Category Archives: Reviews

An Uncertain Destiny in Second Life

An Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny – click any image for full size

Caitlyn and I recently had the opportunity to drop in on Mystic, the Full region on which friends  Boudicca Amat and Anthony Westburn have their home. The occasion of our visit was to mark the completion of Bou’s work in redesigning their land, which covers a little under 1/4 of the region and which is now once again open to public visits.

Once called Hestium – which you can read about here and here – the parcel is now called An Uncertain Destiny, and once again it is a tour de force of Boudicca’s creative talent, bringing together several elements into a cohesive whole whilst also demonstrating you don’t actually need an entire region – Full or Homestead – to create something memorable (particularly with the increases in Land Impact allowances).

TAn Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny

On arrival, visitors find themselves on a small sand and shingle beach surrounded on three sides by a tiered, rocky landscape. The table-topped cliffs and plateaus offer a lush covering of grass, flowers and trees enjoying the summer rain. These various rocky tiers are connected by stairways and paths, offering a number of potential routes for exploration.

Where you go after your arrival is up to you: simply climb the steps up from the beach and let your feet carry you where they will. To the west sits an old castle keep, now converted into a cosy pub on one side and a little library-come-reading room on the other. A staircase from the pub directs people up to a rooftop café where Bou reads from some of some of her favourite books every Tuesday and Thursday between 15:15 and 16:00 SLT.

TAn Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny

Beyond this, a path winds up between trees and up more steps, promising the way to the land of Far, Far, Away. No Shrek or Fiona to be found here, however. Instead, there is a cosy Scandinavian stuga sit with its back to another cliff, some mystical ruins nearby.

The mystical feel can also be found on the east side of the parcel, beneath the cliffs of Bou and Anthony’s private home – the only part of the parcel not open to public access. Here sits an ancient stone circle reached via a gabled gate. Close by, and occupying the tops of another plateau, sit a formal garden and a hedge maze. I’ll leave you to discover how to reach them – there is more than one route 🙂 .

TAn Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny

All of this is brought together by a central garden of wild flowers and shrubs, in which a graceful conservatory sits, the little terrace outside its door open to the gently falling rain. For those preferring to sit in the dry, a  s swing bench can be found nestled under a rock shelf close by, warmed by a little fire. Couples might also find a place to sit in the gazebo of the walled garden a slightly longer walk away and overlooking the beach.

Bou has always had an eye for colour, line, composition and detail, and rain – or as we sometimes call it in England, “liquid sunshine” due to its frequency – notwithstanding, an Uncertain Destiny once again proves this in spades. Not only is it a gorgeous design, wonderfully photogenic and delightfully relaxing, it is filled with wonderful little touches which bring it perfectly to life.

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Cica’s Burning and poetic musings in Second Life

Cica Ghost: Burning

Cica Ghost: Burning

Burning is the title of Cica Ghost’s latest region-wide build, which opened on Sunday, January 15th. It is a piece which stands in contrast to several of her recent builds in that it is of a darker tone and style. Under a lowering, cloud-heavy sky, lit by a distant sunset, a town burns. The land around it is scorched and aflame, ashen tree trunks, bereft of branches and leaves, point to the heavy sky like gnarled, accusative fingers.

Within the town, the tall buildings are charred, their pain blistered and blackened as flames lick doorways and windows. Some walls carry some of Cica’s usually light and happy stick figures, which here are cast in a new role as poignant reminders that this was once a happier place. A single bridge spans what might be the parched bed of a vanished body of water, offering a way into – or perhaps an escape route out of – the conflagration.

Cica Ghost: Burning

Cica Ghost: Burning

The who, what, how and why of the fire’s origin are not revealed. The burning landscape and buildings are an open page on which we can write our own view of what has occurred. However, with all that is going on in the physical world, coupled with the general presentation of Burning, it tends to cause the name Aleppo to spring to mind. So is Burning perhaps a political commentary?

