The Borderless Project: immersive explorations in Second Life

The Borderless Project: Delain Canucci

Currently open within the region of Akimitsu, held and curated by Akiko Kinoshi (Akiko Kiyori) and forming a part of her “Akipelago” group of regions, is The Borderless Project, a multi-element, immersive exhibition that brings together a number Second Life artists known for their work in 3D spaces, and / or in using light, sound and immersion to create engaging and interactive spaces.

In the simplest terms, the Borderless Project is inspired by the work of Japan’s TeamLab, originally founded in 2001 by Toshiyuki Inoko, and which in 2021 marks its 20th anniversary with an immersive installation in Tokyo entitled Borderless, billed as “a world of artworks without boundaries, a museum without a map”, and which is the latest in their globe-spanning immersive experiences.

The Borderless Project: Betty Tureaud

As with TeamLab, the Borderless Project team – Betty Tureaud, Delain Canucci, Gem Preiz, Thoth Jantzen, Mitsuko Kytori, Blaise Timtam and Akiko herself – have created an installation that stands as a “gallery without a map” so to speak, through which visitors can wander and explore. Each artist has at least one space, each with at least one installation within it, the majority providing multiple elements within them.

The “gallery without a map” element comes from the fact that the various installation spaces  – located at different altitudes – are all linked by a teleport portals (touch or walk through to activate), which also link to the ground-level location I’m using here as a landing point. However, none of the portals are labelled in terms of artist or destination; therefore there is no implied hierarchy or order to the installations in terms of which should be seen “first”, etc., – visitors have utterly free choice.

The Borderless Project: Gem Preiz, tribute to TeamLab

What is key to spending time at the Borderless Project, is that you have your viewer correctly configured.

Of the recommendations given it is crucial you have Advanced Lighting Model enabled, (Preferences → Graphics → make sure Advanced Lighting Model is checked – there is no need to also enable Shadows), together with media (the button with the movie camera on it, top right of the viewer window) turned on – and note that there are times where you will need to toggle this off / on again in order to pick-up the sounds within individual elements (keep an eye out for the in-world text requests to toggle). Less important is having draw distance set to the recommended 250m+; given the size of the individual installations and the distance at which you’re seeing things, this is frankly overkill.

The Borderless Project: the gardens by Akiko

The “primary” installations are by Betty, Delain, Gem, and Thoth, with Gem and Delain offering the largest by area / content, including two “secondary” displays apiece (Gem proving a hat-tip to TeamLab via two reproductions of elements from their Borderless installation, and Delain a separate “dino cave” that comes with places to sit). The garden spaces by Akiko, Blaise and Miyduko also offer places to sit and relax, and opportunities to play with EEP and more.

Each of the installations is richly diverse in terms of elements, colours and sounds (both local and via media – remember to toggle this off / on as directed), with some of the artists including interactive elements that can be walked into / over or pushed around. In respect of the local sounds, it’s important you avoid running / flying, as the scripted object can take a second or so to fire-up and call the sounds to be played in the viewer, so if you run you could easily miss hearing them – and if you fly, you won’t hear them at all!

The Borderless Project: in one of Delain’s smaller vignettes

I’m not going into great lengths about the individual installations here, as frankly, they should be experienced first-hand, and people should approach them unburdened by my own perceptions and ideas. I will say that when visited the large cubist environment Betty Tureaud has created, make sure you follow the big white arrival at the arrival point and grab + wear the teleport HUD – you might have problems finding your way inside the cubes if you don’t! Also, keep an eye out for the poses within Delain’s vignette settings – they offer multiple choices for photography.

I admit to having a couple of niggles during my visit – notably as a result of the local environment settings within Delain’s main setting, where I found it so dark I walked back through a teleport disk when trying to leave the landing point (and no, I didn’t have Shadows enabled alongside of ALM). More particularly, the low light makes it hard / impossible to read in-world guidance notes in places. As such, it might be better to either make them Full Bright (if they are not) or to add a couple of point lights to illuminate them to make them more obvious.

