Gem Preiz: Exoplanet II: On The Way Back in Second Life

Gem Preiz Exoplanet 2: On The Way Back

In February 2022, Gem Preiz opened Exoplanet: Once Step Further; the first chapter in a two-part series that combines a science-fiction story with his fractal art to offer a vision of humanity’s innate desire to explore, discover, learn about and understand the cosmos around us (see: Gem Preiz: Exoplanet – One Step Further in Second Life). Now, with its formal opening on Wednesday, June 1st, 2022 comes the second chapter of the series, once again hosted by Akiko Kinoshi (Akiko Kiyori) within her “Akipelago” art hub of regions.

In the first chapter (which remains open to visitors) we are invited to a crew of astronaut-scientists engaged on the deep-space exploration of planets beyond our own solar system – referred to as exoplanets in the science community – and to consider the remains of civilisations the crew have discovered, as represented by Gem’s fractal images displayed within the base the crew have established. Now, with Exolpanet 2: On The Way Back, we find the crew aboard a space station (or perhaps, for reasons I’ll come to, a ship-come-station) about to make the return to Earth.

Gem Preiz Exoplanet 2: On The Way Back
Astronomy is a science that makes you dream. The observation of distant objects transports us in space and time, and leads us to ponder the origin of the universe and the possibilities of hosting extra-terrestrial life there. The discovery of exoplanets in 1995 opened up a new field of exploration which could undergo even more spectacular development thanks to the new James Webb telescope. The enthusiasm for their discovery was nourished by science fiction stories, now legitimized by the proof of the existence of these worlds.

– Gem Preiz

As with the first chapter, Exoplanet 2 is both art installation and immersive environment intended to nudge visitors into thinking about life and and interstellar exploration. The station (/ ship) itself is built on a vast scale, with multiple levels to explore, both within the vertical central core (housing the essential systems and services – control, power, life support (including a hibernaculum), medical and essential crew facilities), surrounded by two concentric rings of additional facilities, including labs, crew sleeping quarters, access to docking facilities and small ship hangers, escape pods, etc. Through all of this are points of interaction (look for the hand icons), whilst floor-and-wall mounted teleport disks and buttons provide fast transit between different points of the station.

The art comes in three primary forms to be found throughout the station. The first is a series of eight framed fractal images depicting the worlds the crew has visited; the second, eight sketch-like images of locations within Second Life, serving to remind the crew of their beauty of their home world – and us of the fact they we are all bound to a single, beautiful but wholly fragile planet.

Gem Preiz Exoplanet 2: On The Way Back

The third art element sits within the Entertainment section of the station. Here can be found two large media screens which can display videos of some of Gem’s past installations. These include a video of Wrecks, itself part of a  two-element exhibition of Gem’s art from 2016 (called Heritage) and which also formed an evocative foray into the realm explored through Exoplanet (see: Of Heritage and Wrecks in Second Life).

A fourth artistic element might be said to exist outside of the station, where Gem has used a series of EEP settings to provide a changing backdrop of astronomical images. These include distant galaxies, stars, imagined worlds and moons a lot closer to home, and can be viewed either by camming out or by one of the little personal flyers found in one of the station’s hangers and taking a trip outside. Just be sure you are using the installation’s EEP settings (make sure World → Environment → Use Shared Environment is checked).

Not only do these EEP settings offer an additional layer of art, they also suggest the station is “jumping” its way through the cosmos to bring the crew back to Earth.

Gem Preiz Exoplanet 2: On The Way Back

Exoplanet 2 is also linked directly with Exoplanet: One Step Further via the teleport HUD, which can be obtained at the main landing point (and which provides direct access to the major points of interest in both installations), or by finding your way to the shuttle about to launch from the station, and which contains a teleport to Exoplanet.

A detailed introductory card is available to visitors on arrival, which both provides an overview of the installation and explains some of Gem’s thinking behind it. The card makes for a recommended read, and Exoplanet 2: On The Way Back makes for a rich, engaging visit.

