Blue Orange: adventures in art in Second Life

Blue Orange

It’s been nigh on a year since my last review of an exhibition at Blue Orange gallery, the music and arts venue in Second Life curated by Ini (In Inaka). Part of the reason for this was that the last exhibition at gallery I covered seemed to be drawn out over an extended period, and then the gallery was reported as being closed for re-building. However, I hopped over recently out of curiosity to find it once again open for business – and the rebuild has left a visit feeling less like a trip to a gallery and more of an adventure of discovery.

The familiar subway landing point is still present – but now with a second platform on the far side of the track, the first indication of changes as ghostly trains roar between the tunnels at either end of the station. The familiar music venue lies at the end of the tiled hall leading away from the platform, a hall displaying images by various photographers taken whilst visiting Blue Orange.

Blue Orange: Daze Landar

From here – or earlier, if you opt to walk along the platform to the doors labelled Art Corner – the adventure begins, as the Art Corner can be accessed via a hole in the wall of the club. This route leads visitors first to the Library. Inspired by The Colour of Pomegranates, a 1969  Soviet arts film directed by Sergei Parajanov, this is a surreal place with unfinished walls, against which books are pinned, with more floating in the air. Each book offers a web link to a writer or poet’s website where the given story or poem can be enjoyed.

Beyond this lies an assortment of halls, some connected directly to one another, others reached via doors or through connecting passages (including the second platform), still others reached via stairs and ladders or by actively jumping down well-like holes. Within each of these spaces art can be found.

Blue Orange: Wakizashi Yoshikawa

At the time of my visit, this included 2D photography and art by Grady Echegaray, Harbor (Harbor Galaxy), Natalia Seranade, Gitu Aura, Thea Maiman, Daze Landar (DaisyDaze), and Ina herself.  3D work by Kimeu Korg (Kimeu) and Bryn Oh (the latter reached via the stairs behind the club’s DJ area) is also to be found, while Wakizashi Yoshikawa and Aïcha (Tubal Amiot) present a mix of 2D and 3D art.

Finding your way around the art spaces is, as noted, something of an adventure; confusing in places (are you supposed to go through the blue door and then drop down to a space apparently between the exhibition halls?), but definitely worth the time taken to explore and discover.

Blue Orange: Gitu Aura

I’m not sure if the gallery will feature a changing roster artists, or whether some of the halls are intended to offer permanent spaces in which artists-in-residence will offer different exhibitions of their work – Bryn Oh’s space, for example, now appears to be a permanent fixture within Blue Orange.

However, such questions are secondary to the time spent in explorations here: the art is rich and diverse, and the nature of the gallery’s halls means that each corner or stair can lead to a pleasing discovery for any lover of art in Second Life. However, when visiting do make sure you have enabled Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) on your viewer (Preferences > Graphics), in order to ensure you see all of the art as intended.

Blue Orange

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Paola Mills: behind the avatar in Second Life

UTSA Artspace: Paola Mills

Currently open to visitors at the University of Texas, San Antonio ArtSpace gallery in Second Life is Behind the Avatar, an exhibition of the photography of Paola Mills. To be honest, it’s an exhibition I almost completely missed, the notification having escaped my attention back in September – so my apologies to Paola.

This is a small, but emotive display of work, focused on avatar studies, and which – as the title of the exhibition suggests – offers a glimpse of the person behind the camera and the avatar.

Hello I’m Angela Paola and in pixel version I’m Paola Mills. 

I signed up to Second life in 2007, after hearing a lot of Linden Lab in the media, I did not like the name Second Life, but its potential as a platform to use, because I am passionate about video games since I was a girl. Reading an article in the American Journal, I realised that Second Life was something else, it is a place used to pleasure doing business, others see it as financial speculation, for other people it’s just a 3D chat. But soon it became a niche for lovers of creativity.

– Paola Mills, introducing Behind the Avatar

UTSA Artspace: Paola Mills

Paola notes that while she isn’t a professional photographer, she always carries a small camera with her when out and about in the physical world, taking pictures of the people and things that capture her attention. In entering Second Life, she found a way to expand her photographic creativity, using the viewer’s snapshot capability to capture moods, as well as moments, and give lasting expression to the emotions she might feel at any given time.

It is precisely this emotional amplification of mood and emotion that is represented in the 12 images offered at the ArtSpace Gallery. All 12 are deeply expressive and / or representative of a mood – contemplation, reflection, hurt, fascination, and more, with the nature of the form used – human or robotic – used to present the mood and, with at least some of the images, offer up an additional narrative.