But niggles aside, there is no denying the depth of content to be found within the Borderless Project, and I enjoyed the several hours I spent exploring, trying and poking (including playing god and shoving the solar system around!).

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Gem Preiz: an architectural whimsy in Second Life

Gem Preiz: Arcadia

Gem Preiz is a master of fractal art, as I’ve oft commented on in these pages. His work is always fascinating, encompassing as it does many interlinked themes and ideas – time, space, the future, the past, the rise and fall of civilisations and more, much of which is framed in terms of fractal images with a distinct architectural heritage. And while fractals are not part of his newest installation, architecture is very much its beating heart, fleshed with the use of physical space and a rich layering of time.

Arcadia presents a marvellous architectural fantasy – to use Gem’s words, what he refers to as a capriccio, a whimsy – although this actually does the installation no justice.

To encapsulate Arcadia as simply as possible might be to describe it as a neo-classical city, rich in Greco-Roman influence through the use of Renaissance Palladian architectural styles, whilst obelisks and some of the more tiered rectangular structures offer a hint of ancient Egypt within their forms.

Gem Preiz: Arcadia

This is a place of perfectly conceived design, where buildings, their shapes, placement and immediate surrounds have clearly been given special consideration such that while there is no deliberate mirroring of structural symmetry (e.g a Coliseum-like amphitheatre in one corner mirrored by a round building in an opposite corner) there is nevertheless a sense of symmetry in the way a line can be drawn through the city from the southern gates to the doors of the northern temple. passing through the arches of triumphal gates to cut this city neatly in two, or the east-west line that splits the city between low-lying precincts and raised palaces and temples (although this admittedly cuts through one of the raised elements).

This planned layout speaks to the ideal of cities being of a more harmonious design than we see today; places where architecture is considered to be both an art form and a reflection of a civilisation’s relationship with the natural world (as well as the familiar projection of power). Within his notes, Gem refers to Arcadia as a utopia in the form of a haven of peace and grandeur, protected from the rest of the world, to which I would add that were the concept of Elysium to ever be embodied in architectural form, that somewhere like Arcadia is very much how I would imagine it.

Gem Preiz: Arcadia

Somewhat extending from his Skycrapers installation, Acadia allows Gem to present an ideal, one that brings together past a future in a design of the present. By this I mean that while the overall look to the individual structures lie within classical architectural forms, the presentation of the installation – the lighting (I strongly recommend using the suggested TOR NIGHT Under a Yellow Moon windlight (or EEP setting) if you have it available / have imported it as an EEP setting) and use of orange glow give the installation a futuristic / otherworldly look.

Most of all, however, Arcadia is a marvellous celebration of architecture and geometry,  both in terms of the entirely layout of the city, the individual styles of structure and building, the layout of courtyards, quads and terraces – even the very grassy elevations to the north side of the city – and the placement of trees and fountains, all form a part of the whole.

Two painting by Thomas Cole, one of the artists celebrated within Arcadia

This celebration of architecture and reflection on great civilisations that spawned it can also be found within a number of the central buildings. Signified by glowing orange doors, these contain reproductions of works by some of the great masters who so often celebrated the beauty of architecture. They are: Giovanni Canal (Canaletto), Hubert Robert, Giovanni Panini (himself also an architect), and two  of my personal favourites, the first being French neo-classical architect and visionary Étienne-Louis Boullée (whose proposed cenotaph for Sir Issac Newton was sadly never built, but does form one of a number of visualisation within Sansar created by John Fillwalk from the Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts at Ball State university), and Thomas Cole’s quintet of paintings known under the common title of The Course of Empire, charting the rise and fall of an imaginary city.

This latter collection could also be said to be the spiritual forebear of Arcadia (although the influence of the other artists can also be witnessed throughout the installation), with the exception that while Cole’s city eventually collapsed in destruction, Arcadia is perhaps eternal.

