the container “hills” are lit by flashing neon billboards, and someone has taken the opportunity to place traditional wooden advertising hoardings up as well. Perhaps some of the power for the neons signs comes from the wind turbines sitting just of the “coast” of these iron islands, but there are signs of other industrial activity as well: great pipes rise from the waters to plug themselves into containers, while others run from one set of containers to another as a tall smoke stack belches orange smoke to drift in the wind.

Kun-Tei-Ner; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrKun-Tei-Ner

It is clear from this that there is some form of heavy plant hidden within some of the stacked containers. Does it provide power? is it helping to grow foodstuffs hidden by corrugated steel walls? That’s up for you as a visitor to decide. There are other signs that technology has survived as well: a large satellite communication dish points its eye towards a spot in the sky, while a satellite receiver appears to be obtaining video signals from another orbital system.

Finding your way around the islands is a matter of following the LED arrows on the floors and walls of the containers, while bridges formed from wood and rope, open-ended container and metal gantries connect the different islands. The arrows point to multiple routes and passages around the islands, making exploration a walk of discovery, at least some of which is observed from above by a flying sculpture of a whale shark.

Kun-Tei-Ner; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrKun-Tei-Ner

The paths offer a lot to see, from the interiors of the living containers, to the food market and pizza bar to multiple places to sit, indoors and out. They can also offer plenty of opportunities for photography, and a Flickr group is available to those who wish to submit their images. Just be sure to give the region the time it deserves when visiting.

The region designs by Lotus and Fred are generally available for around a month before they kick-off their next project. So, in case that will be so for Kun-Tei-Ner, a visit sooner than later might be advisable to avoid missing what is – as noted – a fascinating setting worthy of exploration.

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Captivated by FionaFei’s art in Second Life

FionaFei: Shuǐmò

Shuǐmò, or shuǐmòhuà (suiboku-ga in Japanese), is a type of East Asian ink wash painting that uses different concentrations of black ink to create an image. It first emerged in Tang dynasty China (618–907), before spreading to Japan (14th century), Korea and to India. Beside the use of black ink in place of colours, it is also marked by the emphasis of the brushwork to be on the perceived spirit or essence of the subject, rather than directly imitating its appearance.

It is also a form of art that has been quite marvellously brought to life by Second Life and physical world artist FionaFei as the basis of her latest art exhibition. This features a core element called Wo Men Dakai, which Fiona describes thus:

Wo Men Dakai (Chinese for “My Door Opens”) is an art installation I’ve created in the style of Chinese ink brush painting. The purpose of the space is for a role-play Firefly-based RP where my RP character YiLi graduates into a Registered Companion. However, the inspiration for the creation is from my own personal artistic journey in real life and in second life, and most of it really stems from who I am as an artist in both realities.

– FionaFei

FionaFei: Shuǐmò

While not everyone might be familiar with Joss Whedon’s (too) short-lived science fiction TV series Firefly (from which I freely admit taking my first name in Second Life!), having such knowledge is not s prerequisite for any visit to, or appreciation of, this installation.

From the landing point, visitors are invited to walk along unrolled scrolls of xuan paper, the traditional material for Shuǐmò painting. On these are painted the Chinese symbols for Wo Men Dakai as they point the way to a pair of great red doors. When touched, these will slowly open (just give them time) to reveal the gallery space proper.

FionaFei: Shuǐmò

This is a spherical space that is the embodiment of shuǐmò; a Chinese water garden wherein all the major features are produced as ink wash images / pieces: the bridge, the lilies floating on the water, the rocks on which the art is displayed, the overhead rocks from which water falls in black-and-white lines to fill the pool of the water lily garden.

FionaFei: Shuǐmò

Shuǐmò might be described as an ancient Oriental form of what we in the west call impressionism; a form of art where – as noted above – the aim is to capture the essence, not imitate the physical.

