An offering to Mnemosyne in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Offering to Mnemosyne

Mnemosyne, sister of the Titans and Mother of the Muses, was the Greek Goddess of Memory. According to Greek Mythology. Those who drank from the waters of Mnemosyne secured recollection of their memories as they passed to the next life.

So reads the introduction to the first exhibition for 2019 at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas. Offering to Mnemosyne by Fenris (Fenris345) is a somewhat different exhibition to previous events at the gallery in that is offering a series of images that offer a glimpse of the artist’s own introspections on life, set within a mythological framework that has a resonance for all of us.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Offering to Mnemosyne

The daughter of Titans Uranus and Gaia, Mnemosyne occupies something of a unique place in Greek mythology. While the Titans were viewed as archaic, she nevertheless has a prominent role. With her nephew Zeus, she  conceived the nine Muses. As the introduction of the exhibition notes, she presided over a pool that ensured those passing into the afterlife preserved their memories, and which stood in opposition to the river Lethe, from which those passing into Hades might drink if they wished to forget.

More particularly, her role is important to the Greeks, as memory was seen as one of the essential foundations of the oral (and later written) tradition; thus Mnemosyne herself one of the essential building blocks of civilisation in within Greek mythology – hence her elevation to that of a Titan.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Offering to Mnemosyne

And the truth is, memory is important to all of us; hence why this exhibition might be seen as an expression of introspection by the artist –  a fact further expressed by the inclusion of some descriptive notes on each of the pieces in the exhibition by Fenris himself. However, I would recommend that visitors view the pieces before reading his comments; personal and introspective to the artist these images may be, but they can also serve as a springboard for our own memories. Simply allow the title of each and the image it presents to talk to you a moment; it’s surprising the memories  each picture calls forward.

Evocative, personal, rich in narrative, there is a depth to this exhibition that encourages time to explore each of the images carefully; in allowing them to speak quietly to you, to tease memories to the fore. It is also the reason why a return visit is well worth the while: to appreciate each through the eyes of the artist, by viewing them in concert with his personal notes (just click the greeter board to receive them with Dido’s introduction to the exhibition.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Offering to Mnemosyne

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Gem Preiz: master of fractals in Second Life

Gem Preiz Fractal Art Gallery

I recently received an invitation from Gem Preiz to visit his new Fractal Art Gallery. As regulars to these pages will know, I am a huge admirer of Gem’s work; not only is his fractal art fabulously complex, covers everything from the natural (entire worlds!) down to the architecture of future (and past) imagined civilisations, but also because he also tends to develop his art along thematic lines. Many of his installations offer a narrative (The Anthropic Principle, No Frontiers, Heritage: Wrecks and Heritage Vestiges all being examples of this) he also uses his art to ponder a raise of questions, be they scientific, philosophical, environmental or some combination thereof (Rhapsody in Blue Fractals, Metropolis, and Sapiens all being three such examples).

In this latter regard – narrative and thought – witnessing Gem’s art in a more traditional gallery setting can mean that the subtext of said narrative and thought might be lost. However, what is always present is the sheer grace and beauty of his art, every piece of which whether previously encountered as a part of a themed installation or being seen for the first time, is a masterpiece of execution, depth, style, and composition.

Gem Preiz Fractal Art Gallery

The new gallery space Gem has created for his work is in keeping with the broader themes of much of his work, presenting a futuristic space around which stand tall silver-grey towers with black elements within resembling windows. Spread across multiple levels within the gallery are somewhere around 120 individual pieces, making this a tour de force of his work, and it is quite easy to spend a far amount of time simply admiring the pieces and getting caught within the intricacies of their design.

To help with the context mentioned above, pieces have been grouped together – there is a hall for Gem’s fractal planets, for example, a bay for images created for / used within Metropolis, a selection of pieces used within / created for Sapiens on the outer walls of another hall space – which itself contains pieces from his Myths collection, and so on. Meanwhile, each of the four  main walls of the structure is dominated by a large format version of one of Gem’s pieces, presented as they might be seen within one of his installations and which demonstrate the sheer majesty of his art.