Paola notes that unlike many SL photographers, she makes minimal use of post-process editing. while she states this is more down to an inability to use such applications (when it comes to PhotoShop, I know exactly how she feels!), rather than a conscious decision. However, rather than detracting from her work, I would actually say this adds to it, drawing the audience into each of the images as they are: moments (and emotions) caught in that instant of time, without later embellishment or alteration.

UTSA Artspace: Paola Mills

I’m not sure when this exhibition ends, so I would recommend seeing it sooner rather than later, just in case.

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Vintage art in Second Life

Visual Feast – Vintage

Currently open at the Lyric Art Gallery is an exhibition featuring some 40+ artists, entitled Visual Feast – Vintage. Participating artists were asked to submit an image representing a period between 1920 and 1959, and which could be said to be a vintage representation of the specific period the artists selected to reflect.

Ruby Lane notes that “an item described as ‘vintage’ should speak of the era in which it was produced. Vintage can mean an item is of a certain period of time, as in “vintage 1950’s” but it can also mean (and probably always should) that the item exhibits the best of a certain quality, or qualities, associated with or belonging to that specific era. In other words, for the term vintage to accurately apply to it, an item should be somewhat representational and recognizable as belonging to the era in which it was made.”

– From the exhibition liner notes.

Visual Feast – Vintage

The result is an interesting – and somewhat curious selection of images captured from within Second Life and offered as both paintings and photographs. Some opt for what might be called a traditional look at the period they’ve opted to represent: a flapper arriving outside of a club in the 1920’s, fashionable (for the time) cigarette holder in hand, hair cut short; or another young woman in a 50s dress celebrating ownership of a new Fiat Nuova 500; or a girl on the beach in a typical 40s/50s beach costume.

Others have gone for a quirkier approach to their selected  period – such as a pop band standing on another world, in space suits, their classic rocket ship standing as part of the backdrop, all recalling the 1950s heyday of pulp science-fiction. Some are more esoteric, in places suggesting periods somewhat older than the preferred decades through the style of clothing being worn; or which offer a modern take on vintage elements from the intended decades, such as a young woman in what might be taken as contemporary clothing watching a classic steam train speeding by.

Visual Feast – Vintage

Such is the volume of art in the exhibition, naming all of the artists isn’t practical without a post like this reading like a shopping list; nor is it particularly easy to single pieces out. However, in the latter regard, Natalie Montagne’s Music And Lights is for me a stand-out piece, and possibly the jewel in the exhibition. It is a quite sublime piece: a fabulous portrait of Ol’ Blue Eyes Himself, Frank Sinatra, perhaps the embodiment of America and American music in the 1950s.

Details on individual pieces and the artists responsible for them can be obtained by clicking on each piece and accepting the offered note card.

Visual Feast – Vintage

A broad exhibition with an interesting theme, Visual Feast – Vintage opened on November 3rd. Those visiting the exhibition are also invited to tour the wider Sea Island Modern Fantasy Roleplay region, if they so wish.

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A November ensemble at La Maison d’Aneli

La Maison d’Aneli: Cybele Moon

Currently open at La Maison d’Aneli Gallery, curated by Aneli Abeyante, is a new ensemble art exhibition featuring 2D artists Cybele Moon (Hana Hoobinoo), Violaine (Anadonne) and Barret Darkfold, together with 3D artists Nevereux and Rikku Yalin. This is an eclectic mix of artists, resulting in a diverse set of exhibitions, reached by taking the teleport from the gallery’s ground level lobby area.

Cybele Moon’s art should need no introduction; she is a doyenne of fantasy art / photography in Second Life, producing marvellous images that are richly ethereal, fabulously produced and each rich in its own story.  Her art within Second Life is very a reflection of her photography in the physical world, where she captures landscapes – sometimes using an infra-red camera – and produces mythical scenes of extraordinary depth and life.

La Maison d’Aneli: Cybele Moon

Many of the pieces she displays in-world combine the physical and virtual worlds to create wonderfully layered pictures which offer not so much a windows into narrative, but doorways into entire realms; stories often captured in words and pictures on her website, Cybele Shine. She says of her work, “I’m a time traveller who loves exploring old stones and tomes and forest groves. My dreams are filled with enchanted children and haunted woodlands,” and this is perfectly reflected in the selection of images she is displaying a La Maison d’Aneli.

