Saturated in Second Life

Saturated, March 2023 – click any image for full size

Lex Machine (Archetype11 Nova) is back with another visually stunning region / installation which – as with all his designs – is sure to both engage and challenge the eye and mind. Occupying a Full private region utilising the Land Capacity bonus, this is again a build that offers visitors much food for thought: a journey through modern life and the potential for questions who – and where – we are.

Entitled Saturated, the installation involves a flat landscape which – in keeping with the region’s name – is saturated to the point of waterlogging as it sits just above the waters of the surrounding sea. From it springs, apparently at random, figures, statues, objects both familiar and strange, mixed with a scattering of vegetation.

Saturated, March 2023

Mermaids mix with radio / telecommunication towers mix with figures apparently in suspension and towers of static-filled video screens, whilst laptops and old computers lie discarded in powdery piles and figures stand with cameras and screens or radios in place of heads, the body of an automatic handgun points skywards, and more. It all seems so chaotic, so unconnected, so jumbled and surreal; what could be the connections between these disparate elements? Perhaps the easiest way is peek at the region’s About Land description.

Rain, it can bring life. But when the ground has had it’s fill, first comes damage, next destruction. Death is last. Are we saturated?
Are we better off with these constant inputs or was less more? When was the last time we savoured anything?

– Saturated’s About Land description

With these words, we gain a framework of context, one fleshed out by the landscape before us: a statement on life and our ever-increasing reliance on -addiction to – technology (perhaps most aptly defined by the figure “snorting” Facebook and the litter of computers and laptops and cell phones strewn over mounds of a white substance like some form of new cocaine), and the fears (re: the Terminator-style figures leaping out of screens of data) and polarisations it brings to our daily lives.

Saturated, March 2023

The polarisations might be best indicated by the family gathered to the north-east, where mother, father, and child all have heads replaced by screens symbolising the manner in which technology has reduced daily living and personal time to the need for everything in our lives to become a matter of public record with meaning only given through its presence on social media. At the same time, this demand to be publicly accessible contrasts with the ability of technology in enabling us to hide behind masks of anonymity, as represented by the figures wearing / carrying masks, or with Russian doll-like heads. Meanwhile, to the south-east, the figure stabbed with syringes suggests the divide generated by the easy passage technology gives to the passage of misinformation into our lives, warping our common sense against the realities of science and medicine.

Elsewhere the symbolism might be clearer such as the large eyes watching over everything like Big Brother – although whether we see this as the state or in the form of corporate goggling-up of our data (or both) is a matter of personal choice. But really, there is such a richness of metaphor to be found within Saturated, that trying to write about it is no easy matter. From the apple and serpent (our end of innocence? the beginning our our fall simply born by our coming into existence?) through the presence of mermaids and flying fish (the explorations of the unknown? the free flight of the imagination we once had?) to the reimagining of the March of Progress, there is so much to say that is difficult to translate into the written word.

Saturated, March 2023

Simply put, Saturated is – as with all of Lex’s builds – something not to read about, bot to experience for yourself – and I encourage you do do so.

With thanks to Moon Cloud.

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An artistic Hello to Spring in Second Life

Galerie L’autre Monde: Hello Spring – Rage Darkstone

‘Twas back to at Galerie L’autre Monde curated by Lady Anais (Anais Yuhara) and located at The Uzine, for me recently, to witness an ensemble exhibition entitled Hello Spring. Featuring the work of seven artists, the exhibition combines both real-world photography and digital artistry in a celebration of the coming burst of colour and light (for the northern hemisphere at least!) as spring brings forth new blooms and blossoms to brighten our world.

My visit marked the second time I’ve dropped into the gallery – the first having been at the start of February 2023. At that time, I pondered whether out not the design of the gallery space was specific to the exhibition being mounted at that time, or the gallery’s natural appearance. With my return to view Hello Spring I was pleased to note it appears to be the latter; there is something quite engaging about the use of partially demolished / destroyed buildings with the detritus of human habitation scattered around, all caught under a twilight / night sky (make sure you have your viewer set to World → Environment → Use Shared Environment) that makes this striking gallery space.