Possibly. But before we decide or judge, Cica provides a possible clue to interpreting the work. It comes in the form of a quote: time is the fire in which we burn. It’s part of a line from  a 1938 poem by Delmore Schwartz entitled, Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day (also sometimes called For Rhoda), which is by coincidence, a poem I know quite well. In it, Schwartz records how we go about our daily lives largely unaware of the uncontrollable passage of time and the fact that, with every moment, we are closer to our own deaths and the deaths of those we love. From childhood through adulthood, we are so often caught within the minutiae of our lives that we lose track of all that is really important – or should be; only in our closing years do we realise what has happened – by which time all may lie burnt by time.

Cica Ghost: Burning

Cica Ghost: Burning

So is Cica presenting us with a philosophical piece with Burning? “I didn’t know about the poem,” she told me, “But I came across the line while searching for quotes about fire, and it fitted what I wanted to say.”

The quote in question attributed the line as coming from a character in the movie Star Trek Generations, hence why Cica didn’t make the connection. However, she has perfectly captured the tone and meaning of Schwartz’s poem as a whole, from the melancholy through to the way in which we do hurry through our lives – as exemplified by the visitors Caitlyn and I sat and watched from one of several perches in the installation (hover your mouse around to find them) as they hurried back and forth through the buildings and trees before vanishing.

Cica Ghost: Burning

Cica Ghost: Burning

That Cica has captured all of the nuance within Calmly We Walk…. may have been serendipitous, spinning outward from that one line from the poem, but that doesn’t matter. Serendipity is often the cousin to artistic expression, and the pairing of the installation with the entire poem broadens our understanding and appreciation of Burning. It also perhaps sits with that image of Aleppo which pops into the mind when first arriving. Schwartz wrote his poem shortly before the outbreak of World War 2, a time when towns and cities burned and lives  – and generations – were shattered; thus another layer of poignancy is added to the installation.

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  • Burning (Aggramar, rated:  Moderate)

A second helping of Hell’s Heaven in Second Life

The Hell's Heaven 2.0, Rainbow Ridge; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrThe Hell’s Heaven 2.0 – click any image for full size

“Stay awhile,” Snoob (SnoobJohnson) and his partner, Mila (Mila Maesar) say in greeting to visitors to their homestead region, The Hell’s Heaven 2.0. “Let  this world  refresh your soul and
melt your worries away …  Explore this cloudy world of changing scenery and enjoy your stay!”

It’s a warm invitation, and there is much to enjoy within the region, which has been beautifully created by Snoob, with touches inspired by Mila to offer photographers and explorers alike with a visual treat – an anyone who has looked at the Flickr group for the region will only be too aware.

The Hell's Heaven 2.0, Rainbow Ridge; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrThe Hell’s Heaven 2.0

This is a land of two distinct parts. To the west sit low-lying marshlands, ankle-deep in water and carpeted in long reeds and grasses through which a water-hugging mist drifts.  Scattered over this lay dilapidated shacks and cabins, their floors flooded and wooden walls slowly rotting, submerged wooden walkways running from nowhere to nowhere outside. Wrecks of cars and pick-ups complete the scenery, together with a couple of rowing boats and the rusting body of an old airboat.

To the east, the land rises abruptly in a series of rocky crags, high ridges and flat-topped plateaus, cutting the land between them into deep gorges, one connected to the next, through which the marshy waters drift and aged trees stand, trunks bent and branches hanging low, like old men needing a cane for support as they watch the passing of time and the world.

The Hell's Heaven 2.0, Rainbow Ridge; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrThe Hell’s Heaven 2.0

Waterlogged paths wind through these grey canyons, leading the way to an old, broken railway line emerging from a boarded tunnel. Overhead, clouds drift across a sky deepening with dusk, their shapes a mix of grey and softly burnished bronze. Between sky and ground, strung across one of the gorges, sits an old chair lift, all but one of the wooden seats fading in the sun, the exception dangling beacon-red beneath the uppermost stretch of taut cable. Do be aware when wandering the canyons, that a private residence lies beyond them in the north-east corner of the lane – please respect privacy there.

A hinterland of rock, reeds, and water, there is a feeling this place has been long abandoned; the cars are rusting, an old fuel pipe and valve leaking oil into the water, adding the glossy touch of alien colours to its surface here and there. But while abandoned, this land is not deserted. Egrets and herons perch here and there, eyes alert for fish – so the waters aren’t that contaminated – while crocodiles rest among the reeds, perhaps also waiting for unwary prey to come a little too close.

