Art as a landscape in Second Life

Grauland; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrGrauland – click any image for full size

Grauland is a homestead region held by JimGarand and home (in the sky) to his M-1 Art Poses, is one of the more unusual locations I’ve visited recently.

Described simply as a “photogenic sim”, it is actually far more than this; I would describe it more as a setting that presents art as a landscape.

Grauland; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrGrauland

The landing point looks out over a section of coastline mindful of the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim on Northern Ireland’s northern coast: Cube Republic’s marvellous Basalt columns step down to the sea before stretching out over the water in a slender finger. Several more frame the landing point, which includes a teleport up to the M-1 store.

Grauland; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrGrauland

Sitting above the basalt, and split into two plateau-like areas, the rest of the region offers an intriguing mix. Directly behind the landing point, and across a road apparently emerging from a tunnel beneath the taller plateau, sits a large concrete structure, the home to a striking concrete block maze forming a large, and striking statement of modern art which in some ways reflects the columnar basalt coastline.

Grauland; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrGrauland

This block theme is continues on the upper plateau, reached via cement stairs built into a steel frame. These lead to a large courtyard area guarded by whitewashed walls and a large, modern hall-like building. More cement blocks sit within the courtyard, extending into a part of the building itself, which forms a gallery space.

At the time of my visit, the gallery was home to a minimal exhibition of striking photographs by Jim himself. However, the gallery is designed to be more than just a home to art; along with the courtyard, it is very much a part of the artistic sweep of the region.

Grauland; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrGrauland

Overlooking the courtyard is an industrial-like tower topped by a cabin. The industrial nature of the tower reflects that of the steps leading up to the courtyard, providing a further sense of continuity in the setting. Apparently open to the public, the cabin offers a bird’s-eye view out over the region.

Nor is this all. Throughout the region are marvellous art-like installations: great concrete swirls surround oak and persimmon trees, while rusting metal shapes sit on a terrace looking out to sea, the ruins of an abandon shack on the coast below them as large spheres float over the water. Elsewhere are smaller artistic elements: a caravan of turtles, a sculpture by Silas Merlin, knots of rock also forming statements of their own, doors hovering above the water… A further concrete-walled maze sits in the lee of the courtyard’s plateau, the walls again offering an industrial feel, together with an expression of graffiti.

Grauland; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrGrauland – click any image for full size

Simple yet elegant, minimalist yet rich in detail. Grauland is a fascinating and very photogenic region and a place where it is easy to spend a lot longer visiting than you might think would be the case on first arriving.

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Spring at La Virevolte in Second Life

La Virevolte; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrLa Virevolte – click any image for full size

Iska (sablina) and ChimKama have returned La Virevolte (“the Twirl”) to the grid after the Homestead region on which it sits – Lemon Beach – spent time as Ponto Cabana (read here for more on that design), and are currently presenting it in a marvellous springtime rural design that carries hallmarks of central France in its look and feel.

To the east of the region sits a a rugged curtain of cliffs, a stream tumbling down the slope leading away from their feet to pass under a bridge that carries a narrow road away from a tunnel that appears to cut through them. Their presence suggests this is a headland somewhere, the tunnel cutting through their walls forming a link to the land beyond, while the water flanking the three remaining sides of the setting has the feel of being a great lake, the far shores of which are obscured by haze.

La Virevolte; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrLa Virevolte

Buildings lie to either side of the road as it runs down from the tunnel. Some of these – most notably the church-like stone-built gatehouse – indicating this place has been inhabited a long time. Other buildings, such as the auto shop – are of far more recent architectural design, and pointing to the longevity of occupation in this part of the land.

The road splits at the old gatehouse, one arm continuing south onto the headland’s finger, passing a small café where tables are set outside on a cobbled terrace and a Pétanque boules game overlooks the calm waters. This arm of the road ends at a small, slightly run-down farm, where dairy cows quietly graze, and which also offers a view out over the water towards the small island on which a painter’s retreat sits.

La Virevolte; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrLa Virevolte

The northern arm of the road crosses the little stream at a second bridge to form a relaxed loop around grassy tiers on which sit apple trees in their springtime blossom, and which are topped by a second farmhouse. Lantern-lit paths run along and around these tiers, while the road’s passage around them is marked by stone walls and wooden fencing.

A small shingle beach sits off the south side of this road, marked by the carcass of an old rowing boat that forlornly looks towards the little painter’s island. However, there is no water crossing to the latter – which doesn’t appear to be private – is provided; flying or wading seem to be the only way to reach its adobe walls with their Spanish looks.

La Virevolte; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrLa Virevolte

It offers a cosy terrace and flat roof, each with places to sit and pass the time, paintings stacked against walls, a fresh canvas occupying an easel on the roof, perhaps waiting for inspiration to strike the artist who sometimes occupies this little getaway.