Galerie L’autre Monde: Hello Spring – Nils Urqhart

The artists presented within Hello Spring are TerraMerhyem, Rage Darkstone, Hermes Kondor, Tutsy Navarathna, Lalie Sorbet, Nils Urqhart, and Deyanira Yalin, Each presents at least two pieces of art representing the arrival of spring, each artist using a section of the gallery’s ruins.

For their pieces, Hermes and Nils present stunning macro-level views of flowers in bloom, Nils presenting his with a subtle vignette finish, his backdrops suggestive of a dark sky to bring the focus of his images to the fore in all there natural beauty. Hermes similarly uses a vignette effect to frame his subjects, but counters it with a more obvious use of depth of field. In both cases, the results are stunning life studies of nature’s beauty.

Galerie L’autre Monde: Hello Spring – Tutsy Navarathna

Artistic couple Rage Darkstone and TerraMerhyem present a vibrant mix of digital art and colour. Terra offers three pieces which suggest an unfolding story of sorts. To the right is a single sakura, carrying with it all the promise of spring mixed with a sense of mysticism – the latter enhanced by the soft illumination of sunlight through clouds to produce a pink sky tinged by a rainbow refraction as if from a lens to one side as the Sun edges its way around the clouds to the other. In the next two, the tree appears to have been transplanted into what might be otherworldly places, suggesting the universiality of rebirth and renewal. With his pieces, Rage uses light and geometry to present flowing, living forms rich in the colours of spring and a marvellous mix of fantasy and marine life.

With their pieces, Deyanira, Tutsy and Lalie also use digital techniques to offer us views on spring, with Deyanira presenting more macro-level views of flowers and springtime insects, with Spring – I believe – combining photography and digital rendering – offering a fabulous journey into a flower to reveal the anther and filament. Tutsy’s pieces bring together image and metaphor, and Lalie similarly using metaphor in the form of avatar-like people in a triptych of pieces visualising the richness and beauty of spring.

Galerie L’autre Monde: Hello Spring – Lalie Sorbet

Warm and vibrant, Hello Spring is a richly engaging exhibition.

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Borkum’s easy beauty in Second life

Borkum, March 2023 – click any image for full size

Yoyo Collas is back with a new Homestead region design for people to enjoy. Called Borkum, this is an easy place to visit and well suited for helping those of us in the northern hemisphere get ready for the coming of spring and summer and the inevitable thoughts of getting away from it all.

Borkum is a photogenic Island . A great place with many hideaways…time for feelings…dancing…time for two…lonely beaches all by yourself listening to music or enjoying the awesome people and views.

– Borkum About Land description

Borkum, March 2023

This is an easy-on-the-eye place to visit – as is the case with all Yoyo’s designs – offering an entirely natural setting in the form of a sunny island, largely given over to a sandy beach and grassy spine rising from south-west to cliff-edged north-east. The landing point sits to the east side of the island’s hilly back, the beach sweeping around it from east through south to west, the grassland rising gently up towards a little gathering of buildings towards the northern end of the island, the grass hiding a spread of lavender and yellow flowers which are the focus of the local sheep.

The buildings on the island suggest that this might have once been a place for processing fish prior to moving them on the mainland for sale. On the west side, sitting at the southern end of the cliffs, is a former industrial building, now converted into a comfortable apartment-style house, its cosy interior mixing with its slightly run-down exterior offering an attractive personification of shabby-chic, whilst facing a small shed or out-house across the lavender and yellow flowers.

Borkum, March 2023

This outhouse also appears to have undergone a transformation from what might have once been a storehouse to an artist’s retreat, a deck extending from its east side to overlook and overhang the run of the beach as it reaches the start of the cliffs. Further evidence that this might have been a working location sits below the warehouse-converted-to-a-home, where a small wharf has a trawler tied-up alongside.

