Orientalism in Second Life

Orientalism

Open now at the Gedenspire II Gallery, curated by Walter Gedenspire, is Orientalism. The title and focus of the exhibition – an examination of patronising representations of the Middle East in art – are taken from Edward W. Said’s 1978  book of the same name.

Displayed across the gallery’s two floors are over 60 images, together with signage bearing a wealth of information on the subject. The lower floor primarily focuses on paintings by 19th century French artists – Pierre RenoirEugène Delacroix, Jean Ingres, Jean-Léon Gérôme and Henri Matisse (the later spilling over into the 20th century). These are supported by other western views of the Middle East: a poster from the 1966 film Khartoum, a post of Rudolph Valentino in Arab-style garb, cover art for an edition of A.E.W Mason’s The Four Feathers, and two paintings by Pablo Picasso.

Orientalism

The selected art very much points to the habit of painters in the 19th century – some of whom never travelled to the Middle East – romanticised the western view of Arabia – to inject a strong, almost patronising, western fantasy view of the East. Even among those who did make the journey eastwards, be it to Arabic states or places like Algeria, their work was heavily influenced by the Romantic movement, which reached its peak alongside the rise of French Orientalism, and western erotic leanings. Renoir went so far as to be outright dismissive of the “genuine article” he encountered during his travels.

The selected paintings are reflective of all of this, and the information boards expand on the art and the artists in an informative, easily digestible narrative.  Meanwhile, on the upper floor is a much broader display, covering cities / architecture, the influence of oriental clothing on western high fashion, and the more romantic views of the “oriental landscape”. Occupying one end of this floor is a small display of art by Osman Hamdi Bey, an Ottoman administrator who became enamoured of French Orientalism to the point of studying under two of the foremost exponents of the form, Jean-Leon Gerome and Gustave Boulanger.

Orientalism

For those who enjoy art and / or history, Orientalism is an interesting exhibition, nicely informative without being overbearing in the amount of information on offer. The gallery is nicely decorated in a style suggestive of Moorish interior styling, and for those who feel in the mood, a couple of “Arabic” costumes (female and male) are on sale in the gallery foyer at L$100 each.

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Simbelmyne and a Love Story in Second Life

Simbelmyne

Simbelmynë, also called Evermind, has its roots in Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth. It was a white flower that grew in Rohan; now, in Second Life, it is the name given to one half of the homestead region of Isle of Love.

Designed by L E S (Lestat Heninga) with assistance from Arol Lightfoot, Simbelmyne in Second Life presents a beautifully wild landscape carrying echoes of Tolkien’s Middle Earth without intending the be representative of Middle Earth.  Covering the northern half of the region, it is entirely open to the public with the exception of the beach house in the north-west corner of the land, which is a private residence.

Simbelmyne

The SLurl will deliver visitors across the region from the beach house, in the north-east corner, where they’ll immediately see the Tolkienesque influence. An ancient ruin stands atop a set of worn stone steps and runs southwards over a series of arches spanning a shallow inlet, to arrive at an old fortification, itself in ruin. Headless and armless winged figures stand guard over the steps, and across the bridge-like arches a stone robed figure stares blankly westwards.

A mist drifts slow inland from the arches, sharing the space between tall fir trees with ferns and white flowers which could so easily be simbelmyne, to where more walls, these intricately carved, sit within a small copse. Beyond them the land opens out, pointing the way towards the beach house on the horizon, allowing the view of it to remind visitors it is a private residence.

Simbelmyne

Further south, the trees give way to a small lake fed by a waterfall. An old wooden shack sits on the bank of the lake, bracketed by a moored rowing boat on one side and a small camp on the other, across the neck of a reedy channel that points eastwards to the sea.  A track meanders by the lake, heading west to the beach (open to the public), the ground carpeted in ferns and flowers which slowly give way to grass as the sands on the beach are reached.