Gem Preiz: Arcadia

When visiting the instillation, due ensure you following the local instructions for the greatest visual benefit (although I would suggest a draw distance of 300 metres should more than suffice for most visitors), and keep an eye out for the balloon ride close to the landing point and the horse and carriage ride within the city (where the balloon ride will drop passengers).

Arcadia officially opens at 13:00 SLT on Friday, October 23rd with a particle show in a special arena above the installation, followed by an opening party within the installation itself.

SLurl Details

  • Arcadia (Akimitsu, rated Moderate)

Journeying through mineral fractals in Second Life

Gem Preiz: Journey to the Centre of the Fractal Earth

Gem Preiz, the master of the fractal image, is once again back with a new exhibition of pieces that opened on July 7th.

For those familiar with his work, Journey to the Centre of a Fractal Earth sees him return to familiar territory after his trip into the world of scale city design with Skyscrapers (see: Gem’s Skyscrapers in Second Life) as he presents some 16 fractal images linked by the theme of mineralogy, whilst also touching on some broader themes common to his art.

The core of the exhibit is an exploration of mineral formations, carried out through a hypothetical journey to the centre of the Earth, that we might see them in their natural environs.

Gem Preiz: Journey to the Centre of the Fractal Earth

Our Universe, whose laws of thermodynamics teach us that its disorder is constantly increasing, nevertheless conceals in some places such extreme conditions that matter is organised in a perfectly ordered way. At the scale of our vision, the optimal arrangement of the atoms produces crystals with flawless geometry and colours entirely determined by the composition and structure of the mineral.

There are a few hundred mineral species on Earth (a few thousand if we include those that the microscope only can reveal), born of the fantastic pressures suffered by the rock in the Earth’s crust, the sudden cooling of volcanic material, or the accumulation of sediments crushed by their own weight. While tectonic movements and volcanoes lava have brought to Man many of these natural treasures (quartz, gypsum, sulphur, obsidian …), many of them were discovered in the depths of the planet only through industrial research or scientific exploration. 

– Gem Preiz, introducing Journey to the Centre of a Fractal Earth

Gem Preiz: Journey to the Centre of the Fractal Earth

This journey is carried out through the visit of sixteen large rooms, one after the previous, topped and tailed by tunnel-like walks from and to the “surface”. Within each room is displayed one of Gem’s marvellous, multi-panel, high-resolution fractal images generated in the form of a mineral, or rock laced with mineral striate. In an of themselves, they are stunning pieces, their form echoed in the walls and floors of each room, which may also utilise particle effects  an Delain Canucci.

Whilst intended to be representative of mineral deposits ” at the bottom of the most obscure caves and in the most secret veins,” some of these pieces equally have an other-worldly feel to them that brings to mind objects that might be found in deep space. for example, a gold-and-grey comet that catches the light of a star, the outgassing of volatiles forming a bright halo around it. Others suggest not so much crystalline minerals lying deep underground, but fabulous coral formations sitting on the deep ocean floor. Thus, Journey weaves into itself, intentionally or otherwise, those mentioned broader themes that captivate Gem’s thinking, and so often influence his art.

Gem Preiz: Journey to the Centre of the Fractal Earth

My only slight reservation is with Journey’s general presentation. On the one hand, I could see how travelling through the rooms is intended to reflects on the idea of the great depths and pressures at which minerals can be found / are formed (and of course gives a physical link to the title of Jules Verne’s famous novel used in the installation’s title). But on the other, in travelling through so many rooms of near identical presentation, I couldn’t help but wonder if an alternative, more compact means of delivery couldn’t achieve the same result?

That niggle aside however, for those drawn to fractal art Journey is well worth a visit simply because the framed images are genuinely captivating and elegantly beautiful.