Beyond the house, the grassland levels into a table of land pointing the way towards the candle-like white lighthouse with its bright red top. The land here forms something of a meadow where horses – a common and welcome element in Yoyo’s designs – are grazing peacefully, a fence along one side of the hilltop preventing them from going down into the shallow valley and upsetting the sheep (or vice-versa!).

Borkum, March 2023

Scattered across the island are many places where people can escape and relax – in the house, along the beach, out in the shallows just beyond the sand, among the horses as they graze or at the foot of the cliffs and so on. There’s also a kiteboarding rezzer located on one side of the islands beaches, but I confess that when I tried, the boards I rezzed refused to respond to my keyboard inputs; you might have better luck on your visit. Further around the shore from the rezzer is a little boat where those who wish can also try a little bit of fishing.

Peaceful and finished with an easy soundscape and with a local EEP which gives it the feel of a tranquil watercolour painting, Borkum is a delightful visit.

Borkum, March 2023

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  • Borkum (Golden Place, rated Moderate)

Art and our Hidden Personas in Second Life

Hannington Arts Foundation: Etamae – Pariah – The Hidden Persona

We all have facets of personality we reserve for different occasions – and home with family, at work, and so on – and which we are able to wear or switch between without conscious thought. They provide us with a degree of agency over in terms of how we are perceived by others and what we chose to reveal about ourselves.

But what of those aspects of self we don’t, for whatever reason, reveal, even to those closest to us? Those traits which we’re aware of but strive to keep hidden, most likely because we fear what might happen were we to express them, either to others or ourselves. We treat them as pariahs, pushing them down and away from our thoughts, but they never really go away; they remain just below the surface of thought, waiting for the opportunity to take hold, to tear friendships and relationships apart or terrorise us with fears we cannot express or really face because of the sense of panic or upset they induce.

Hannington Arts Foundation: Etamae – Pariah – The Hidden Persona

These are the facets of self explored by Etamae within Pariah – The Hidden Persona, now open at the Hannington Arts Foundation. Eta is an incredibly expressive artist who uses both 2D and 3D forms in both static and interactive pieces, together with a use of space which tends to draw people into her installations and exhibitions. Within Pariah she again demonstrates with with the use of 2D and 3D pieces, some of which are animated, and within which the presentation space is very much a part of the overall installation – as is the environment; when visiting, it is essential you have your viewer set to Use Shared Environment (World → Environment) in order to view the installation under the intended environmental lighting.

The installation is set within a large cube space which extends above and below the visitor, being split by a transparent floor. On the walls of this cube are images of faces, male and female, each offering an expression and utilising a subtle animated texture which might be taken as the flow of thought / emotion. Floating within this space, again above and below the floor area on which the visitor stands, is a series of transparent cubes. On (and within) these are etched further faces bearing a look / emotion, some of which echo those on the wall. Some of the faces of these cubes are are animated, he images on them appearing to slowly pulse back and forth to give a further suggestion of the ebb and flow of feelings and emotions, and that inner struggle we can face with aspects of our own persona.

Hannington Arts Foundation: Etamae – Pariah – The Hidden Persona

Also on the walls are extracts from the lyrics of Keep the Streets Empty for Me, a track from the debut studio album by Fever Ray, an alias used by Swedish singer-songwriter / performer Karin Dreijer, and first released in 2009. The lyrics of the song are well suited to this exhibition, containing as they do introspective reflections / pleas, with the Outro refrain in particular well suited to the theme of the exhibition.

I don’t want to see too much more about the art or the installation, as by its nature, Pariah – The Hidden Persona is a “personal” piece in that it will speak to each of us differently, and as such should be visited and experienced first-hand. There is simply no way the manner in which the images and words within the installation will impact you as they did me. So this being the case, and having hopefully set the scene, I invite you to visit the installation yourself.