Gem Preiz Fractal Art Gallery

All of the pieces are offered for sale, either by clicking them directly or using the vendor displays found on the lower level of the gallery. Movement between levels is easily achieved via escalator and / or teleport station – the latter being located throughout the gallery.

Gem’s art remains an outstanding presentation of the beauty of fractal art, and his new gallery is well worth a visit.

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A Sky Hye art gallery in Second Life

Art Gallery Sky Hye: Wash Drawings

Located close to the channel connecting Blake Sea with Second Norway lies Foliage, a Homestead region noted for the presence of the Foliage airstrip and the Art Gallery Sky Hye, both of which are distinctive in the use of Art Deco style buildings designed by region holder Transparent Banshee (who also presents the neighbouring and massive Greenhouse next door).

The Art Gallery Sky Hye is home to the work of physical world artist and teacher / animator Sky Hye.  Within it she presents a modest selection of her work in various styles and mediums, complete with explanatory text that provides insight into the techniques used to produce the art, thus providing an added layer of creative context to the displays.

Art Gallery Sky Hye: Threatened Landscapes

The building has a pleasant open plan look with high ceilings featuring a glass archway skylight, and space for a galleried upper level, all of which allows plenty of ambient light within the design. The lower level is divided into three areas. To the left on entering from the landing point give above, are two paintings from a series entitled Threatened Landscapes, and which show two tranquil country settings, either of which could have been painted as much in Second Life as in the physical world. A sculpture by region holder Transparent Banshee sits directly before the paintings, and a further sculpture (by Wolk Writer) can be found in the grounds of the gallery.

Split between the lower and upper levels are two displays of monotype images. As the gallery notes state, these are one-off prints created by applying paint of ink to a suitable surface – glass, metal, plastic – then transferring the image to paper via printing press.

Art Gallery Sky Hye: Sand Treasures

The series on the lower level is entitled Sand Treasures, and features paintings of glass fragments, shells and seaweed found on a beach. They are quite exquisite to examine – although given their size, some careful camming is required in order to fully appreciate each in turn. On the upper level, Sky presents an intriguing set of gesture figures, which she notes were painted during a figure drawing marathon prior to being transferred to paper the following day. It is perhaps the aspect of having been produced during a marathon that gives these paintings an added dynamic edge.

Also on the upper level are two paintings produced in 1999 which beautifully illustrate the artist’s skill in classical painting techniques (a further example can also be found in her Second Life profile).

Art Gallery Sky Hye: Lyrical Series

The final display, located on the lower floor, is a series of wash drawings of the male body. These are drawings produced in a monochromatic style using ink or watercolours. For this series, Sky notes she used watercolour and bistre with hand-made and sized 100% linen paper. Again, while requiring some camming to full appreciate, this is again an exquisite series of images which demonstrates both the artist’s eye and skill.

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The monochrome beauty of the female body

DiXmiX Gallery: The Huntress

Warning: the images in this article are NSFW.

Now open at DiXmiX Gallery is an exhibition by The Huntress (TheHuntressSnare) simply entitled The Huntress. It presents 15 monochrome images, all of them nude studies of The Huntress, and which stand as a celebration of the female body.

DiXmiX Gallery: The Huntress

By using monochrome, rather than colour, the images The Huntress presents a series of images that have a certain depth that might otherwise be lost. The dark background used in each tends to focus the eye and the mind much more keenly. This results in two things: it brings added life to the studies whilst also making no bones about the sheer sensuality contained within them. Within many of them, this is not only a woman comfortable with her body, she is prepared to delight in it and decorate it for her own pleasure.

The more sensual nature of the pieces displayed obviously also casts the observer into the role of voyeur. While obviously posed, there is a natural fluidity to several of the images that suggest the subject is perhaps unaware of the camera: the position of a hand over a breast as if stroking, or hovering over the midriff – as if a few more minutes would see the subject caught in flagrante delicto.

DiXmiX Gallery: The Huntress

Obviously, such voyeuristic leanings, coupled with the level of nudity on display might put some off; on the other hand there is no denying the artistry involved in these images: the posing, the lighting, the angle and cropping. Each is in itself a study in the art of photography. They are also, possibly somewhat autobiographical, reflecting the artist’s own freedom from, and acceptance of, self.