Across the curtain of cliffs dividing the land is Love Story – Lost at Sea, by Lauren (Daisy Kwon). This is a coastal setting with a story of its own concerning lost love, hopes, the passing of time, and a love that encompasses a lifetime. The best way to enjoy this story is to read it for yourself from the note card that#’s presents to all arrivals to the land, and I’m not going to repeat it here.

Love Story – Lost at Sea

Hemmed to the north and east by high cliffs, but open to the sea to the west and south, the land presents itself as a coastal village or hamlet – where is not important, although the buildings running along the single street suggest this is somewhere along the European coastline of the Mediterranean. These buildings – a tavern, a bakery and a coffee-house – look out over a small, square harbour where sailing boats are tied alongside old wooden piers, watched over by a squat lighthouse. The latter seems needed, given the wreck brought up against the rocks to one side of the harbour entrance.

An old shack sits in the shadow of the lighthouse. It occupies a small space of flat land between lighthouse and rows of grape vines which step their way down a gentle slope. The shack forms a part of the story to the region, as does the gravestone close by. Looking out over the harbour, the shack is the perfect vantage point for sea views, perhaps only matched by the ruins of the old pavilion on the far side of the harbour, a place now devoted to dancing.

Love Story – Lost at Sea

Set beneath a setting sun, both Simbelmyne and Love Story – Lost at Sea offer romantic locations ripe for visiting. Each has a number of spots where sitting and cuddling can take place, and both are very photogenic.

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Isle of Love is rated Moderate

Lost dreams in Second Life

Le Sixième Sens, Les Reves Perdus; Inara Pey, June 2017, on Flickr Les Reves Perdus – click any image for full size

Les Reves Perdus (“Dreams Lost”) is a public homestead region designed by Chanell (zaziaa), which Caitlyn and I were drawn to visiting after seeing a photo by Wurfi, a fellow photographer and blogger. Described as “an original world of dreams and creativity, with the atmosphere of nature,” it is a place visitors are invited to enjoy and photograph, and it does indeed present a relaxing landscape in which to wander and spend time.

Placing the region is a little hard; there is a touch of provincial France about it, together with a little twist of Tuscany, thanks to the villa occupying part of the region. The low-lying parts of the island, however, could be representative of just about any temperate coastal / marshland area in the world. Nevertheless, the theme works, and everything comes together to create a charming, photogenic scene.

Le Sixième Sens, Les Reves Perdus; Inara Pey, June 2017, on Flickr Les Reves Perdus

A visit starts on the low-lying part of the island, at the end of a dirt track which gently undulates along an avenue of trees, leading the way to a set of stone steps which rise to the highland reaches of the region, of which more anon.

Mostly grass-covered, this lowland is home to grazing sheep and horses, with the greenery broken up by bright splashes of rapeseed and wild flowers.  It is also split into two, linked via stone and log bridges, with some marshy outlying areas sitting a short distance across the water to the north and north-west. Over the bridges, the land is more divided between grass and sand, the former giving way to a widening arc of the latter, offering plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view out over the open waters to a sailing ship lying off the coast, or inland over a shallow bay, fed in part by a horseshoe waterfall, to the cliffs of the highlands.

Le Sixième Sens, Les Reves Perdus; Inara Pey, June 2017, on Flickr Les Reves Perdus

A lone outcrop of rock rises from the south-eastern end of the beach, a wooden cabin sitting on its flat top. A rope bridge spans the narrow neck of water separating it from a promontory on which sits another cabin, the two offering a cosy place for couples. From here, it is possible to climb up onto the higher ground – but I don’t recommend it: there is neither a path for doing so, nor is the immediate landscape designed to be seen from this side.

