Eupalinos Ugajin’s Avaloir in Second Life

Avaloir

Avaloir (which might be translated as “throat”, or more usually a device used to collect run-off water  – that is a drain) is the title of what is perhaps best described as something of a retrospective installation of various works by Eupalinos Ugajin – or as Eupa describes it, when “random ideas met a playground”.

Those familiar with Eupa’s work will know that it covers a broad canvas, often containing humour, whimsy, a little self-deprecation, which can be mixed with social commentary, imaginative projection worth of the likes of Gilliam, and an artistic flair that can quite captivate the eye and mind.

Avaloir

It’s hard to say which of these boxes one might tick when it comes to Avaloir, but given the description and the majority of the pieces presented, I’d sway more towards the whimsy end of the scale than anywhere else.

A journey – and it is a journey – commences at a rather dark arrival point high in the sky. from here one can teleport to a number of destinations within the region, some on the ground and some in the air. For those who are familiar with Eupa’s work, some (all?) of the destinations will offer a change to renew acquaintances with various past pieces. Most notably, perhaps, are elements from Taxy! to the Zircus, which first appeared in 2014 (you can read more about it here).

Avaloir

Wonderfully Dada-esque in presentation, with a twist of the abstract, four elements from Zircus. Be prepared to mouse around for things to sit on, click on and generally have fun with. You might find yourself riding a spiralling mandolin, wearing cubed boxing gloves and sparring a star-like punching bag, engaging in a little artistic expression with a paint brush and a … hair dryer … and more besides.

Down on the ground  can be found the very interactive The Plant and also Eupa’s giant water / strawberry powered catapult (more here), only this time without its accompanying tower target. There’s also The Concrete Kite, and a whole lot more – some interactive, some observable. Getting around is predominantly achieved using the teleport cubes located at each of the major elements of the installation, although you can also fly from point to point at ground level.

Avaloir

Quantifying Avaloir  isn’t the point. Experiencing it is – so as noted above, make sure you do mouse around, click, try, and be prepared to walk into things. Do make sure, as well, that you have local sounds enabled, as this is very much an aural experience as well as an interactive one.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, after spending time at Moor the Wind, I’ve got an unquenchable desire to listen to Glenn Miller and his orchestra….

SLurl Details

  • Avaloir (Ravage, rated: Moderate)
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The Colour of Unspoken Words in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: The Colour of Unspoken Words

Officially opening on Thursday, May 24th, 2018 at 12:00 noon SLT, is the latest exhibition at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by curated by Dido Haas.

One of the reasons I return to this gallery so often is Dido’s ability to inviting artists to exhibit who have a talent to provoke the mind, give rise to feelings, and give us pause for contemplation with their art. In this The Colour of Unspoken Words by Natalia Serenade is no exception.

“Looking around me I’ve been wondering why at certain moments there’s silence and no words are spoken,” Natalia says in her introductory notes. “Where do all these unspoken words go? Do they disappear in nowhere, get stuck in our throats, or are they flying away like birds? When this happens you realise how much silence there really is.”

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: The Colour of Unspoken Words

She continues, “I want to paint the silence, the words not spoken, the freedom, thoughts swirling around me, the desire, the joy, the fear, the pain; AND there is my mind that is thinking constantly as it’s always filled with ideas and I have no choice but to create. Putting the colours together, with many cheerful tones, I will colour the day before it gets dark. So, let’s make today the most colourful of days.”

The result is 16 images of a distinctly abstract tone, utilising a measured approach to tone and colour which are both unique and also rich in emotional content. This might be hinted at when looking at a specific painting and then given form by its title, or it might be clear from the lines of an image without the need to reference its name.

In the latter category, I’d point to the likes of A Broken Heart Can’t Bare To Speak and If You Would Know… Then there ar pieces which seem to contain subtext within them: Someone hears every unspoken word and Reborn, both of which can offer up at least two potential narratives within their lines. In all of them the use of colour plays an important role if revealing their meaning and story: the colours used, their proportions relative to one another, their individual prominence in an image.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: The Colour of Unspoken Words

“Some people only speak when their words are more beautiful than the silence, some hide their words because of shyness,” Natalia says of the exhibition. In these paintings she brings all of those words and the silence in which they can exist, colourfully to life.

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A Butterfly Beach in Second Life

Butterfly Beach; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrButterfly Beach – click any image for full size

Updated May 23rd: to include information on the donation box for the region.