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Reflections on Steel and Marble in Second Life

Artcare Gallery: Gem Preiz – Storm of Steel; On Marble Cliffs

Ernst Jünger (29th March 1895 – 17th February 1998), is a complex figure from Germany’s history in the 20th Century. Born to an affluent family, he rejected his background, serving briefly the French Foreign Legion before serving in the German army throughout the First World War, seeing action in several battles and hard-fought skirmishes on the Western front, being wounded seven times – including to both the head and to the chest (the latter piercing a lung). During the Second World War, he again served in the German Army, where he was both an inspiration for, and had some involvement with, the German anti-Nazi movement (in fact, in 1943 he penned a proposal for peace with the allies which included the removal of Hitler from power and he was involved at the fringes of the 1944 Stauffenberg bomb plot to kill Hitler.

He is perhaps most well known for penning two works: In Stahlgewittern (literally “In Steel Weather” but given the English title Storm of Steel), published in 1920 which brought together his personal experiences of the Great War as recorded in the diaries he kept from 1914-1918; and Auf den Marmorklippen (“On Marble Cliffs”), published in 1939 and most readily seen as a parable against national socialism, written at a time when Jünger had rejected overtures from the Nazi Party on numerous occasions on account of his personal rejection of the German democratic movement and spoken out against liberalism as a whole.

Artcare Gallery: Gem Preiz – Storm of Steel; On Marble Cliffs

Whilst Auf den Marmorklippen and In Stahlgewittern might be interpreted in several ways, the latter has come to be seen as an anti-war treatise and the former a warning against the rise of authoritarianism in any hue. In this, and given the way we appear to be re-treating elements of history experienced a century ago, both books perhaps have particular relevance today.

For Gem Preiz they offer metaphors for the stark choice humanity is facing: to allow ourselves to be ruined through the prettiness of nationalistic politics or to strive harder ad reach our fullest potential. He does this through a new exhibition of his fractal art in which he combines the titles of Jünger’s works, and which can be see at Carelyna’s ArtCare Gallery, itself in a new location.

Artcare Gallery: Gem Preiz – Storm of Steel; On Marble Cliffs

Storm of Steel; On Marble Cliffs offer three rooms of Gem’s art. Within a central hall that forms the landing point, are six images mounted on marble walls that show the potential: gleaming cities that stand (or float) as havens of humanity. Bracketing this on either side are two further halls. In one, this theme to a gleaming future expressed through architectural marvels is continued – although at its centre is a reminder of the dangers inherent in our make-up that may still try to tear down all that we have – and might – achieve: black arms and hands that rise from the floor or drop from the ceiling, reaching out, fingers bent as if to grasp and tear and break whatever they find.

Within the other hall, we see the outcome in allowing the pettiness to prevail is revealed in the form of broken and smashed buildings, sitting with atmospheres heavy with smoke (or pollution) and in places lit by what appears to be fire or burning fires.

Artcare Gallery: Gem Preiz – Storm of Steel; On Marble Cliffs

It might be easy to reconcile Storm of Steel; On Marble Cliffs just as a commentary on the situation in Ukraine; but as he notes – and I hope I’ve indicated here – he net is cast far wider. As such, the exhibition should be seen and appreciated free from preconceptions of our current political climate, just as Jünger’s works were both rooted in their political times but have meaning that reaches well beyond those times.

Do take note of the music suggestions included in the exhibition’s note card, available at the landing point, use the links to play the pieces via You Tube, if so minded.


Gem Preiz: Exoplanet – One Step Further in Second Life

Gem Preiz: Exoplanet: A Step Further, February 2022

Wednesday February 22nd, 2022 saw the opening of the first half of a 2-phase art installation by Gem Preiz. Presented under the over-arching title Exoplanet, the installation carries the sub-title One Step Further, and is located on a sky platform within the region of Akikaze, held and curated by Akiko Kinoshi (Akiko Kiyori) as a part of her “Akipelago” group of regions.