On the lower floor of the gallery are exhibitions of physical world art by Violaine and Barret, two artists I’ve not encountered before, but each with a distinctive style.

La Maison d’Aneli: Violaine

Violaine presents a mix of art and photograph (some of which touches on NSFW) grouped in deliberate sets of four, from abstracts (as with the set entitled Instants), through to deeply intimate moments (as captured within the set entitled Neighbours). Each set has its own unique attraction, be it a recollection of Warhol through Angelina, or an echo of L.S. Lowry seen in Houses.

Barret’s work is wholly abstract, featuring pieces of swirling  motion or carrying hints of linear geometry. The majority are presented a warm colours: yellow and orange with a hint of red in places, or with earthly browns and greens, although some are more earthen in colour, encompassing paler shades and tans. All hold a common bond, one with another, something than gives this exhibition an almost narrative flow as the eye pass from one images to the next and from upper row to lower.

La Maison d’Aneli: Barret Darkfold

For her 3D installation, Nevereux presents Assembly Line, a piece that places the visitor inside a 3D drawing, asking a series of pointed questions as it does so. These questions, asked within a blank verse statement, encompass the nature of identity and the content of life. The art within the piece serves as an illustration of life: two-dimensional aspects: a house, a street a place of work, a children’s playground, rendered as 3D (our digital life of 0s and 1s referenced in the blank verse) by the movement, of a pencil across white surfaces (“what if we’re analogue?”).

It’s a curious piece, a little difficult to grasp, but also – perhaps – with a touch of self-effacing humour (“You can align yourself to me instructions … or you can use binoculars + an aspirin and go explore”).

La Maison d’Aneli: Nevereux

Rikku Yalin offers another curio of an installation, largely focused on 3D pieces of a decidedly mechanical bent – including a giant robot, a mechanical cat, smaller robots – all gathered around wooden couple standing as ringmaster and wife. 2D art on the walls in part continue the mechanical theme.

However, for me, the most striking piece, for all the quirkiness of the rest, is a stunning portrait of the late actor Charles Bronson. It’s a stunning piece which, aside from the moustache, could have been painted while he was on the set of Sergio Leone’s celebrated western, Once Upon A Time in the West.

La Maison d’Aneli: Rikku Yalin

Five very different displays offering five unique perspectives of art and narrative, all of which add up to one intriguing exhibition.

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Previewing Men in Focus in Second Life

Men In Focus

Men in Focus is a new gallery opening on Thursday, November 1st, 2018. Owned and sponsored by Men in Motion, a team of male choreographers and dancers promoting men’s mental and physical health in cooperation with the Movember Foundation. The gallery is curated by JMB Balogh, who invited me to preview the first exhibition at the gallery.

“The gallery features photography and 3D artworks of men at work or play in SL by male artists,” Jo informed me, adding, “There are hundreds of art galleries in Second Life but few, if any, that focus exclusively on the art of men.”

Men In Focus: Slayer Tanaka

The primary aim of the gallery is to showcase 2D art; however for the opening exhibition Jo has brought together both 2D and 3D artists, with works displayed across the multi-level gallery space that offers plenty of room for it to be appreciated. Those participating in this inaugural exhibition comprise:

Men In Focus: Jⓞhan Lionheart (Gemini sculpture) and Slayer Tanaka

The opening of the exhibition, set for 18:00 SLT on Thursday, November 1st, 2018, will be the kick-off event for the 2018 11-day Movember fund-raiser hosted by Men in Motion, and which will culminate in a spectacular dance show highlighting their choreography skills.

The schedule of events for the November fund-raiser comprises (at the time of writing and all time SLT):

  • Thursday, November 1st, 18:00: Men In Focus gallery opening, with music by DJ Ame
  • Friday, November 2nd: 20:00: Ladies Night with M@N
  • Saturday, November 3rd:
    • 09:00-11:00 – DJ Hanku
    • 12:00 noon-13:00 – Men In Motion dancer auction
    • 14:00-16:00 – DJ Chopper
    • 20:00-22:00 – DJ Aryanna Draken
  • Saturday, November 10th, 15:00-16:30 – Men In Motion Show
  • Sunday, November 11th, 13:00-15:00 – closing with DJ Cara.

All funds raised during the event will be donated to the Movember Foundation.

Men In Focus: Alex Avion and Kavika Lowgun

About the Movember Foundation

The Movember Foundation is a multinational charity raising awareness of, and money for, men’s health and welfare, with a focus on cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. Its titular and widely known campaign is Movember, which encourages men to grow moustaches during the month of November. The foundation partners annually with the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride to also raise money for men’s health.

