Category Archives: Reviews

The song of Dawn’s Promise in Second Life

Dawn’s Promise by Marcus Inkpen and Sharni Azalee, Fantasy Faire 2017

We sit between the darkness and the light; between youth and age. Ours is a place of times past and times present; where the promise of that yet to be awaits.

Ours is a world of the crumbling and of the beauty of rebirth. We are eternal. Life’s energies flow through the waters of our realm, and the gift of renewal and creation float on the breeze. Our houses speak of the Old Times, the past, and the wisdom and grace of Age. The blossoms on our trees, the blooming of our flowers speak of present time and the vitality of rebirth, the richness of Life Anew.

Dawn’s Promise by Marcus Inkpen and Sharni Azalee, Fantasy Faire 2017

This realm offers all who seek it rest, respite and renewal. We ask naught in return. We do not demand adherence to rules or the invocation of arcane rights. We do not require you follow a mystic path or give obeisance to icons or gods. We ask only that you walk our grassy streets, and between the shadows of our homes and the light of the easterling Sun with open heart and mind; that you do not judge nor fret nor fear; that you simply Be.

We have been here since before others learnt to count the passing of Time; we will be here long after such counting has ceased. We will not always be visible to the world; we choose to make our presence known now, and for a brief span. But even when we can be no longer been seen, we will be here. Watching. Waiting. Our bridges will remain open to those who seek; the renewal of our waters are here for those who thirst. 

Dawn’s Promise by Marcus Inkpen and Sharni Azalee, Fantasy Faire 2017

Our streets, our paths our bridges, our homes. All are yours to explore. Peace as rest can be found throughout our lands, under bough, atop rock, and under dome. Drink from our waters; eat of our fruits; let our lamps light your way. 

There are those in the world who look to the West, to the setting of the Sun. They see the closing of a day as a time for reflection and endings. But we look to the East and the rising of the Sun; because Dawn is the time of Beginning, the time of Promise, when things are made new, and life opens fresh and bright, like the flower opens to greet the day’s new light.

We are the people of Dawn’s Promise, and we will take your lost and aged energies of the past and make them young again, as young as when the World was new. This is our Promise, our gift to the open of heart and mind.   

Dawn’s Promise by Marcus Inkpen and Sharni Azalee, Fantasy Faire 2017

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Melusina’s American Icons in Second Life

At the start of April 2017, I wrote about Melusina’s World of Details exhibition in Second Life. She’s now opened a second exhibition for the month, and it might be considered something of a companion to it, presenting something of a joint visit opportnuity. .

American Icons is a celebration of the great symbols of Americana in Second Life, all portrayed through Melusina’s signature close-up style of photography which is so distinctive and so creative.

In writing about the exhibition, she notes, “Since SL is a world made by residents, the choice of things they reproduced in this world looks like a catalogue of that can be called ‘icons’. That includes typical landscapes, historical symbols, daily life objects and places, roadside architecture, vintage objects and much more.”

So it is that we’re presented with 29 images of items and locations which are so emblematic of America and American culture. Sky scrapers, roof-top water towers, tower cranes, plains or wheat, roller coasters, motels, hotels, the diner and perhaps the greatest symbol of America of all – the motor car – are all gloriously celebrated.

But given this is Melusina, there are not simply postcard snaps of Americana in Scone Life; these are considered studies, where the beauty lies not in sweeping vistas or ranks of gleaming gas-guzzlers, but in the detail: and flash of sun reflected off of wheel rim and polished chrome; the gaudy brilliance of vinyl upholstery and steel-edges tables with their Formica tops; the blast of steam between an old rooftop water tank and the silhouette of a construction crane.

Each piece offered is evocative and eye-catching, and the exhibition itself is being held in one of the most iconic American-style regions in Second Life, the outstanding The Last Forever. Itself a work of art, the region encompasses so much about middle America, it has become a popular feature of SL photographers and blogs. As such, both the exhibition – which you can find  at the Marfa Contemporary gallery, just across the road from the main landing point – and the region make for an excellent visit.

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American Icons (The Last Forever, rated:  Moderate)

The Anthropic Principle in Second Life

“I want to give the feeling that you’re an explorer, only having the tale of one man, written in a little book, to guide you,” Gem Preiz says of his latest installation The Anthropic Principle, which Caitlyn and I have the privilege of exploring ahead of the official opening on Thursday, April 20th. And truth be told, hat’s exactly the feeling he has created.

As one might expect given the focus of Gems work, fractal art plays a role within the installation,  and visitors do undertake a journey through various spaces to view them. But the familiar journey and the art itself are only a part of things. The Anthropic principle is a piece which binds together many parts: storytelling, a contemplation on religions, extra-solar life, the nature of human origins and philosophy, in a world which has a highly effective, TRON-like feel to it.

In particular, and as the title suggests, it draws upon the anthropic principle, a philosophical consideration that observations of the Universe must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it. In particular, the installation draws upon the weak anthropic principle as Brandon Carter, an Australian theoretical physicist, first employed the term in its contemporary form.