This is another exhibition by Gem that combines a prim-base build with his always fascinating fractal images; as such it follows in the tradition of past installation such as Arcadia, Skyscrapers, Elusive Reality, Sapiens, and The Anthropic Principle, allowing the visitor to consider an architectural theme and / or enter an immersive environment in which his fractal art offers an extension to the environment. At the same time, it is also something of a harkening back to installations such as No Frontiers, his two-part series Heritage: Vestiges and Heritage: Wrecks and Rhapsody in Blue Fractals, in which the fractal images are the nucleus of a tale – a journey, if you will, of the imagination to futures and places within the cosmos that await our discovery.

Gem Preiz: Exoplanet: A Step Further, February 2022

In terms of the the build, this takes the form of a human outpost on another world. Where this may be is anyone’s guess; the environment outside suggests Mars, but that belies the main title for the exhibition – Exoplanet – so I prefer to think of it as somewhere beyond our solar system. It’s a curious place, sitting within a geodesic dome (which for me carried echoes of a much smaller dome sitting within Gem’s Skyscrapers city), powered by solar arrays which sit alongside a communications array beyond its curving walls.

In all, 14 different locations can be explored within the dome, either on foot or via the teleport HUD that is offered to visitors on arrival (and which contains a 15th destination – a point just outside one of the dome’s access points). These range from a control centres through to crew habitation units, although not all of the buildings are necessarily accessible. Within the base are also a number of vehicles: shuttles, hover cars and tracked rovers, which can be sat upon and driven, adding a dimension of fun, while the base is staffed by static NPCs that have a slight Star Trek edge to their uniforms.

Gem Preiz: Exoplanet: A Step Further, February 2022

A point to note here is that  the base isn’t supposed to be in any way “accurate” in its representation of a stellar outpost, as Gem explains in the installation’s introductory notes:

Exoplanet does not intend to look realistic or even consistent from a scientific point of view. Rather, it aims to create an immersive 3D environment which evokes space exploration. It deliberately uses, as with all my builds, prims with their SL attributes (bumpiness, shininess, alpha etc.), and does not rely on meshes or textures to reproduce reality — except for crew avatars.

– Gem Preiz

Gem Preiz: Exoplanet: A Step Further, February 2022

Turning to the art, a total of 18 pieces are offered within the installation and can be seen in one of two ways: via a large screen that hangs to one side of the dome, the 18 images displayed on it as a slide show, or by visiting the needle-like Tower that faces the screen from across the dome, where the images are displayed across several floors connected one to the next by wall-mounted teleports (note also that this tower also incorporates the Observation and Headquarters destinations on the teleport HUD).

While they may not necessarily all be new, these are pieces that all tell a story that is literally cosmic in its theme, carrying us to strange, new worlds orbited by vast space station-like structures, or upon which a civilisations has created massive cities and structures, and out into deep space where more structures are huddled – but whether they under construction or damaged and broken by events unknown and their age or finished articles built to some strange design ethos, is left entirely to our imaginations.

Gem Preiz: Exoplanet: A Step Further, February 2022

With the facilities under the dome suggesting a human base sitting beyond our solar system but still on the very edge of the rest of the galaxy, the images present suggestions of both humanity’s journey to reach this point in history (BZ Fractal SF9, BZ Fractal SF18, BZ Fractal SF1 and BZ Fractal SF13), and of the far older alien civilisation whose remnants have both drawn humans to the remote location in the inky blackness of space, and which even now is the reason the people of this base are preparing to venture still further from their homeworld.

There is another aspect here as well, as again noted by Gem in his introductory notes:

The purpose of the combined mixture of fractals and 3D interactive build, is to make them resonate : the space base offers an immersive 3D experience, even if it is in a simplistic environment, while the fractal images show a complexity impossible to reproduce in 3D. 

– Gem Preiz

Gem Preiz: Exoplanet: A Step Further, February 2022

All of which makes for an engaging exploration. When visiting Exoplanet: One Step Further, be sure to not the recommended environment setting displayed at the landing point. And for those interested, Gem has produced another of his soundtrack videos on You Tube, which offers a mixes of pieces that contain within them echoes, perhaps of M83 and Hans Zimmer.

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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.

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  • 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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