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Erik Mondrian: master of fine arts in and beyond Second Life

A still from Empty, the 9th video in Erik Mondrian’s [MFA] Thesis video series, filmed in Second Life
Erik Mondrian is a writer, artist, and scholar who makes work about place, belonging, love, longing, and madness. He holds an MA in Mass Communication & Media Studies from San Diego State University, focusing on virtual worlds as new media, and is close to graduating with Interschool Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Voice Arts & Creative Writing and supplemental concentration in Integrated Media from California Institute of the Arts.

He is also a Second Life resident, and someone I’ve come to know, albeit indirectly through social media, and I’ve  been enriched by our acquaintance.

For his thesis work at CalArt, Erik has produced a series of eleven videos to illustrate his writing, and filmed within Second Life. Each of the first ten videos offers and examination of an aspect of life or identity, or of emotions or feelings, personal reflections or desires; each narrated by Erik, words and images combining into a series of stunningly moving and deeply eloquent visual poems (even those presented as prose) which are quite breathtaking in their breadth and meaning.

Making: the first video in Erik’s Thesis series

As companions to Erik’s words, these are films which are fabulously unique and perfect in reflecting and amplifying his words; each marvellously frames his thoughts and the emotions of each piece without ever intruding or distracting. Through them, Erik displays that not only is he a master of words, but he is also deeply visually creative; the composition, framing and presentation of each video is utterly captivating.

Since my MFA at CalArts is three-pronged, I wanted (with the support & encouragement of my mentor on the Creative Writing side, Jon Wagner) to do a thesis project that blended all three of my areas of study in some way [written word, voice and media] … The project also came about in part because of my years spent in virtual worlds of all kinds [and] the experiences I’ve had there and the people I’ve met …  I’ve been “on-line” for close to 25 years, and almost as long in virtual spaces from IRC and MUDs through to worlds like The Palace, Active Worlds, and of course, almost fourteen years in SL.

– Erik in discussing his thesis video series

What I personally find engaging in these films is the rich, allusive timbre evident in Erik’s writing. Together with his sheer lyricism, he produces wordscapes that are beautifully attractive. Through a crafted choice of words, he encourages, suggests, points – but never blatantly leads or cajoles. He sets out path of thought, complete with potential branches or turns, where allusion and suggestion lies as much within each word as within every passage. He invites us listen and allow our imagination to take whichever route it may choose through prose and verse. Thus, while there may well be a destination Erik has set for our journey, how we reach it is entirely left in our hands – or rather our thoughts and our mind’s eye.

Escape: the second video in Erik’s Thesis series (and her favourite)

These are also unmistakably deeply personal pieces. By his own admission, Erik is reserved, quiet, introverted. Yet he has the gift of observation and the power of expression, These combine to resonate within each of us and find fertile ground within our thoughts. Thus, while personal to him, the ideas, feelings, emotions, questions, desires, ideas and images he creates are equally personal to those who listen and watch. And this is something that he is himself aware of, as he appears to note through the eleventh video in the series, which stands as both a conclusion and an artist’s statement.

Place without belonging. Longing without love. A special kind of madness that comes from hiding in plain sight, seen but not yet recognised, heard but not yet understood. I move through time and space, observing all, saying far too little. What do you make of this? The lives you live, the memories, the moments—where do they go? Who do you find there? I’ve tried to make that journey here, tried to reconcile my circuitous wandering, outwardly aimless, with a destination that remains forever a step ahead, an optical illusion that pulls away even as it draws me forward.

– From video 11: Artist Statement

It is through this final piece that Erik is most revealing about himself and by extension, each of us. As such, and while billed as an “artist’s statement”, it is integral to the whole series and should be watched and absorbed as a part of the whole.

I could wax further on the subject, but really, the best way to appreciate these films is to see and savour them. So instead, I’ll close with a quote from my fellow Second Life writer and traveller, Ricco Saenz

These videos are brilliant, powerful and thought-provoking. They create an intriguing atmosphere – and udoubtedly deserve to be called art.

