An engaging pot pourri of art at Focus Gallery in Second Life

The Exploratorium, Focus Gallery – MBTY

Focus Magazine’s gallery space is constantly evolving, something that makes any repeat visit both interesting and enjoyable, both for the art on display and to see what is happening in general. My latest visit was in part a reflection of this, as I wanted to see the latest addition to the gallery’s exhibition space: the Exploratorium of Art.

Located at the southern end of the gallery’s skybox space, the Exploratorium presents an “underground” exhibition space for artists where they can display and – if they wish – sell their work.

The Exploratorium, Focus Gallery – Loegan Magic

It is a semi-permanent exhibition – by that I mean, they can exhibit as long as they feel they would like to or until they run out of fresh content, and artists replenish the work at least every month. Ideally, artists will be members of the group and have an interest in participating in the community.

– Focus Magazine Gallery co-owner Angela Thespian, discussing the Exploratorium

Currently, spaces within the Exploratorium are offered to artists on the basis of direct invitation, or as a result of names being passed on by other artists within the community; there is no fee charged to artists for mounting an exhibition.

The Exploratorium, Focus Gallery – Wanderer

Some 16 spaces are offered in the exhibition hall, with some familiar names on display at the time of my visit, including Anibrm Jung, CybeleMoon, Focus co-owner, PatrickofIreland, as well as two or artists whose work I was seeing for the first time. Together, those currently displaying present a rich mix of landscape and avatar studies

Alongside of the Exploratorium is the Focus Artist in Residence (FAIR) gallery, which at the time of my visit featured the work of Jos Loll, Finn Somerset, Kaleb Avedon and Bryce Sun. These are, as with the June FAIR exhibition I reviewed (see: Focus Gallery in Second Life, June 2019). Having witnessed his first exhibition just a couple of months back, I was particularly pleased to see a further display of work by Kaleb Avedon – who is also a gifted live performer in Second Life.

Focus Gallery -Doc Romano

The main gallery space, located in the focus office building, features an exhibition of work by Doc Battitude. I admit to being more familiar with Doc via the region designs of CandleWood (see: Touring CandleWood in Second Life, March 2019) and Iona Shores (see: Exploring Iona Shores in Second Life, June 2019).

When it comes to his art, Doc offers an eye for detail and framing that easily matches that see within CandleWood and Iona Shores and demonstrated by his partner, AdalynneReed. The images here focus primarily on male and female avatars, particularly on the upper level of the gallery space, while the lower level includes a selection of landscape pieces. The latter are, for me, eye-catching, but I must confess The Windmill and The lighthouse Tale particularly captivated me.

Focus Gallery -Doc Romano

Rounding-out the exhibitions on offer during my visit is an outdoor selection of art called The Happiness Photo Walk, featuring images and photos from Second Life and the physical world, taken by Feature group members of things that make them happy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of these feature dogs, although I was a little surprised that only one featured one of our Ruling Overlords – a grey cat looking suitably unimpressed!

Focus Gallery continues to engage with the art on display, and with a developing programme of art-related events and activities, including talks and discussions by artists, the gallery is a recommended destination for all those supportive of art in Second Life.

SLurl Details

Advertisements

The caverns and castle of Abrahamstrup in Second Life

Abrahamstrup, September 2019 – click any image for full size

It’s been a while since I’ve last written about Binemust, the Full region held by Biné Rodenberger, a place we’ve oft enjoyed visiting for its landscapes and gardens both above and below the region’s waters. However, we were recently drawn back due to Biné having spent the last few months creating something very new and different for the region, and which she recently opened to the public.

Abrahamstrup as the region is now known, presents a great mountain of an island rising from the sea and topped by the stern walls of a tall, blocky castle keep, sans surrounding curtain walls and courtyards. The island rises steeply from a narrow ring of shingle beach, the rock offers no real means to ascend to the great keep – at least from the outside. How then, to reach it? The About Land description holds a clue:

A Mountain Island – A Labyrinth of Caves – A Castle.

Abrahamstrup, September 2019

And indeed, on the shoreline facing the landing point – located on a deck built out over the water and home to a small shack – is an entrance to a cave or cavern at the foot of the mountain, the board walk connecting deck to shore pointing a crooked finger towards it.

Those arriving are offered an introductory note card that explains more about what to expect, together with a flashlight. Whether the latter is required largely depends on personal choice – and possibly whether visitors opt for the local environment settings or tinker with them viewer-side. During our first visit, I opted to initially go with my preferred viewer-side settings before switching back to the region’s environment. For the pictures shown here, I used ~Clouds Fluffy White Elven Sky, by Stevie Davros, tweaked a little, together with the region’s settings.