Founded in 2003, in Melbourne, Australia by Adam Garone, Travis Garone, Luke Slattery, and Justin Coghlan, the organisation attained registered charity status in 2006, and as of 2014, has raised over US $580m in charitable donations used to fund more than 800 programmes focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health, men’s health awareness and healthy lifestyles. It is active in 21 countries and has a global workforce of 130 people. In addition, Movember coincides with International Men’s Day (November 19th), which among its aims, shares the goal of promoting the health and well-being of men and boys.

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In a KÖMA in Second Life

KÖMA

JadeYu Fhang has a reputation for being one of the most visually evocative artists in Second Life, her installations often plumb the depths of the human consciousness and psyche (examples: Roots and War, Everywhere and Nowhere and OpeRaAxiEty), and this is certainly the case with her latest installation, KÖMA (coma).

Billed as a “limited-time multimedia art installation”, KÖMA is at once intricate, dark, confusing, and  – perhaps ultimately – revealing.

The intricacy of the installation is apparent on arrival, as is the confusion. Panels around the sides of the region, one of them flashing and flickering slowly with individual screen-like patterns, towering high above the visitor and imparting a sense of insignificance. Clouds scurry across a void like sky, a basso rumbling filling the air. Alongside the landing point rises a strange structure, looking to be one part exotic lighting rig, two parts science-fiction drone. Screens at the base offer information on how to view the installation (in short: there’s no route or TP – you walk around the base level and level up to the upper level), while at the top is an armless female torso supporting another computer screen as its head.

KÖMA

Behind this, within the region are a set of surreal scenes. Two giant heads rise from the mirror-smooth base of the installation, a swirling mass of what appears to be rose petals caught in a frozen swirl around them to rise towards the upper platform of the installation. Supported by another of the strange devices, this platform is home to a tableau of female figures, sitting and standing amidst flicking, ghostly projections and with most facing a large screen. What appears to be filaments of lightning flashes from their eyes and arcs around some of their bodies. Below them, peculiar female forms, arms replaced by insect legs and heads by computer monitors, are arrayed while screens on the supporting device flicker with images that might be medical in nature or represent memories, while all around this scene is a further rolling booming of sound and a voice echoing a single word köma.

Central to the installation is a golden female form, apparently frozen in the act of being struck down. She is also surrounded by a pattern of rose petals, caught with filigrees of white lightning-like light, also in stasis, and few of which – perhaps tellingly – either commence or terminate in her head. On the mirror surface around her, patterns of vein-line lines drift endlessly outwards, while a close by a “rain” of flicking gold leaves falls, each one of which reveals itself to be a tiny, flicking screen when examined.

KÖMA

With the exception of the rose petals and the golden “leaves”, the majority of the installation in monochrome in nature, giving it – along with the portelling deep booms and rumbling – giving the installation its dark edge. It is also a scene reflected in the mirror-like base I mentioned, which around the kneeling figure is disturbed by drifting patterns of red lines looking like veins of blood.

But what do we make of all this? I think the clue is in the title. Comas are a medical condition filled with a certain mystique. We know what the external physical characteristics of a coma are – but what is actually going on within the victim’s head when they are within a comatose state – so often those surviving a coma and regaining their faculties suffer from post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) which affects their recall of memories – including anything their brains may have experienced whilst comatose.

KÖMA

In this light, many elements of the installation fall into place: the figures, the flashing images of figures and faces are perhaps the flicking memories or experiences the brain plays to itself whilst otherwise seemingly unresponsive to external stimuli; the strange devices become medical tech; the rose petals become blood corpuscles, vital in their role in carrying oxygen to the brain to keep it functioning and to life as a whole; the lightening-like filaments perhaps represent the flash of electrical links between synapses, and so on. So to does the figure falling to her knees perhaps represent the victim of a sudden event – a stroke or similar – collapsing, her situation triggering a comatose state as the rest of the strange figures and the echoing rumble and boom suggest the distant intrusion of medical on the comatose mind.

When interpreted in this way, the dark tones of the installation roll back, and we find ourselves immersed in an environment intended to evoke what it might be like to step into another’s coma and witness first-hand what is going on deep within the subconscious, well away from the accepted signs of neural activity and responsiveness.

KÖMA

But that is only my interpretation. You may find KÖMA speaks to you differently. It awaits your discovery.

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  • KÖMA (LEA 22, rated: moderate)