Hannington Arts Foundation: Etamae – Pariah – The Hidden Persona

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A Forgotten Hope in Second Life

Forgotten Hope, March 2023 – click any image for full size

I received an invitation from Clifton Howlett to attend the opening of his latest Homestead region build, and while I was unable to make the event on Saturday, March 18th, I did manage to hop over a couple of times over the weekend and take a look around. Working with Coralile Resident, Clifton is a region designer who puts together imaginative settings which offer places in which to retreat, relax, explore and have fun, each one a little different to the last.

With Forgotten Hope, Clifton and Coralile have come up with a most unusual setting. Hidden from much of the light of day yet still rich with natural growth, it takes a new turn in presenting both a place of mystery for those who like to create stories about the location they visit in-world, and a place where personal time and a little fun can be has for those just seeking to unwind.

A veil of darkness cloaks its mysterious depths, enticing explorers and spelunkers from far and wide to uncover the dark secrets it harbours. Amidst abandoned huts and a submerged ‘plane [you can] embark on an adventure like no other and immerse yourself in the eerie atmosphere of this enchanting location.

– From the Forgotten Hope description and opening invitation card

Forgotten Hope, March 2023

A journey through this underground location – quite where it might be is up to you to decide, but for reasons I’ll come to, I thought of it as perhaps a little twist on the Lost style of mystery – commences within a fairly nondescript cavern. Here, smoke from a slightly out-of-control wood fire pit is slowly – and doubtless suffocatingly – filling the space, encouraging people to seek escape through the arch of a tunnel to one side of the dome-like cavern.

Lit by a smaller fire held in check by a rock of stones, the tunnel floor is wreathed in creeping mist as it descends down roughly hewn steps and doglegs its way into a second chamber. This appears to have been long-used; chests of hand written scrolls sit against the round walls, together with barrels of who-knows what – dried food? water? both? – and stacks of candles and other signs of human occupancy. It is a place suggestive of age and darkness – if anything is to be gleaned from the scrolls at least.

Forgotten Hope, March 2023

An arch leads to a further small cavern where more oddments can be found – including, somewhat incongruously, an upright piano complete with stool and sheet music which all look in remarkably good condition. Both form a strange combination – the chests of scrolls contrasting with the piano and the heap of mouldering mattresses; however, the mystery of these caves is liable to fade into the background after passing through the wood door tucked to one side of this little dome of rock.

Beyond the door is a split in the rock, a narrow defile, a cave taller and somewhat brighter in natural light than those on the other side of the door, perhaps suggesting that daylight is not that far away – a feeling added to by the presence of vines on the walls. Someone has gone to great lengths to lay a path of carefully cut and placed logs to ease passage over the floor of this defile, complete with a hand-made ladder to help people over a rocky lip to reach the cave mouth beyond. This sits high up on a cliff face, the ground and surface of a body of water fed by water plummeting from further around the high cliffs and visible above the tops of trees. However, its is not open land, but rather a vast and high cavern.

Forgotten Hope, March 2023

Mist rises from the waters below the cave mouth to fold itself around the trees, and thin strands of cloud float around the cavern’s high roof, the sunlight which dapples the water falling through a jagged hole in the cavern’s dome, the stray clouds around the hole acting as a prism to break the light into finger-like beams of illumination pointing down into this netherworld of a place. In doing so they fall upon the element which gives this place a Lost-like feel: a partial carcass of an airliner broken and semi-submerged in the water and, perhaps the cause of the rend in the cavern’s roof.

Here is where more mystery grows: was it the people who survived the ‘plane crash who built the path lading back to the entry caverns – and the platforms with their ladders providing the way up to (or down from!) the high cave? Or were they merely the latest inhabitants of this strange world? The evidence of long-term habitation is intriguing: at “ground” level, there is a ramshackle cabin built into the remnants of a once massive tree; there are remnants of cut-stone walls suggesting ancient buildings; board walks and decks pass out over the shallow waters to connect with the the rest of this huge cavern space. Trees grow throughout, whilst a range of wildlife sitting beneath their boughs and amidst the wild grass.