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Gem’s Skyscrapers in Second Life

Gem Preiz: Skyscrapers

On April 19th, 2020, Gem Preiz, the master of the fractal image, opened a new installation in Second Life – one that is a little different to his past installations / exhibitions in that fractals are almost non-existent within it. Instead, with Skyscrapers, he presents an immersive installation that is drawn from one of his many passions: architecture.

In short, the installation presents a region-wide city – but with a difference. Everything in it is represented at 1/10th scale (based on a region’s size). Thus, rather than offering a location just 256m on a side, Gem presents a city that is 2.56 kilometres on a side, representative of a city covering 100 regions. It has been built to reflect the beauty of modern skyscrapers which have a unique impact on Gem, as he explains in the introductory note card:

skyscrapers [are] modern cathedrals which are, like those of the past, the synthesis of all the techniques of their time, dedicated to the collective aspirations of their builders. Incredible technological challenges, they are increasingly integrating the search for an aesthetic that reinforces their impact. They have to be beautiful, since they will be more and more numerous in order to limit the surface of land arable or reserved for ecosystems that will be needed for human housing.

Gem Preiz: Skyscrapers

It is also – as he also explains – an exercise in immersion. By using a set scale for this build, and by providing the means to move through it at an equivalent scale, Gem has created an environment that is richly encapsulating, the scale allowing you to travel through the streets and parks of a city some 2.56km on a side.

This is achieved through the use of an option to make your avatar “invisible” via an alpha layer (remove all mesh and other attachments) and then using one of the flying vehicles available at the landing point within the city itself (in turn reached via a teleport board from the main landing point). Three of these vehicles are “self drive”, so you can pilot them yourself, or you can take the red car on a guided tour of the city, its sectors and buildings.

Gem Preiz: Skyscrapers

While it is possible to walk and fly around the city as an avatar, I strongly recommend using the alpha layer (your avatar sans all mesh and attachments) and the vehicles. The latter are scripted to move at a speed consistent with the scale of the city, and by hiding your avatar, you gain the distinct impression of the city’s size. If you opt to go into the installation as you are, without using the alpha option, then I still suggest using the vehicles – but switch to Mouselook when doing so to gain a real sense of scale. Note also that a teleport HUD is available from the city landing point, and with will allow you to hop between specific points of interest.

Like a real city, Gem’s is split into various districts, each with its own buildings / architectural styles. Some sections are purely conceptual / entirely futuristic in style, others are more recognisable in style (such as the residential districts, the shopping district with its malls, etc.). Most of the buildings are ultra-modern in look, although some offer stylised designs that embrace the past. Surface and elevated roads cut their way between districts, as do the tubes of what might be taken as a mass transit system, which also separates the main park in the city from the surrounding districts, giving it room to breathe.

Gem Preiz: Skyscrapers

However, it is the buildings that are the most fascinating. Some are simple box and cylinder designs, others more sculpted  / futuristic in style. However, many owe their inspiration to skyscrapers from the physical world, and it is seeking these out among the towers and districts that can get someone thoroughly engrossed. Gem provides a list of the latter, but during my visit I spotted what appeared to be a number  – by happenstance or design – that also appeared to be drawn from physical world counterparts not listed in the note card. These included the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building in Hong Kong, the shape of which appears echoed through a number of blue buildings in the city, London’s Shard, and two graceful golden curves of buildings that put me in mind of the U.N. Building in New York, while a series of paired towers each linked by high-level walkways put me in mind of the Petronas Towers.

I mentioned above that Gem’s Fractal images are “almost” non-existent in this build. The qualifier comes because deep within the city is a large geodome, within which is a series of his fractal images, scaled down from their usual size, each one offering a view of futuristic architecture entirely in keeping with the installation’s theme.

Gem Preiz: Skyscrapers

An extraordinary and engaging installation, Skyscrapers is well worth visiting while it remains open.