Abrahamstrup, September 2019

Crossing to the shore and entering the first cavern gives a hint of the engaging curio of exploration that awaits: a great façade modelled on that of Al Khazneh (The Treasury) at Petra in Jordan faces the cavern entrance, while to one side, glowing flowers suggest a path to the heavy door of the façade. Across the cavern, a large sign suggests people EAT – with places to do so close by –  while another offers the invitation LET’S GET WEIRD.

Pass through the massive wooden door of the façade, and the path plunges downward into the first chamber of a network of caverns and tunnels. Each of these caves – about which I’d prefer not to say too much lest it spoil discovery – offers a certain setting, with those underwater offering a feel for actually being underwater, despite the flaming torches lining the tunnel walls (having the viewer’s Advanced lighting Model enabled  – Preferences → Graphics is strongly recommended during a visit), giving them a wonderful fantasy feel.

Abrahamstrup, September 2019

Along the way through the tunnels is a sign offering the direction to reach the castle, but when exploring for the first time, I recommend ignoring it and going in the other direction. This allows you to visit the rest of the caverns and tunnels first and avoid possibly missing what’s on offer. One of these tunnels may lead you back outside through a narrow cleft sitting above the eastern beach, if so, there are some local points of interest to see before re-entering the tunnels once more.

When you are ready, the ways to the castle can be found within one of the underwater chambers. And yes, I did mean “ways” – there are two teleport options available: a door to the very top of the keep’s central tower (use the pail of flowers and candles through which you emerge onto the roof to make a return), and a mirror that leads into the castle itself.

Abrahamstrup, September 2019

Throughout her time in Second Life, Biné has been a patron of the arts, and this has always been reflected in her region designs, as continues to be the case within Abrahamstrup. In fact, it is the presence of pieces by number of artists within this design that also make me hesitate in revealing too much of what lies within caverns and castle rooms. However, careful exploration will reveal pieces by the likes of Cica Ghost, Haveit Neox – whose alien and telescope found within the main hall of the castle offer something of  a nod towards his Paper Tower (see: A Carnival of Architecture to say farewell to a landmark) -, Bryn Oh and Kilik Lekvoda.

Set off to the north-east corner of the region and sitting on its own black rock island is a further curio: a Russian (Soviet era?) communal swimming pool, apparently broken and battered by time and perhaps tide. Sitting almost like an industrial era left-over, it presents a very different setting to castle and caves, and can be reached via the shoreline beach from the landing point.

Abrahamstrup, September 2019

My one regret with Abrahamstrup is that in order to make room for it, Biné has had to remove most of her marvellous underwater gardens – long a highlight of visits to Binemust. True, for those who plunge below the waves, some elements remain, but the gardens, paths, sunken trees and artistic corners have, for a time, vanished. Nevertheless, the island with its caves and waiting discoveries, together with the high castle keep offer more than enough to keep explorers and photographers happy, making Abrahamstrup a worthy visit.

Note: visitors must have Payment Information On File to access Abrahamstrup.

SLurl Details and Links

Art vignettes at Solo Arte in Second Life

Solo Arte, September 2019

Currently open at Solo Arte is an art garden created by Terrygold and MelaniaBis that features the work of invited artists displayed in a series of pods. At the time of my visit, the garden featured the work of CioTToLiNa Xue, Dekka Raymaker, Annalisa Muliaina, and Terrygold, together and an exhibition of art by Magda Schmidtzau. These are individual exhibits, rather than a combined installation – Magda’s art being the most recent addition. As noted, Each artist has their work displayed in an individual pod, with the the pods either placed on, or close to, the garden’s lawn.

In this, the setting has something of a feel of the Explore and Enjoy exhibition from 2018, also designed and curated by Terrygold and MelaniaBis (see:  Solo Arte: “explore and enjoy” in Second Life), albeit on a more modest scale. I have no idea if further pods will be added given the available space, although there appears to be room for more, if required. As it is, the four available at the time of my visit made for a contrasting group of 2D and 3D displays.

Solo Arte – Magda Schmidtzau (l) and CioTToLiNa Xue (r) – September 2019

Truth be told, I don’t have too much to say about the individual exhibits, as they all tned to speak for themselves. CioTToLiNa offers New Trips, which carries something of an echo of her piece from Explore and Enjoy, while Terrygold presents  a piece from her 2018 installation, Rusted Farm (see: A Rusted Farm in Second Life), while Magda’s 2D art is, as always, captivating in it richness of avatar studies.

However, the reality is these are art vignettes that should be seen for themselves – and in the case of Dekka’s, tried, as it is interactive – so I’ll leave you yo pay them a visit.