Miro Collas dropped me a tweet suggesting Caitlyn and I take a look at Butterfly Beach,  a Homestead region that recently opened to the public. The region has been designed by (the always delightfully named) Funky Banana (FunkyBananas) working with Lien Lowe. Funky was also responsible for Banana Bay, which we enjoyed visiting in the summer of 2017.

Butterfly Beach shares something of a common heritage with Banana Bay: both offer sunny, sandy beaches, a feeling of getting away from it all and an opportunity to relax and simply spend time in thought or with someone. From the air (or the Map) it’s clear how the island came by its name, and a visit starts on what might be considered the butterfly’s upper right wing (actually down towards the south-east corner of the region in terms of Map orientation).

Butterfly Beach; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrButterfly Beach

First impressions on arriving is that this could be a small vacation island just off the coast of Italy or perhaps in the Aegean, available to those who want to escape the every day demands of life. A lone, single-story house sits towards the centre of the island, looking to the west and east. Tuscan in style, it shares the low-lying island with a scattering of outhouses: a small stone-built barn, a wooden boathouse and a small beach house, also built from wood.

A wooden deck extends eastward out over the sea a short distance from the house. The fencing around the house seems to lay claim to the deck such that it is easy to imagine wandering across the sand from the house to enjoy breakfast on the deck as the Sun eases its way higher over the eastern horizon.

Butterfly Beach; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrButterfly Beach

As might be gathered from the name of the region, beaches are very much the feature of the island. However, rather than offering a single contiguous stretch of coastal sands running around the island, Funky and lien have carefully used small outcrops of rocks and runs of rough grass dotted with bushes to break the island’s sands into a number of discrete – and entirely natural looking – sandy headlands and small, curving coves.

Each of these little beaches has its own attraction, be it a simple blanket laid out on the sand or deck chairs under a parasol, through to a tent or makeshift shelter, all the way to the simply but cosily furnished beach house. Rowing boats and kayaks are drawn up on the sand or undergoing a repaint in the boat shed, swings hang from trees and wooden benches can be found amidst the grass. All of this gives the island an additional attraction and encourages time spent just wandering and appreciating, as well as in sitting and enjoying the setting.

Butterfly Beach; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrButterfly Beach

Restful, set beneath an early morning’s summer sky and very photogenic, Butterfly Island is well worth a visit. If you do take photos, there is an open invitation to share them through the region’s Flickr group. A donations “box” in the form of a butterfly can be found near the landing point – so if you enjoy your visit,, do please consider making a donation towards the region’s continued upkeep.

Thanks again to Miro for the pointer, and to chericolette (see her comment below) for the pointer to the donation box, which I’d missed during my two visits to the region!

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Exploring ONI Zen in Second Life

ONI Zen; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrONI Zen – click any image for full size

ONI Zen is a new adult / BDSM-oriented region within Second Life aimed at offering those with an interest / genuine curiosity about the BDSM lifestyle. It’s a subject that may not be to everyone’s interest or liking, so if this is the case, you might want to skip this article; but keep in mind specific adult activities are confined to specific areas of the region – such as the dungeon area and skyboxes – rather than being on public display.

However, before we get into the region itself, a few words on a couple of things.

There is a tendency in Second life – and the world as a whole – for the uninitiated to view BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) and D/s (Dominance and submission) as being one in the same – and that both are closely linked with sex. The truth is, they are not; although they can be intertwined. In terms  of D/s and BDSM, for example, D/s is about the psychological exchange of power – a control dynamic, if you will – within a relationship. This may – or equally may not – involve practices such as bondage and / or s/m play. It also may, or may not, extended into the bedroom.

ONI Zen; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrONI Zen

BDSM is, as the initials suggest, about whips, and chains, and bondage, and pain – although it doesn’t have to encompass all of these elements. Speaking broadly, it is much more about the practice; the kinky stuff, if you will. As such, it is possible to practice BDSM without necessarily being in a D/s relationship: couples can simply take on different roles without identifying with a deeper power dynamic. Nor need BDSM necessarily involve sex.

ONI Zen, according to its introductory note card, exists to encourage those engaging in BDSM to do so from more of a “lifestyle” perspective. In this, I would suggest the philosophy behind the region might also encompass D/s – particularly as the introduction note card seeks to emphasise the idea of the control dynamic, differentiating it from the view that BDSM = kinky sex play.

ONI Zen; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrONI Zen

To this end, ONI Zen offers, among its many facilities, a Lifestyle Academy, where those interested in understanding more about BDSM as it might be seen within a broader context than “kinky sex” can do so. Also on offer is an events area, a games centre, and entrainment space, a subterranean dungeon, a general discussion area, a ceremonial area, all joined together by open spaces and paths to wander and explore.