Other places to sit can be found scattered throughout the region, and there is a wonderful and quite natural sense of age to this little village – and not just as a result of the presence of the more medieval buildings to be found here.  There is the tired-looking farm mentioned above and, not far from it, the yard alongside the auto repair shop, that looks for all the world like an abandoned playground.

La Virevolte; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrLa Virevolte

Which should not be taken to mean this is a place of ruin or decay; far from it. The beauty and appeal of La Virevolte is clear; what there is, is a perfect balance between natural beauty of setting and landscape and the careworn feel of places perhaps past their prime; a balance that can often be witnessed when passing through any town, village or hamlet.

Finished with a gentle and natural sound scape and framed under an ideal windlight complete with birds flying and wheeling overhead, this current iteration of La Virevolte makes for an engaging, photogenic springtime visit and is not to be missed.

La Virevolte; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrLa Virevolte

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The stunning beauty of Ukivok in Second Life

Ukivok; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrUkivok – click any image for full size

As I’ve frequently noted, Serene Footman and Jade Koltai are the creators of what are arguably the most evocative region designs made for Second Life.Each of their creations tends to last for a month, and when available, should not be missed, given they are so beautifully presented and perfectly reflect the physical world locations that form their inspiration.

Each and every design – the majority I have written about in this blog – are exquisite, but I confess there is something about their latest design – Ukivok – that is utterly breathtaking; quite the most visually impressive presentation of a rugged, isolated island, one that offers an informative look at a part of the world perhaps unknown to most.

Ukivok; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrUkivok

Our new sim is a recreation of the abandoned Alaskan village of Ukivok … Once home to around 200 Iñupiat, the village is located King Island, which is situated in the Bering Sea, around 64km off the Alaskan coast and 145km from Nome.

– Serene Footman, describing Ukivok

The Iñupiat (or Inupiaq) are native Alaskan people whose traditional territory extends from Norton Sound on the Bering Sea to the Canada–United States border. Those who once lived on Ling Island called themselves Aseuluk, “people of the sea” or Ukivokmiut – a name combining the name of the village and “miut”, meaning “people” (and so might translate as “people of Ukivok”).

Ukivok; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrUkivok

The village itself seems an impossible place; built against a rocky slope of the island’s flank as it rises at a 45-degree angle from the sea. Houses and community buildings sit upon wooden platforms, themselves standing on stilts, with the platforms rising in uneven tiers, connected by rickety looking wooden walkways and steps. Nestled between the frigid sea below and the desolate upper slopes of the island, the most recognisable building in the village is perhaps the 2-storey faded white block of the former Bureau of Indian Affairs school, the closure of which in the latter part of the 20th century marked the beginning of the end of village life on the island.

For their build, Jade and Footman could not recreate all of King Island, which is 1.6 km wide (and, as an aside, was named thus by Captain James Cook in 1778, in recognition of Lieutenant James King, a member of his crew). Instead, they have focused on the bay the village sits above, and the village itself.

Ukivok; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrUkivok

And the reproduction perfectly captures the windswept, elemental look and feel of the now-deserted Ukivok perfectly, including a homage to the school mentioned above. The landing point sits off-shore platform that provides a glorious first look at the island as it rises from the waves, reaching an impressive, and entirely natural 108 metres above the surrounding sea floor.

Even without the village, the island makes for an incredible sight, and it’s clear considerable thought an effort has gone into designing and building it; if you can, make sure you cam all the way around it to fully appreciate the beauty of the design. A board walk links the landing point with the shoreline, where a steep set of steps offer the way up to the first platform – and the start of an adventure up through the village, using steps and ladders (click the latter to ascend / descend them), passing through areas that offer echoes of the lives once lived here, and opportunities to sit and appreciate the island as a whole.

Ukivok; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrUkivok

The Ukivokmiut were subsistence hunters and whalers who had lived on King Island for centuries. Their activities on and around the island included hunting for seals and walruses, crab fishing, and gathering bird eggs and other foods.

– Serene Footman, drawing on notes about the Aseuluk of King Island

Above the upper levels of the village are more steps, linking shelves of rock one to the next. Some of these steps might be easy to find, others hidden by the scrub hedges that cling to cliff and slope. Follow one group, and you may find your way to the north-eastern headland, which again offers a stunning view back across the rest of the island to the village. This route will also take you past an homage to an entirely natural tor of rocks that crown the physical world King Island.