The Hell's Heaven 2.0, Rainbow Ridge; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrThe Hell’s Heaven 2.0

The Hell’s Heaven 2.0 – the name a reminder of Snoob’s original The Hell’s Heaven – is very much a place of peace and serenity, with the feeling of decade and passing time adding to its beauty, and not necessarily in a melancholy way. There is a sense of romance to the region, giving it the feel of a setting from an unwritten novel.

Be sure to pay a visit and write your own chapter.

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Mistero and William: dimensions in art in Second Life

DiXmiX Gallery: Mistero Hifeng

DiXmiX Gallery: Mistero Hifeng

One display at DiXmiX Gallery for approximately a month, are two new exhibitions of art, one by Mistero Hifeng, and the second by William “Paperwork” Weaver.

Perhaps best known for his evocative 3D sculptures, which have become very much a feature of many regions across Second Life over the last few years, Mistero is no stranger to the gallery. Since it opened in September 2016, pieces from Megan Prumier’s personal collection of his work have been integrated into the overall design of the gallery as conceived by Megan, and Mistero has used her approach as the launchpad for his exhibition.

DiXmiX Gallery: Mistero Hifeng

DiXmiX Gallery: Mistero Hifeng

Located on the ground and mezzanine floors of the Grey Gallery at DiXmiX is a selection of some of Mistero’s more recent pieces mixed with some with which those familiar with his work may be familiar. But in addition to these is a display of his photography (which was his original reason for creating his first sculptures), offered in a large format, presenting visitors with a unique opportunity to see and appreciate Mistero’s artistry in both 2D and 3D.

Building on Megan’s idea of integrating his sculptures with the gallery structure, Mistero has a couple of pieces appearing to extrude themselves from pillar and ceiling, whilst throughout the hall, many of the other pieces make their presence felt almost peripherally. Rather than occupying the central floor spaces, they stand close to pillars, against guard rails. Thus, the visitor is made aware of their presence in the most subtle of ways as they allow Mistero’s 2D are to dominate the display spaces, naturally drawing attention to them before it naturally turns to the sculptures. Thus we are encouraged to appreciate both in turn, rather having 3D and 2D art vie for attention.

DiXmiX Gallery: William Weaver's The Paperwork Shows

DiXmiX Gallery: William Weaver’s The Paperwork Shows

Ensconced in the White Gallery at DiXmiX, which has been given something of a make-over for the event, is The Paperwork Shows, William Weaver’s exhibition, which officially opened on Saturday, January 14th, 2017.

An accomplished Second Life and physical world photographer, William is also responsible for the original Phototools for the Firestorm viewer, which expose the many and various photography and machinima related capabilities within the viewer, bringing them together within a neatly tabulated floater. Originally provided by William as a set of optional XML additions to Firestorm, were originally offered as a bolt-on option, Phototools were later fully integrated into Firestorm.

DiXmiX Gallery: William Weaver's The Paperwork Shows

DiXmiX Gallery: William Weaver’s The Paperwork Shows

With The Paperwork Shows, William offers a section of his 2D Second Life Art (some of which should be considered NSFW), and some of his 3D pieces. All of these are exhibited alongside two interactive elements; William’s own Photo Ring, and another featuring  a sculpture by Dolores Olivieri, both of which visitors to the exhibition can use to pose themselves and take their own photos.

The majority of the 2D art is offered at slideshows in the central display area of the White Gallery, although there are some individual pieces also on display, while one of the 3D elements is a model William built expressly for the purpose of photographing. He also provides a number of models to photographers  – some of which are in turn based on paintings or photographs – free of charge via the SL Marketplace.

DiXmiX Gallery: Mistero Hifeng

DiXmiX Gallery: Mistero Hifeng

Taken individually or together, there are two fascinating exhibitions, and both should be open for around a month. When visiting the gallery, do please consider a donation towards its continued upkeep, and be sure to catch Miles Cantelou’s exhibit which you can read about here) and Megan’s delightful aviation-themed gallery lounge.

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