Given the nature of the region, care should be taken in visiting, as it is possible to come across adult activities. Any causal visitor should certainly read the region’s introduction and rules prior to proceeding from the landing point (as an aside, the introductory note card also explains how the region came by its name).

ONI Zen; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrONI Zen

Leaving aside the adult nature and intent behind ONI Zen, I can say it is one of the most skilfully executed region designs I’ve come across – kudos to Buggie (Cricket Ceawlin) for this. Surrounded by mountains and split into two areas – a rugged upland area which makes up the majority of region, and a smaller, low-lying island covering the south-east portion of the region. Richly wooded, and making full use of the 30K land capacity available to Full regions, both parts of Oni Zen make extensive and skilled use of paths and trails to make them feel far larger in size than one might expect.

These paths, winding over grass, around hills, through rocks and up cliffs, can actually be a little confusing – which adds greatly to the mystery of the region when exploring. To make things easier, maps highlighting the major destinations together with teleport discs, can be found at those locations as well as the landing point. However, I really do recommend taking the time to explore on foot; the visual richness of the region is equally matched by its depth of sound scape.

ONI Zen; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrONI Zen

Exploring on foot also means the opportunity to discover the more secret parts of the region – such as the swimming pool sitting behind a waterfall – or the opportunities for playing games like My Virtual Lifestyle out in the open (there are more games in the Game Hall) or to play bumper boats – or even take a swimming in the waters at the edge of the region.

Officially opening on Monday, May 21st, 2018, ONI Zen is already hosting discussions and music events – details of events can be found on the board at the landing point. When visit, and at the risk of repeating myself,  do keep in mind it is intended as a lifestyle region, rather than a place for casual SL tourism.

ONI Zen; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrONI Zen – click any image for full size

SLurl Details

  • ONI Zen (Aina Kealoha, rated: Adult)

Disclosure: Will Burns (Aeonix Aeon), one of the leaders of ONI Zen is a friend.

An artistic expression of philosophy in Second Life

DiXmiX Gallery – Giovanna Cerise

Clinamen (clīnāre, to incline), is the name Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus gave to the unpredictable swerve of atoms, as a means of defending the Epicurian view of atomism. It is also the title Giovanna Cerise has chosen for her latest installation, now open at DiXmiX Gallery (you’ll find it in the The Atom club / event space within the gallery building).

Clinamen is the second recent exhibition by Giovanna which offers a philosophical lean (no pun intended), following as it does From the Worlds to the World (see here for more). It’s a piece that has broad philosophical foundations. There is Lucretius, as noted above, and the ancient philosophical science of atomism – the belief that nature consists pure of atoms and their surrounding void, and that everything that exists or occurs is the result of the atoms colliding, rebounding, and becoming entangled with one another as they travel through that void. Most notably, the piece is founded on the ideal of free will, as put forward by the Greek philosopher and science thinker, Epicurus.

DiXmiX Gallery – Giovanna Cerise

Epicurus was an atomist. However, he saw atomism as espoused by earlier thinkers such as Democritus as being to regulated. They believed atoms could only travel in straight lines. This meant that no matter how atoms struck one another or how many times they rebounded from one another, their paths were all pre-determined. Epicurus found this determinism to be too confining, as it left no room for free will. So instead, he believed the motion of some atoms could actually exhibit a “swerve” (parenklisis in Greek, clinamen in Latin), making their paths more unpredictable, thus reaffirming the role of free will.

Within her exhibition, Giovana offers a range of three-dimensional forms and structures. In the one hand, these are rigid, almost geometric in shape, offering a reflection of the deterministic element of atomism. Yet within them, edges are blurred and hard to see, while the geometry of some contain more natural, extruded forms while others have rippled, flowing surfaces. They cannot be the product of purely straight-line, deterministic flight, and so they reflect parenklisis and the more Epicurean view of atomism.

DiXmiX Gallery – Giovanna Cerise

This Epicurean view is ultimately born witness to by our own reactions to the installation. How we each chose to see and interpret / re-interpret the structures and forms presented bears witness to the exercise of our own free will.

In this way Clinamen is an intriguing play on art and philosophy; an exhibit where subjective reaction really does play an active role in perceiving the installation and the ideas on which it is founded, simply because doing so is an exercise in the application of free will.

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Empowering embodiment: Our Digital Selves

We all have blood. We all feel. We all matter. We are all different.