If this sounds terribly dry – don’t be fooled. Gem utilises the anthropic principle as a foundation upon which to build a story, a story visitors use as a guide to their travels through a series of cityscapes. Broad in scope, the story encompasses the recent discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system (which you can read about in this blog here, here and here), and well as touching upon one of his previous exhibitions, Wrecks (which you can read about here), to present an installation which is both fascinating to explore and which gets the grey matter working!

A journey starts with some simple instructions: on arrival, set your viewer to midnight, make sure you have Preferences > Graphics > Advanced lighting Model checked and particles turned up (you don’t need to set draw distance to 400m, the spaces are all relative enclosed, and half that distance works fine). Then, grab the story from one of the cubes on the floor (English and French versions available), enable the audio stream, have a read (recommended) and – when you’re ready – head for the Stonehenge-like structure where a teleport awaits.

This will carry you to the first destination – a city on one of the distant worlds of TRAPPIST-1. You’ll learn about the first journey to this world through the worlds of an original explorer, whose tale is related through the words of the story’s protagonist. In doing so, you’ll also find clues to the route you should take through this maze of buildings and subterranean vaults, a place built be a civilisation remarkably similar to our own, and with similar broad religious beliefs, prompting questions on origins.

The story guides visitors through these places, each rendered in that TRON-like style, bright lines of colour – orange, yellow, white, blue, red – although the way is not always obvious. Within these realms are galleries (sometime one, sometimes more than one – look for the deep blue lines on floors and in entrances to rooms) where hang Gem’s magnificent fractal art pieces, all of them an integral part of the unfolding story.

From the city through to Hell and thence back to the city and onwards to Paradise, visitors are gently exposed to Gem’s take on the Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP), an interesting and thought-provoking idea that not only will a universe capable of supporting give rise to living beings capable of observing and reflecting upon it, but that those lifeforms, wherever they are spawned in our universe will pass along an almost identical evolutionary path, up to an including forms philosophies and religious ideals, architecture and more, which all stand as a reflection of our own civilisation through the centuries.

This really is a journey worth taking rather than describing. Not for the ideas that Gem gently puts forward, but because  whether or not you’re in the mood for philosophical conjuring, the various environments are really worth seeing, and the fractal art within them is, as ever, mind-blowing; each piece a story in and of itself.

And when you do visit, do make sure you have the accompanying sound stream playing.  The selections of Hans Zimmer’s music are remarkably apt, and Gem has clearly chosen the pieces with care: time and again both Caitlyn and I were struck by the perfect fit of music with our own rising expectations as we ascended ramps or descended stairs towards the waiting light of new rooms…

All told, a fascinating exhibition and another selection of stunning fractal art. When you have completed a visit and found your way back to the landing point, you can touch the poster there to visit No Frontiers, another of Gem’s installations (which you can also read about here), which is running concurrently with The Anthropic Principle through until the end of June.

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Niamh’s Journey of Dreams in Second Life

Whilst it formally opens at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, April 19th, Niamh’s Journey of Dreams is already welcoming visitors and inviting them to explore and enjoy. The third in a series of watercolour like installations by Ceakay Ballyhoo, Niamh’s Journey of Dreams draws inspiration from further afield than her own writing, as was the case with A Watercolour Wander (reviewed here) and The Forest Beyond (reviewed here), calling upon Cybele Moon’s Tales of the Tuatha as its inspiration.

Cybele is better known in-world at Hana Hoobinoo. She is an extraordinarily gifted artist in the written word, spoken word, photography and art. Under her pen names of Cybele Moon and The Dune Mouse, she weaves marvellous stories, beautifully illustrated, while her art has been deservedly exhibited across Second Life.

As such, a collaboration between Cybele and Ceakay was perhaps inevitable; both are joined by a love of art and storytelling, and Ceakay’s series of region-wide paintings-as-a-story approach to immersive art is an ideal vehicle by which Cybele’s stories and tales can be re-interpreted, presented and enjoyed.

Like her earlier installations in the series, Niamh’s Journey (if I might shorten it so), take the visitor on a journey through a landscape as a painting, the tale of Niamh’s attempts to retrieve her lost dreams gradually unfolding through the use of in-world story chapters, featuring Cybele’s own art as a background to the text (the chapters also present visitors with a note card of the text for easier reading, if required).

Niamh’s Journey marks a more sophisticated approach to presenting a story than perhaps evidence previously; parcel windlights are used to change the environment (if you don’t have viewer support for parcel windlights but do have an extensive selection of windlight skies, you can use your viewer’s About Land floater to manuals change the environment with altitude), together with teleport portals to move through parts of the story, while Elwyn Lorefield provided assistance with scripting.

To say too much about the installation would be to spoil it – as with Ceakay’s earlier Wonder and Forest, this is an installation which should be experienced, rather than read about. Suffice it to say, an incredible amount of work has gone into it, and the creative spark between Cybele and Ceakay is clear throughout. At the end of the story you also have the opportunity to purchase art by Cybele and visit Ceakay’s store as well (a visit against recommended).

The official opening on Wednesday, April 19th, will feature a tour of the installation, with Caledonia Skytower reading from Niamh’s tales.

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