Solo Arte, Dekka Raymaker – September 2019

SLurl Details

 

Lab Gab episode 2 with Reed Linden – a summary

Image courtesy of Linden Lab

The Second episode of Lab Gab streamed on Wednesday, September 11th, hosted by Xiola and Strawberry Linden, and featuring special guest Reed Linden.

Running to just under 44 minutes, this was an informative segment, although there were a number of questions asked that where outside of Reed’s specific remit and which he was only able to answer in general terms (Land, Linden Homes, pricing, etc.). Most of these are not summarised below, and I refer people to the embedded video for comments.

About Reed Linden

Reed Linden, aka (at present) Penguin Fabuloso, has been with the Lab for just over eight years, having joined in August 2011. He started in the support team, serving there for three years, then moving to the Engineering team for a time. While there, Grumpity Linden, Director of Product for Second Life, selected him to join the Product team.

As a Product Manager, Reed has particular responsibility for the Lab’s web infrastructure –  the Marketplace, Profiles, main domains like secondlife.com) and so on. He’s also been involved with Bakes on Mesh, and has knowledge of account management (including Premium), billing,  and – given his time there – support.

Reed Linden (c), flanked by Xiola (l) and Strawberry (r)

He views his progress through the Lab as uniquely reflective of the manner in which knowledge of the platform is distributed: those who potentially know the most about SL are the users who put it to work every day, coding, building, uploading, texturing, creating, and so on. The next level of knowledge below that is the support teams who handle hundreds of user requests on a daily basis, and get to use the broad spread of the platform’s tools and capabilities. Then, after support come the engineering and product teams, who have sharply defined focuses on Second Life.

From this is should come as no surprise that he sees the community as his favourite aspect of the platform, together with the manner in which it can bring people together from around the world, and help them find a voice or outlets or connections – and even to find love. In this latter regard, he reveals that not only have SL residents built their physical world relationships out of a Second Life meeting (a-la the Love Made in SL series), but also that some LL staff have met their physical world partners through SL!

Web Properties – Project and Updates

  • As a part of his web infrastructure responsibilities, he has been running the work to bring Profiles back into the viewer. This involves two key elements:
    • Moving user profiles back to their own floater in the viewer, rather than pulling in the web profile. This element of the work is currently available for testing in the Legacy Profiles Project Viewer, which can be found on the Alternate Viewer Page.
    • A further aspect of the work is to move Profile Feeds into a dedicated tab within the Profile floater.
Left: SL Profiles will be returning to a dedicated floater (rather than using a panel to display the web-base user profile). In the future, Profile feeds will also become a part of this floater with their own tab. Right: recently delivered to the Marketplace (among other updates) is the ability to list all the gifts you have received (MP → Account Name → My Account Page → Received Gifts)
  • Reed also highlighted three recent updates to the Marketplace:
    • Notification of purchase – when you visit a Marketplace listing for an item you have previously purchased with the account you are using, the date purchased is displayed at the top of the listing.
    • The gifts received listing (see above).
    • The ability for store owners to nominate store managers.
  • Some of the upcoming Marketplace features touched upon include:
    • Optimising the Marketplace for mobile use.
    • Purchase notifications: store owners will receive a viewer notification of purchases made through their Marketplace stores. This will be an opt-in capability, so as to avoid those with popular brands from being constantly spammed with purchase messages.
    • Refunds: the ability for Merchants to offer refunds through the MP is being looked at.
    • Continuing work on quality-of-life capabilities within the MP, together with bug fixes.
  • Search is being strengthened right across all of the Lab’s web properties.
    • For the Marketplace, this will include listing top-selling products first within search results
    • Better granularity on searches will potentially be supported, together with better filtering
  • There are also projects in progress or on the horizon related to improving the Destination Guide and for Events (this has been mentioned in one or two technical user group meetings, but again without specifics being given).

Bakes on Mesh

  • As a Product Manager, he is very pleased with the take-up of Bakes on Mesh (BoM) – as is the Lab.
  • LL have been tracking take-up among mesh head / body makers, etc., and the gradual adoption of the BoM viewer code by TPVs.
    • There is an unofficial list for BoM support (last updated at the end of August) which may help those interested.
  • The hope remains that BoM will encourage more lightweight content in terms of graphics resources (e.g. less complex Mesh heads and bodies, plus the ability to bake down multiple textures into a single composite).

General Q&A

  • As a hobby, Reed enjoys painting model miniatures (D&D being specifically mentioned) and building dioramas.
  • Work on an iOS client was re-iterated. No new updates, as this is not one of Reed’s areas of work, so those interested can refer to a summary of comments by Kiera and Oz Linden on the work (including a link to a transcript of the comments), and my July mini-update on this project.
  • Last Names: yes, still being worked on, but a complex project. Again, see my June update, which includes the most relevant comments from LL.