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The elusiveness of reality in Second Life

Hannington Endowment for the Arts: Gem Preiz – Elusive Reality

Gem Preiz, the master of the fractal image, has opened a new themed exhibition at the Hannington Endowment for the Arts. One of the artists whose work I particularly admire (and who has therefore been reviewed frequently in this blog due to the richness of his art), Gem brings to Elusive Reality another mix of fractal images and thought-provoking context.

The core thrust of this exhibition might be summed up as “the more we as a race know, the less we understand.” Or as Gem notes in the introductory piece at the entrance to Elusive Reality:

Scientific discoveries of the 18th and 19th centuries have enabled us to apprehend more precisely … the secrets of reality.

With the recent discoveries about elementary particles, and the formulation of increasingly complex physical theories, the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries throw us back into doubt, without weakening the insatiable curiosity of researchers. Each discovery raises as many new questions as it solves enigmas, making the material [world] around us an increasingly elusive reality.

Hannington Endowment for the Arts: Gem Preiz – Elusive Reality

At one time, the atom (the existence of which was still a subject of dispute until the early 20th century), was thought to be the single elementary particle – it’s name literally meaning “unable to cut”. It was seen as the building block of matter, the foundation of all that there is. Yet, within a short span of decades, an entire family of elementary particles have been discovered “below” the level of the atom – such as elementary bosons and fundamental fermions (quarks, leptons, antiquarks, and antileptons). These have given rise to an entirely new model of physics – the Standard Model, as well as giving rise to quantum mechanics, whilst at the same time, offering a hint of things yet to be confirmed that lie beyond the Standard Model, such as supersymmetry and offer conjecture about yet-to-be confirmed elementary particles such as the graviton, which might completely revise our understanding of physics.

These theories, ideas, confirmations, questions and conjectures are represented in a series of Gem’s marvellous fractal images. They offer glimpses into a sub-atomic universe, where all of our constructs and monoliths become fragmented into seemingly random formations of shapes and colour. Within these pieces are swarms of objects – some ranging from the hexagonal to the octagonal to the decagonal and possibly beyond, others the spherical. They exist in globs and clouds and extrude themselves as strings or curl around in hints of familiar patterns  – DNA, RNA – without ever actually being so.

Hannington Endowment for the Arts: Gem Preiz – Elusive Reality

From a distance, they may look faintly sci-fi: swarms of asteroids or gaseous clouds floating in space, almost natural in form. Closer up, they become fragmented, breaking into the elemental pieces noted above. Thus, they reflect the changing face of physics – a face which from a distance looks cohesive and whole, but which becomes increasingly fragmented and chaotic as we plumb their depths, as Gem notes, whilst remaining bound together by rules we are just managing to conceive or grasp, even if their nature appears to remain foreign to our complete understanding.

For those familiar with Gem’s work, these pieces, with their almost organic look and textures (be sure to have ALM enabled when viewing this installation) may seem at odds with his more familiar “architectural” images of huge monoliths and giant other-worldly structures. In this the contrast helps serve the idea that we are looking deeper, beyond the organised formality of atoms and into the mystifying world of the sub-atomic. But there is also something of an echo here of Gem’s more natural fractal forms, which itself goes back to some of his earliest installations in SL, such as Cathedral Dreamer, which matched the organic with the more structured. And indeed, the Cathedral Dreamer himself might be located within this installation for those who look, head-in-hands, as if trying to reach his own understanding of the universe of the subatomic.

There is also – if I might suggest – something of a reflection of the current climate of concern present around the globe due to the novel conoravirus outbreak: it’s hard not to see some of the elements in these images as viral strings or clusters, offering a reminder that it is not just in the world of physics where our knowledge and understanding is being challenged…

Hannington Endowment for the Arts: Gem Preiz – Elusive Reality

Elusive Reality is an engaging, captivating installation that intentionally gets the grey matter between the ears working due to both its visual complexity and its underpinning tapestry of meanings and interpretations. Not to be missed.