Instead, the best way to appreciate the upland area is via the track and stone stairs near the landing point. These will take you up to a broad, largely flat plateau where the Tuscan villa sits, a tide of wild grass and rapeseed washing around it and held at bay from reaching the pool in front of the villa by bushes and bright flowers. Deer roam this wild garden, while the villa’s dining room is set for a formal meal, and its outhouse offers a lounge area with light refreshments. Climb the stairs of the villa, and you’ll enter the realm of an artist, whilst beyond the walls of the villa, the land grows wild on one side, and offers a small orchard on the other, an old pick-up truck offering another place for couples to snuggle.

Le Sixième Sens, Les Reves Perdus; Inara Pey, June 2017, on Flickr Les Reves Perdus

Les Reves Perdus makes for a charming visit, and the default windlight offers plenty of scope for photographs and the region as a whole presents plenty of scope for those who like to use their preferred windlights or like to experiment. This is an ideal place to visit if you’re seeking some quiet time on your own or with a friend. Caitlyn and I took certainly found it relaxing to sit on a hammock chatting, while looking out over the water to where the little folly sits amidst the pinks and greens of the marshy outlands.

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Floating worlds and Dutch proverbs in Second Life

The Vordun: Pictures of the Floating World

Now featured at The Vordun Museum and Gallery  curated by Jake Vordun, are two new exhibitions Caitlyn and I recently dropped in on, and which make for an engaging visit.

The first, and most recent, is Pictures of the Floating World, occupying the gallery’s South Wing. This takes visitors in to the world of ukiyo-e,(literally “picture[s] of the floating world) a form of Japanese art using woodblock prints and paintings which flourished from the 17th through 19th centuries.  Ukiyo (“floating world”) refers to the hedonistic lifestyle enjoyed by the  merchant class of Edo (modern Tokyo) who were at that time benefiting the most of the city’s economic expansion, and who became one of the prime audiences for the art, purchasing it to decorate their homes.

The Vordun: Pictures of the Floating World

Much of this is explained in the foyer to the exhibit, via an informative wall panel together with notes on how ukiyo-e were / are made (see the image below). Such is the design of this foyer area, it is as much a part of the exhibition as the images themselves, and deserves the time taken to read the information offered. Beyond it, 20 images of ukiyo-e art are presented, each with its own information tag which provides the name, artist and date of creation for the piece.

If I’m totally honest, I’d have preferred the prints to be somewhat larger: ukiyo-e is a beautiful art form, and the small size of the works here do make it difficult to fully appreciate some of them, and having to zoom a lot can intrude into one’s appreciation of individual pieces. But make no mistake, the is an exhibit well worth seeing and appreciating – I particularly like the central themed display of five images focused on the shamisen musical instrument.

The Vordun: Pictures of the Floating World

Also on the south side of the gallery is Proverbs of the Low Countries, which opened in May. Reached via a short hallway, it comprises a single, large reproduction of Pieter Bruegel The Elder’s The Blue Cloak (or Netherlandish Proverbs or Flemish Proverbs or The Topsy-Turvy World, depending on your preference), painted in 1559. This is a truly remarkable piece which may at first seem a chaotic, nonsensical rendering of somewhat comical people; in fact it contains no fewer than 112 illustrations of Dutch language proverbs and idioms, offered together as a commentary on human folly.

Finding your way around the 112 proverbs – many of which transcend Dutch use and will be recognisable to English speakers (and probably familiar to those from other European nations as well) – is made possible through the use of a dedicated HUD. Instructions on obtaining this are provided on the wall of the hallway leading to the painting, so please be sure to read and follow them in order to be able to properly appreciate the piece.

The Vordun: The Blue Cloak (1559) by Pieter Bruegel The Elder

Floating Worlds and Proverbs are two considered, informative exhibitions which again demonstrate both the uniqueness of The Vordun in the art presented there, and just how informative / educational / enjoyable an art exhibition can be in Second Life.  Don’t forget as well, that when visiting the gallery, you can also enjoy the long-running European Masters, 300 Years of Painting (which you can read about here), and Winning a delightful exhibition showcasing the 51 winning entries from four years of The Arcade’s photography competition.

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