– Shyla the Super Gecko (KriJon)

Our Digital Selves: My Avatar is Me  is a new video documentary by Draxtor Despres, which officially unveiled on Thursday, May 17th, to coincide with Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

It’s a powerful 74-minute piece which, as Draxtor himself notes, “Was supposed to be a slightly extended episode of The Drax Files World Makers,” but which, “ballooned into a dense investigation into the power of living vicariously through an avatar in Second Life and next generation virtual worlds like High Fidelity and Sansar.”

The documentary grew out of a desire to follow the work of Tom Boellstorff and Donna Z Davis (respectively Tom Bukowski  and Tredi Felisimo in Second Life). For the last three years, Tom and Donna have been engaged in a National Science Foundation funded study formally entitled Virtual Worlds, Disability, and New Cultures of the Embodied Selfand more informally referred to as Our Digital Selves.

I first covered this study in Exploring disability, new cultures and self in a virtual realm, back in 2016, when I outlined Donna and Tom’s examination of the experiences of people with disabilities – visible and invisible – who are using Second Life to represent themselves, possibly free of the shadow of any disability, engage with others and do things they may not be able to do in the physical world.

How is the internet changing the ways people think of themselves as individuals and interact as members of communities? Many are currently investigating this important question: for this project, the researchers are focusing on the experiences of people with disabilities in “virtual worlds,” three-dimensional, immersive on-line spaces where people with disabilities can appear any way they choose and do things they may not be able to do in the physical world.

– Donna Davis and Tom Boellstorff introducing Virtual Worlds,
Disability and New Cultures of the Embodied Self

Using in-world meetings and discussion groups, Donna – a strategic communications professor at the University of Oregon specialising in mass media & society, public relations, strategic communication, virtual environments and digital ethnography, and Tom –  a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine – set about engaging with Second Life users. Through these sessions they explored the many facets in living with a disability, people’s reactions to those with disabilities, and the experiences those with a wide range of physical and other disabilities – the ability diverse, as Donna notes – find within virtual spaces.

Donna Z Davis and Tom Boellstorff (Tredi Felisimo and Tom Bukowski in Second Life), co-researchers in Virtual Worlds, Disability, and New Cultures of the Embodied Self, supported by the University of California, Irvine; the University of Oregon; and the National Science Foundation.

Covering enormous ground over the three years – including providing participants with virtual space in-world at Ethnographia Island where they might express themselves and their relationship with their condition – Virtual Worlds, Disability and New Cultures of the Embodied Self is perhaps best described as a voyage of discovery and revelation for all those involved – researchers, participants and observers alike. And it is this voyage that the documentary Our Digital Selves: My Avatar is Me encapsulates.

The documentary focuses on thirteen participants in the study who, along with their avatars  transcend their various disabilities through artistic expression and making a home for themselves in the digital realm.

Starting with the idea of freedom through embodiment that environments like Second Life offers as a result of the almost entirely free-form way in which we can express ourselves through our avatars visually free from the disabilities or imperfections that might otherwise define us, the film moves onto the concept of being rooted to a place, and the idea that having that space allows us to further define and extend who we are. This idea of “emplacement”, as Tom calls it leads to an initial exploration of the places the study participants built on Ethnographia Island.

Jadyn Firehawk, one of the original participants in the study – and who first notified me about it in January 2016 – before her installation ” Reconstructing Identity After Disability”, Ethnographia Island, 2016

It is here that the personal stories begin to unfold, with Jadyn Firehawk describing what those of us blessed with sound minds and bodies might take for granted in ourselves those around us:  performing every day tasks when living with an invisible disability. It’s easy enough to show understanding and compassion – and make allowances for – those with physical disabilities. Yet how often do we (if only silently) question or shy away from those with mental / emotional disabilities when they raise the subject of their health, simply because we don’t see physical evidence of their disability?

These stories are fascinating, moving, and deeply revealing studies; not only in terms of those relating them, but also in what they say about the sheer power of a platform like Second Life to imbue creativity, to form relationships, to encourage our desire to push past barriers – physical, mental, personal and societal – and even to re-grant the authority for us to control our identity and how much of it we choose to reveal to others.

In this, the video not only covers matters of personal representation of self when living with a disability, but covers wider issues of identity, revealing who we are, have the right of control over what is revealed to others about ourselves. In the age of Facebook, Google, data gathering, Cambridge Analytica style activities, this is an issue that reaches far beyond what might be seen as the “core” subject matter of the study – be which nevertheless is part and parcel of the idea of embodiment; one which does affect us all.

The stories revealed through the film are moving, insightful – and revelatory; not “just” because of what they reveal about the participants, but in the way it can cause measures of self-reflection and encourages thoughts on our own virtual embodiment: what it means to us, how it exercises our desire for growth, etc.

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