So, for example, when painting an animal, the ink wash painter seeks to present the animal’s temperament, not is muscles, sinews and bone structure. And so it is with the gallery structures here: the form and essential essence of the bridge, the lilies and surrounding plants are provided, while the intrinsic details: complete railings on the bridge, the details veins on leaves and petals is not so relevant.

This contrasts strongly with the art displayed in the space. This takes the form of two marvellous – and themselves – contrasting –  selections of art.

The first is a trio of 3D pieces, again in a traditional Chinese style bordering on shuǐmò, but which use add splashes of colour – red and green – that, together with the animations – bring a sense of life and vitalities to the pieces in an completely enticing manner.

The second is a beautiful set of charcoal on newsprint studies of the human body. These fourteen drawing offer the strongest contrast to the shuǐmò theme, presenting as they do a very western approach to anatomically detailed art featuring the human body, male or female – but which, through the use of charcoal in varying concentrations, nevertheless contain within them an echo of shuǐmò.

“I see life and my journey as a painting. It can be forever an evolving piece,” Fiona notes of her art. “At any given time, you think you’ve reached the end of it, but you can always add to it, layer it, and change it. In a sense, each brush stroke is like a footprint.”

In recognition of this, and as a part of the interactive nature of the exhibit, visitors are invited to take a selection of footprints (shoes, bare feet and paws), wear them, and leave their own marks (albeit temporary) as they “follow their own path” through the installation. There are also some koi carp gifts available at the landing point as well.

FionaFei: Shuǐmò

A truly marvellous exhibition by a wonderfully talented artist – but don’t just take my word for it. Go and see for yourself. My thanks to Pieni for the pointer!

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A farewell to Chouchou?

Chouchou, 2018

Reports that the ChouChou regions look set to close in the next week or so have been doing the rounds over the last 24 hours, together with hopes that Linden Lab might be able to step in and preserve the regions as a part of Second Life’s cultural heritage.

Designed by Japanese pianist Arabesque Choche and vocalist Juliet Heberle, who together form the successful musical duet of Chouchou, the regions are among some of the longest running, unchanged private island environments to be found in Second Life, and are an absolute delight for all who encounter them. I made my first visit in 2012 (see Chouchou: blending music and art in SL), and have been back many times since, being particularly drawn to the sky build of  Memento Mori (located on ChouChou V), a quite remarkable cathedral.

Chouchou: Memento Mori

A Collaborative build by Juliet in collaboration with Miya Grut, and with the support of Yuki Aabye, this is a build pre-dating mesh and is utterly stunning in the intricate beauty of its construction. It’s a place to go when one wants to contemplate thoughts and gain a measure of piece – and which marks ChouChou is a place worthy of preservation entirely on its own.

But it stands far from alone; from the timeless minimalist beauty of the waterlogged ground level, through to Memento Mori and passing by way of Islamey, another sky build, ChouChou is truly an artistic delight.

With its tea house built over water, and walks under cherry blossoms, Islamey was once the venue for concerts, and remains another place for quiet contemplation; somewhere you can come when you want to give free passage to thoughts and ideas, or when you simply want to let Chouchou’s music gently soothe you.

ChouChou: Islamey

As I noted in my last article on ChouChou prior to this one (see Return to Chouchou and a musical crossing of the divide, from 2018), the regions are quite transcendental in presentation and emotional response. Therefore, and if you have not visited it before or if you wish to renew your memories of these stunning regions lest they do vanish from Second Life, I would strongly suggest you visit them in the next few days.

In the meantime, and if I may, I’ll leave you with my own 2018 video of Memento Mori.

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On the road in Bellisseria in Second Life

The boathouse at Fourze, a way point on a drive around parts of Bellisseria

Since it opened, Bellisseria, the new Linden Homes continent, has started to develop into a thriving community of those not only interested in having a home there, but also in developing a community spirit. To assist with this, the Lab incorporated a number of social areas throughout the continent, such as the pool area in Gaim, which serves both the coastal houses and house boats in the area, and – most recently, it terms of this article – the Squishy Pickle bar in the houseboat regions added in May 2019.