Feedback

An informative segment, with Reed providing a lot of hints  – he touched very loosely on possible new Premium account options, for example – as well as outright information for those who do not attend the various in-world user group meetings or follow summaries of said meetings as provided on this blog and others of a similar nature.

Some of the questions did hit on the issue of keeping people aware of a specific guest’s area of expertise; even when warned Reed is not directly involved in viewer development, land management, etc., a number of questions on those subjects came up (and were dutifully asked). However, these fortunately did not interrupt the overall flow of the session to a great degree.

Voice quality continues to be an issue; I assume the participants are using the SL voice binary rather than hooking Skype or an alternative service into the mix. Hopefully this is something that will be addressed once the upcoming voice update viewer goes into circulation and Lab staff can use it.

No details on what the next segment will be about – so it’s a case of watch the official blog posts.

Beaming into New Nerva Station in Second Life

Space Station New Nerva, September 2019 – click any image for full size

We came across Space Station New Nerva by chance during a comb through  the Destination Guide. Designed and built by Bear Thymus, it sits in orbit over the New London Sandbox, and presents an interesting place to both visit and – potentially – for free-form role-play.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is one of the more interesting space station designs I’ve visited of late in Second Life.

The DG description for the station states it presents “homages to all sorts of science fiction fantasy films and television” – for sci-fi buffs, this is certainly true.

Space Station New Nerva, September 2019

Apparently in orbit above a blue world in such a position that the planet’s star seems to be perpetually rising behind it, the station has something of a Star Trek feel to it. The exterior carries an echo of the orbital facilities first seen is Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and then, inverted, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Not that it is in any way a replica of that facility; rather it contains certain similarities: notably the modules clustered around the central core.

The Trek echoes are evident elsewhere as well: the main ring corridor is reminiscent of those aboard the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D, although those in the space station are broader and squatter, and marked by windows on one side and potentially hazardous high-energy panels on the other. Then, in the centre of the station and rising through three levels, is a massive power structure pulsating with energy in a manner akin to a warp core.

Space Station New Nerva, September 2019

The landing point is located in the primary docking port section of the station. This offers further hints of assorted sci-fi franchises: a TARDIS offers a link with the ground level (and elsewhere), in the corridor outside is a communications / information tower which although circular, nevertheless offers a reminder of the units located throughout Space 1999’s Moonbase Alpha. Also in the corridor outside the arrival area is a module containing a transporter system to off-region destinations (none of which we tried). Plus, for those who cam out, docked at the airlock is a massive space vehicle that in looks and styling, might have arrived from Babylon 5 (it’s interior is also accessible via the connecting airlock).

Beyond this, exploration is split between two primary levels. the upper provides access to the essentials of the station: the medical centre, the Mission Control centre (which, I admit, I was hoping to see labelled “Main Mission”!), hydroponics, a social area and – of course – the detention centre. Each of these facilities is offered within a single module affixed to the station’s main ring, or a trio of modules linked to the ring via a central corridor. The level of the station is completed by a series of inward-pointing corridors that cross-connect the ring, passing around the central power core in the process.

Space Station New Nerva, September 2019

Below this primary ring, and reached by a series of turbo-elevators, is a central lounge area that connects with crew accommodation spaces. These are compact – just a single room encapsulating working, sleeping and hygiene space and a single couch for seating; not a lot of comfort for a hard working crew. However, it is likely the hardest working among the crew don’t really need much in the way of personal space or amenities, as they are anthropomorphic driods that might have stepped out of the pages of a Star Wars novel.

Quite what role-play might be undertaken here is entirely open – there are all the common sci-fi hints (including the body in a Star Trek: The Next Generation uniform, who brings a twist to the hoary old joke about red shirts, and a figure in Imperial robes), but really, it is down to those who opt to use the station to determine the style of play that occurs, and whether it might b based on a popular sci-fi franchise.

Space Station New Nerva, September 2019

Nicely conceived and put together, Space Station New Nerva might not be “two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night”, nor is it “a place of commerce and diplomacy for a quarter of a million humans and aliens”. However, it does provide space enough for adventure and intrigue amongst a small group of like-minded friends. Or, for those wishing to visit and photograph a place that is a little more out-of-this-world as a destination – and the opportunity to hop to other locations for exploration, including the console room of a TARDIS, complete with Cloister Bell chiming ominously, it could be worth a shuttle-ride!