Ukivok; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrUkivok

The crown of this Jade and Serene’s version is a little different, and lies to the south-east. It is marked by a single statue looking down over the village, and the view gives a further understanding of Ukivok’s seemingly precarious position on the island. Close to the statue is a zip line which descends steeply (and quite rapidly) down to an outcrop of rock and shingle close to the landing point. Should you take the ride, you’ll have to fly back to the landing point or to the island; or you can rest a while on the chairs set out on the rock.

Set under an ideal windlight, surrounded by ocean foam and perfectly placed submerged terrain that is naturally suggestive of rocky shallows close to the island, Ukivok is completed by another superb sound scape. And once having seen it, I think you might find it hard to deny it is one of the natural wonders of Second Life – so many sure you visit it while it is here.

Ukivok; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrUkivok

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  • Ukivok (Dulcis, rated: Moderate)

Gaining a little A L T I T U D E in Second Life

A L T I T U D E; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrA L T I T U D E – click any image for full size

I jumped over to have a look at A L T I T U D E after catching it in Maddy Gynoid’s Echt Vituell. Sitting on and over a Homestead region, it is one of the most unusual and imaginative settings I’ve seen in Second Life for a while.

Designed by Dan the Hammie (DannChris), A L T I T U D E presents a place to “hang out, play and listen to indie music, alternative music, live performances and voice events.”

A L T I T U D E; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrA L T I T U D E

The music venue sits up in the air, “an abandoned hangar on a forgotten island”, held aloft by a combination of cement pillars rising some 60 metres above the water / ground by a mass of propeller engines slung beneath the baseplate on which it sits. Several more platforms float in the sky around it, some offering places to sit, others more functional in nature.

The hanger itself is little more than a rusting metal framework curving over the venue and facing a building that might, at one time, have been a small airport terminal or similar. Despite its industrial appearance, however, the club has a friendly, almost cosy look and feel to it. Events are regularly staged as per the schedule board over one of the stages.

A L T I T U D E; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrA L T I T U D E

Down below, apparently floating on the water, is a stunning garden spot sitting behind tall stone walls with a decidedly Tuscan look and feel.

Watched over by leaf-laden trees, this is home to the most exotic of plants, a place where Nature’s chaos prevails in the most marvellous of ways, be it with the free form of plant growth, the broken, lopsided train of a of greenhouse, the slightly tumbledown suggestion of age and ruin, the delightful corner snug, or the myriad other attractions to be found here.

A L T I T U D E; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrA L T I T U D E

Such is the detail and design in the garden, it is easy to lose track of time camming around its enclosed space, seeking out all the little details, while several places to sit and relax offer further enticements to stay and enjoy the setting and watch the butterflies. Art is also to be found here, courtesy of Chirzaka Vlodovic and Mistero Hifeng, while opportunities for photography abound.

With great electrical pylons take a perpendicular march across the water in relation to the high music venue and the long gantry-like walkway that sits besides it, the entire regions sits beneath a forever twilight sky that frames both club and garden perfectly.

A L T I T U D E; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrA L T I T U D E

A sign close to the gantry landing point warns visitors that they are about to enter someone else’s dream. Given the overall design and layout of A L T I T U D E, it is a dream worth taking the time to visit and share in; beautifully conceived and presented.

A L T I T U D E; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrA L T I T U D E

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Touring Toshi Farms in Second Life

Toshi Farms; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrToshi Farms – click any image for full size

We originally visited Toshi Farms back in , when the region was in the depths of winter. However, at the time things were such that I didn’t get to write about it, so when Shawn Shakespeare suggested we should go see the region now spring has arrived, it was added to the list of places we should see “soon”.

Design by Syx Toshi and his SL partner Bryn Toshi (Bryn Bulloch), Toshi Farms is a homestead region designed as something of a public park, linked at it now is to its neighbour, Peace, lying to the north.  Whist “farm” might feature in the title, the design of the region is intended to be that of a nature reserve.

Toshi Farms; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrToshi Farms

Bryn and I have tried to create a natural country setting that you would experience in RL. A Farm and Wildlife refuge where you might catch a glimpe of any of over 50 different animals.

– Syx Toshi, describing Toshi Farms

Caught in spring colours, both regions present an engaging and photogenic opportunity for exploration – although beware that at least a part of Peace a private home to Syx and Bryn.

Toshi Farms; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrToshi Farms

Dry dirt tracks wind through both regions, offering clear routes of exploration, although there are paths to be found that depart from them, allowing  visitor to wander off the tracks. However, given that both regions are undergoing construction / update, be aware things might get shuffled about (the Toshi’s home, for example, uprooted itself and moved from Toshi Farm to Peace between two of our visits! 🙂 ).

Follow the tracks, and you’ll find some of the wildlife Syx mentions – bears, raccoons, birds; while horses, cattle and goats occupy the fields in both regions. Also to be found along the paths are places to sit and relax – benches, blankets on the grass, swings; while water tumbles through streams and hill mountains cast a protective wall around the setting.