– Ricco Saenz, January 11th, 2019

You can see all of the videos back-to-back in their intended order via Erik’s Thesis playlist. And be sure to read the accompanying notes for SLurl to the SL locations featured in each.

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The Inevitability of Fate in Second Life

The Inevitability of Fate

I was led to The Inevitability of Fate, a region-wide installation by Rose Borchovski (the innovative Dutch multimedia artist, Saskia Boddeke in the physical world) by fellow grid explorer (and accomplished writer and machinima maker) Erik Mondrian – and I’m genuinely indebted to him for doing so, for a number of reasons.

The first is, and to be perfectly honest, I actually had no idea any of Rose’s installations were still present in Second Life; over the last few years she appears to have focused more on physical world installations that have a virtual cross-over features the work of artists such as Bryn Oh (see Art and Obedience in Berlin and Second Life and The virtual reality of the Russian avant-garde for more). Secondly, while this installation did get a mention in this blog when writing about Rose’s work on 2013, I never actually properly reviewed it, so I can now put that to rights.

Thirdly, and most significantly, this is an installation that is poignant in its message, and while it reflects on events that took place in the middle of the 20th Century, the underpinning message it carries has as much relevance in the world in today’s political climate.

The Inevitability of Fate

The landing point provides, via blank verse, a synopsis of the installation. This comes with an information note card outlining preferred viewer settings. Of these, the most important is to make sure your local sounds (not the audio stream) are active – a major part of this piece is aural, starting right on the landing point itself, which should be listened to before taking the teleport down to the ground level, as it very much sets the scene both directly through the spoken words and by the background sounds – particularly the clackety-clack of a train, which is not as innocent as might first seem.

On the ground, we are introduced first to Lot, then to her mother, Beth. All seems normal, Lot at play in the first vignette, and beyond it, Lot happily celebrating her ninth birthday with her mother. As a small aside, when moving through the vignettes (your route is denoted by white-on-black arrows), keep an eye out for the yellow tear drops, which offer poses, and the small blue eyes, which offer teleports.

These first vignettes are joyous – as childhood should be. But all too quickly, things change as we move beyond the birthday celebration.

The war came and all did change. A harsh hand ruled the world of Beth and Lot. They were forced to leave. They were separated from each other. They were made the enemy.

The Inevitability of Fate

With the war comes an increasing series of unsettling changes: we – with Beth and Lot – must wear yellow ribbons (a recognition of Jews within Germany and other occupied  / Axis nations being forced to wear the yellow Star of David). Then we are informed of a list of restrictions placed on our lives, both in terms of movement and activities. Finally comes removal of identity we become a number and “the Ememy”, forceably relocated to a ghetto.

This leads, inevitably to separation, as Lot is taken away from Beth. Here the story jumps forward to a post-war era, where, and although she survived, Beth’s agony does not end.

After the war Beth returned. The child Lot had disappeared; no one knows where she went. Beth keeps searching for Lot. On good days, Beth is able to imagine that Lot is flying like a bird, with her face towards the sky, searching for the stars. On bad days, Beth can only be angry about her loss. Beth’s wounds will never heal. Lot had no chance to become who she meant to be.

The Inevitability of Fate

While the horrors of the concentration camps and the Holocaust are not represented directly, they are given subtle recollection: the aforementioned clacking of train cars on rails (trains being the means by which those from the Ghettos were ferried to the camps) and the high “fence” surrounding the installation revealing itself, when viewed closely, to be the names of those known to have lost their lives as a result of their internment. Meanwhile the chequerboard surface of the landscape and some of the elements within it might be seen as an indirect reference to the stripped uniforms worn by those interred in camps and prisons.

Although historical in presentation, the relevance of The Inevitability of Fate to the modern political landscape is clear, from the re-emergence of discrimination and bigotry against people on the basis of appearance, colour race, gender or sexual orientation, through to the use of their religion or circumstance to blank label them as “the enemy” and / or a scapegoat for perceived woes – or simply as a means of political expediency / deflection, right up to and including the separation of children from parents, which has led to many of the latter being left entirely unaware of the fate of the former.

All of this may make The Inevitability of Fate an uncomfortable visit, but that doesn’t make it any less worth seeing.

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