SLurl and Links

Crossing Over and Night Walks in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Crossing Over and Night Walks

Open from September 10th, 2019 at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery curated by Dido Haas, are two independent – yet in some ways complimentary – exhibitions by two gifted artists. Crossing Over features a 3D installation by Kaiju Kohime located in the middle of one of the gallery’s two arms, while Night Walks presents a further series of Melusina Parkin’s unique studies of Second Life. Both installation and imagery offer a richly layered environment in which thought is strongly provoked.

Crossing Over is the second installation Kaiju is presenting since his return to Second Life (his first being a collaborative piece with Electric Monday and entitled Orizuru (which you can read about here). It forms, in the words of the exhibition’s introduction, a commentary on the changing face of society’s thinking and structure:

The vertical small worlds we used to live in, illustrated by male white religious oppression, are slowly tilting towards a more horizontal and more human engagement. This installation is about the continuing struggle between verticalism and a horizontal way of thinking and being, about the masks we put on to protect ourselves from our mirror image.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Crossing Over

The white-dominated element of religion (Christianity) is clearly symbolised by the main structure of the piece, which forms the framework of a great church. Within it, at the chancel, multiple white crosses float over the wireframe bust of a man as tendrils of light (thought / understanding / realisation?) fall from an angled blue cross to strike a mask that deflects them away – although it is showing signs of crumbling and breaking under their persistence.

It’s a clear and concise statement concerning religious oppression through the implementation of doctrine over belief / understanding. The white crosses stand as bars rigidly defining the dogma and the vertical nature of “white” Christianity as it is so sadly practised by some, wherein matters so often defined as “right” or “wrong” in terms of race, colour, gender and sexuality (perhaps more so in this present era than more recent times past). Meanwhile, the blue cross and the tendrils of light reflect that shift in thinking from dogma and vertical superiority towards the more compassionate, humanistic (and perhaps even more Christ-like?) “horizontal” view that we are in fact all equal; thus underlining the use of race, colour, gender and  sexuality by some as masks and shields by which they seek to hold themselves apart from, and over, others.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Crossing Over

Night Walks, meanwhile, offers a series of images that take us on “journeys into a dark world”. As the introduction notes:

Streets are empty in the night. At 3 or 4 am we can walk around without meeting people (just somebody who is “still” or “already” there, according to the words of the great Italian writer Italo Calvino, a night owl or a worker). So, we can look at buildings, parked cars, windows, street lamps and benches as they are the true inhabitants of that dark world.

Thus we are offered a series of night-time images taken from around Second Life offered in Melu’s unique perspective where she uses minimalism and close focus to tremendous effect. These are images that offer not so much a picture of a location but a glimpse into a world; sharply defined and focused they might be in their composition, but behind each one of them sits an entire story into which the imagination can fall.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Night Walks

Empty streets at night can be both enticing and frightening. We can be alone, even when just beyond the few inches of stone or brick that may separate us from the interior of house or apartment building, we know there are others, sleeping peacefully or – if lights are still to be seen through curtailed windows – going about their lives as we tread the pavements outside. Thus, we can wrap ourselves in a cloak of our own thoughts without fear of interruption or distraction.

But at the same time, the streets late at night can be unsettling: the familiar can be redrawn by the simple fall of light and shadow; doorways that by day might be welcoming can by night become places of menace. Thus – and again as the liner notes state, “Serenity and fear live together in the dark and empty streets. Which of them wins, depends on our mood. In the night the dark enchanting forest of the city becomes the landscape where the contrasting sides of our souls live.”

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Night Walks

And it is in this contrasting sides of the soul that the link is formed between Night Walks and Crossing Over is formed. It is said that it is in the depths of night that one can most clearly hear the voice of God – or the voice of conscience, if you prefer. That quiet, insistent voice of challenge against dogma that cannot be silenced by the distractions of daytime life or deflected by the masks we might otherwise wear when not so deeply alone, and which calls into question our structure doctrine of thinking and encourages us towards a more open  – dare I say “horizontal” view of the world around us.

The symbolism within and between both Crossing Over and Night Walks is both rich and powerful, offering multiple ways to interpret each as individual pieces and as interconnected exhibits (there is something of a symbolism for death in Crossing Over, for example, and the small hours of the night as seen in Night Walks are said to be the time when death visits the most – ideas which can taken interpretation of both into a whole new dimension).

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Night Walks

In this, I could go on to write at length on both, but I’ll resist putting words into the artist’s mouths and ideas into your heads. Instead, I would encourage you to go to Nitroglobus and view both, and allow them to jointly speak to you. Both Night Walks and Crossing Over officially open at 12:00 noon SLT on Tuesday, September 8th, 2019.

SLurl and Links