Toshi Farms; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrToshi Farms

Close to the bridge linking Toshi Farm to Peace sits a summer-house (or it did on my last visit! – As noted things are still being changed 🙂 ). Within it, a fire burns warm in the hearth and comfortable sofas await visitors, banks of flowers surrounding it on three sides. Climb the stairs to the little balcony above, and a blanket lies set with a picnic.  Walk down to the waterfront a short distance away, and a dock with kayaks gives the opportunity for those  who wish to take a trip out on the waters – say to the offshore diving platform.

One of the things that makes Toshi Farm attractive are the static characters that have been set out here and there. They bring a little life to the regions – although I’m not entirely sure all of the handymen working here and there are completely au fait with the tasks they have been given – although they do raise a smile on being seen.

Toshi Farms; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrToshi Farms

A charming pair of regions (assuming Peace remains a public space – it is still under construction at the time of writing) that are pleasing to the camera’s eye, Toshi Farms makes for a worthwhile visit – and this shouldn’t be missed, even if Peace doesn’t remain a public offering for visitors. And given things are in a state of flux, more than visit might be in order!

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An Authors Point in Second Life

Authors Point; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrAuthors Point – click any image for full size

Miro Collas suggested we pay a visit to Authors Point, a Homestead region designed by Xarl Bombastic (Xariell) and Weed Bombastic as both a region open to visitors and a residential offering. Rugged and rural, it offers a mixed landscape with some interesting quirks.

The island forms a table-like plateau, most of it raised well above the surrounding sea by cliffs, and split almost in two by a narrow gorge running from the south to the north-west to where it forms a pool. Part of the plateau top to the west sits a little higher than the rest, grass dried to gold by a summer’s sun, a flat head of hair for the rock, broken only by the occasional bent tree, knots of scrub hedge and a single, old warehouse building that listens the turning wheel of a wooden windmill and the gentle chimes of bottles strung from rope lines.

Authors Point; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrAuthors Point

Two sets of stone stairs lead down from here. The first drops to the lower step of the plateau, home to more grass and an old piano , sheet music upon its stand. The second, longer stairway drops down to where a grass glade sits just above the waters of the sea and cosseted by the protective arc of rocky cliffs. Here can be found one of several places scattered around the region where quit times can be enjoyed.

Across the watery chasm cutting into the island, itself spanned by an old bridge, the larger part of the plateau stands as another flat head of grassland, this rich green and dotted with tall trees. A track loops around it,, running from and to the bridge, roughly following the line of the cliff edge.

Authors Point; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrAuthors Point

On its way along the south-east cliffs, the track passes a second path, this one winding it way down the rock to coastal lowlands. Here sit five rental properties – so do be aware of people’s privacy should you follow the path downwards. A sixth rental unit faces them across the entrance of the gorge that cuts into the island. The fact the rental units are separated from the rest of the land by cliff and path means it is reasonably easy to avoid trespassing into people homes.

I say “reasonably”, because there is an exception: a tree house sits over the grassy table of rock, close to several point of public use. As such, it is easy to miss the fact is also a rental unit. However, stray too close and you will be curtly warned that it is by a security orb allowing you five seconds to move away. It’s an abrupt discovery that can be off-putting given the nearby carousel and other locations to sit scattered across the island’s top.

Authors Point; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrAuthors Point

This is also a place of change – although how frequently this might be is hard to tell: on our first visit, we found a small Alice In Wonderland-esque tea party setting, complete with a hare (although not the March Hare) accompanied by a chipmunk standing-in for the dormouse. On my return 24 hours later to take photos, the tea party had been replaced by a collection of books, some of them suspended in the air under the spreading branches of a tree.

More stone steps descend down a cutting to the north, offering the way to a cinder beach and another cosy hideaways for couples or those wanting to be alone. Follow the beach westwards around a headland and you’ll come upon  another of the region’s secrets, again hidden from the land above by the curving arms of cliffs.

Authors Point; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrAuthors Point

Two more houses sit on the northern side of the island. The first, mounted on stout wooden legs that presumably protect it from high tides that might otherwise sweep over the low-lying headland, does not appear to be a rental – but perhaps caution should be employed when exploring it, just in case. The second sits offshore, and appears to be a private home for Xarl and Weed.

Aside from the risk of bumping into the slightly abrupt security orb as a result of mistaking the tree house as a part of the public space, Authors Point is a pleasant, photogenic visit that may well stir the urge to write. Photographs are welcome at the region’s Flickr stream for those so minded.

Authors Point; Inara Pey, March 2019, on FlickrAuthors Point

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