However, residents have also added their own, creating the first public rez zones in the continent on their own properties and their own social spaces, such a pubs. where people can gather. As such, I thought I’d take a little road trip around the continent, using some of these locations as way points.

The beach-side pool at Gaim, the starting-point for my little drive

My starting point was the pool area at Gaim, selected simply because it is the closest public social area to my houseboat. From here, I took the coastal road north, heading up to Normandale, a region with several public spaces within walking distance of the local houses, including a picnic area looking out towards the Coral Waters airstrip off the coast. From here, and before reaching New Bigby, with its extensive west-facing beach, I turned inland.

The route led me past one of numerous show homes scattered across the continent. Like many such house, this one, by Apple Fall is open for people to come in and get ideas for interior décor for their homes. Sadly I couldn’t stop as I’d risk seeing my car go poof, so I continued east, passing through Greenbow, then taking a short run through the still-to-be-named SSPE228 with a brief turn north into Rockham and then east once more to Fourze.

The Apple Falls show home, one of many scattered across Bellisseria

This took me past a riverside seating area before turning north along the coast, past one of the many little boathouses that are open to the public (as which I thought might be earmarks to become rezzing zones at some point); this one, pictured in the banner of this articles, looks out over one of the lighthouses that do have rezzing areas. Continuing north took me through Kiva and on to Maple Cross, with its hilltop garden area (which perhaps could use a little smoothing in some of the terraforming).

One of my primary destinations for this trip was Buitenwijk, and the Red Lion pub. Now, I’ll be honest, whenever I hear or read the words traditional English pub, I tend to shiver, as so often the words don’t tend to measure up to what we in the UK might regard as a “pub”. However, the Red Lion’s owner, Matty (Matty Luminos), is also from the UK, and the Red Lion does indeed offer the look and feel of a modern boutique-style pub, where a selection of beers, ales, wines and more might be pleasantly imbibed either indoors or out in the garden. With its riverside location.

The Red Lion pub

While the Red Lion offers open rezzing, calling-up a car in the garden would be rude, so instead, I resumed my travels via my trusty Roadrunner scooter, by Ape Piaggio (see A Second Life Roadrunner for more). Riding this, I again headed north, passing the impressive arc of the Capitol Springs Bridge, before continuing on through the houses to the rez point at what is currently called SPPE133. At this point, I cheekily swapped my scooter for my MD900 helo (which I quickly shoved onto the grass alongside the road after sitting in it!), and took to the skies for a quick flight back to my houseboat.

I’ve seen Bellisseria being referred to by some bloggers as a “ghetto”. I’m not sure where that perception comes from – outside of perhaps not having visited. Yes, the styles of homes are (for the present) somewhat limited (four variations of house and four variations of houseboat). But as any trip along the roads or waterways of Bellisseria or flights across the continent demonstrate, there is already sufficient variety of house style, coupled with people’s approaches to decorating their homes and gardens – including the various “extension” and “party packs” for interior / exterior supplements – to make Bellisseria a diverse and pleasant environment, entirely undeserving of the epithet.

Capitol Springs Bridge, one of many landmarks in Bellisseria

For my part, I’m becoming increasingly persuaded by the attractions of Bellisseria and the growing community spirit within it – hence why I’ll be writing for The Bellisserian, the continent’s new resident-run newspaper.  I plan to spend more time travelling through Bellisseria and, from time-to-time writing about places of interest within the continent like the Red Lion and the various Linden / Mole defined public spaces. In this, I would perhaps like the Lab to make the land-based rez points more obvious – it’s great having Yasmin’s HUD (see Finding rez zones in Bellisseria – Yasmin’s free HUD for more) – but having the rez points marked by a sign like those found on other mainland continents with road routes, would be handy – and could be done at the humble cost of 1 LI apiece.

In the meantime, my thanks to Gingir Ghoststar for her note card of points of interest and to the folks of the Bellisseria Citizen’s Group for pointing out additional public places they’ve discovered.