Forgotten Hope, March 2023

If the cabin and other structures located here were built before the nose of the airliner arrived – then who built them? Who was responsible from shipping the large boiler system sitting within the corrugated sides of a ramshackle shed in the second large cavern? Is this a retreat from the world, or a place where people can end up apparently stranded by misfortune – or some form of strange experiment in the human condition? Maybe the weird hooded figure lurking within the setting has some of the answers; or perhaps you don’t find them important.

If you don’t, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied here – the large deck sitting over the water of the first of the big caverns is home to DJ events and dancing, whilst scattered throughout the caverns (and up in their rocky walls) are places to sit and cuddle or read a book, with sofa and wine available by the bottle whilst the local wolves, snakes and alligator are content to let people freely come and go without being in anyway bothersome.

Forgotten Hope, March 2023

A strange but engaging world, Forgotten Hope makes for an engaging visit and serves as a spark for the willing imagination.

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An oriental Dragonfly in Second Life

Dragonfly, March 2023 – click any image for full size

Dragonfly is a Full private region designed by the Mad Ninjaz, offering a fascinating setting built along vertical lines and which – on first arrival – can appear deceptive to the eye.

The landing point sits within what at first appears to be a rocky landscape, close to a Japanese style of house built over an artificial pool of water. It looks for all the world like an ordinary setting – until one starts to look around, and the floating islands with water falling free to reach nearby pools come into view. A further indication of the strangeness to the land comes in the form of the large hole in the ground behind the landing point (be careful if stepping back too far on landing!) which reveals another world; one which I’ll come to.

Dragonfly, March 2023

A Torii gate marks the entrance to the house, and more march away to the east, following the water flowing away from the pool over which the house has been built. Crossing a small bridge over the water, the gates turn south, marking the way where large basalt blocks sit as oversized stepping stones across mist-covered waters to large to stone steps curving up a hill.

The hill top is marked by more basalt rock forms and patterns of pools fed by waterfalls dropping from more floating islands. Torii gates continue to mark a path over around and between all of these to lead visitors to  where a path winds its way up a naked table of rock to where more pools of water – these made by humans – can be found, forming hot baths for relaxing, with little hideaways sitting with them.

Dragonfly, March 2023

Down below, sheltered under the table of rock supporting the gardens is a waterlogged town, a place of many focal points. How you get down is something I’ll leave to your to discover – although jumping down through the hole in the land is perhaps the quickest!

Here, along flooded streets can be found a curious mix of shops, event spaces, industrial units, giant pipes, elevated tramways, all mixed together in a strange mix that is both vibrant and filled with neon, but also edged with a sense of dystopia and the alien in the form of the basalt/crystal rock formations.

Dragonfly, March 2023

The tram keeps itself busy trundling back and forth along the short length of elevated track, stairs from the shallow waters leading up to two little platforms where people can board it for the short ride if they wish. A further Torii gate sits close to one of the tram stations, marking the maw of what might be a cave, neon-lit steps rising into the darkness. Step through them into the cave’s mouth and visitors arrive in a huge cavern and a strange mix of shopping mall and suggestions of clubs and hidden spots.

There is more to be found at or near water level awaiting cameras and explorers, perhaps the more obvious of which is the glowing tree of a large pagoda again lit and limned in neon. Called the Jewel Box, it is a strange mix of old, modern and futuristic, water again forming a central feature – together with a Chinese dragon. Stairs climb between the various floors, allowing the building to be thoroughly explored.

Dragonfly, March 2023

A second pagoda sits across the region from the Jewel Box, but while it is watched over by a guardian of its own – one perhaps a little more frightening in visage than the dragon at the Jewel Box, it is a shell without interior, offered as a potential focal point for photographs.  Some of the other buildings rising from the water are also shells in form, but equally, other have interiors, some of which are again diverse in form – such as a winter garden sitting between apartments. As such, time should be taken with wanderings and looking.

Very much a place of two halves, Dragonfly is richly diverse and wee-presented with a lot of small details waiting to be found. The local sounds can be a little intrusive in places, but overall a very different style of place to explore in Second Life.

Dragonfly, March 2023

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