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A journey into Sapiens in Second Life

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

Sapiens is the title of a new region-wide installation by fractal artist Gem Preiz, which has an official opening at 13:00 SLT on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018.

This is – quite literally – a huge installation. It starts at ground level, on a walkway where visitors can find information givers on the installation and how best to view it. Camming out from this will reveal a large floating cube shape, formed by a 3x3x3 matrix of smaller cubes, which is something of a motif for the installation:  can also be found at the end of the catwalk, where a smaller version acts as a teleport which will deliver visitors to the installation proper.

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

The build takes the form of a giant “labyrinth” very industrial in looks (something heightened by the stream venting at various points throughout). More raised catwalks form a grid around huge towers rising from the floor, catwalks and towers alike enclosed by massive walls. The walkways are further enclosed under high ceilings. At various points around this grid of catwalks – such as where they intersect with one another or in the corners of the grid – are platforms, some of which  have square holes at their centres. Above these rise huge shafts, further platforms visible at their tops, and from which square sections may periodically descend to fill the open spaces in a platform below, becoming elevators visitors can stand on top be carried between the levels of this vast complex.

Throughout each level – all of which have a slightly oppressive feel about them due to the repeated fractal designs of floors, walls and ceilings which imparts a feeling of unending sameness – Gem has variously put pieces of his fractal art, forty in all. These are intended to represent four themes: technology, mazes, darkness and confinement. Some many only appear once, others may be repeated; all are meticulous in their design and presentation and are visually captivating. They are not images one sees as one is drawn into them. Most reflect the environment in which they are set: enclosed and confined, limited; other suggest broader horizons and the promise of places we might yet discover.

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

There is more here to be seen than may be at first apparent. For a start, depending on which elevators you use, you may find the build seems to have 3 levels – but if you use others, you’ll find it actually has four (I’ll let you decide which lead where…). Also, triangular windows in the corners of the central towers hint at a world beyond the confines of the tunnels and catwalks. This can be seen by flycamming through the walls or by – on two of the levels of the build at least – finding the door marked EXIT, which can be opened with a touch (but do not step through without flying!).

Beyond the doors the labyrinthine effect of the installation is greatly enhanced: great shafts and tunnels seeming to run outward to infinity, standing like great tower blocks interlinked by giant enclosed bridges and walkways, all stretching off into the distance, spherical shuttles scooting along them or rising and descending through them. It’s a giddying display, particularly if you just cam out over the lip of the doorways and cam up / down and around.

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

So what is to be made of all this? Gem offers an explanation in the notes accompanying the installation, which might be summarised as an expression of growth, of overcoming limitations and the shadows of primal (and other fears) we individually and as a race have and do confront. Just as this is a maze of walkways and elevators, so to is the human mind a maze of thought processes which run this way and that, sometimes intersecting, sometimes looping back on themselves, sometimes offering glimpses of what might be. And some lift us a step at a time towards greater understanding, greater abilities, even as we are shadowed by fears (these in the form of the black hands stretching out towards / over some of the catwalks); until finally, we’re ready to break free of the shadows and fears and achieve.

This latter point is beautifully presented on the upper level of the installation’s catwalks, where a golden figure sits, cowering beneath the outstretched hand of primal and other fears – but which offers the way for us to become human, to become reasoned thinkers and creators – as indicated in the final scene of this installation (which also contains for catalogues of the fractal images used within / which inspired the build a teleport cube for returning to the landing point).

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

Complex and challenging, Sapiens offers a commentary on human growth and understanding. It is a theme, Gem informs me, which will be expanded upon in a second build Demiurge, which should open in late February / March time. I’m already curious to see if it will embrace either the Platonic of the Gnostic views of the word – or perhaps combine them both.

Note: fellow blogger Diomita Maurer offers her thoughts on Sapiens, and kindly makes mention of me.

SLurl Details

  • Sapiens (LEA 29, rated: Moderate)