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.

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  • Sapiens (LEA 29, rated: Moderate)

Steampunk Moods in Second Life

Steampunk Modes: Gem Preiz

Now open at Galerie des Machines, Paris Couture and curated by Olympe (OLYMPES Rhode), is Steampunk Moods, a celebration of steampunk and Victorian technology, with a touch of ecological commentary. The exhibition features art by Gem Preiz, Melusina Parkin, Haveit Neox and Bénédicte Petiet.

“Straddling the reincarnation of the past and a certain idea of ​​the future, Steampunk is primarily an aesthetic current of literary origin before developing on a multitude of other media,” Olympe states in the introduction to the exhibition. “A temporal paradox, it mixes centuries of fiction, Jules Verne, [Herbert] George Wells, popular culture, films, comics and other video games.” The art presented within the gallery’s halls reflects this in a most eclectic mix of 2D art spanning the virtual and the physical, and which mixes what might be termed “traditional” steampunk imagery with more familiar Victoriana and interpretations of the future.

Steampunk Modes: Melusina Parkin

The ground floor of the gallery features a selection of Gem Preiz’s stunning fractal art, and the first glimpse into the future. It’s well established that I’m a major admirer of Gem’s work, and the pieces selected for this exhibit reflect why. Gem’s fractal art is hugely evocative in painting visions of the future; they encompass everything from cosmology through issues of ecology and human development,  touching – richly so – on concepts of architecture,  design and culture.

Several of these factors are touched upon within the thirteen images presented here – but so to is a sense of mechanisation. Several of the pieces have the look and feel of great engines – or parts of engines; others seem to suggest great cogs and wheels. There are also other reflections of steampunk: hints of lenses, twists of grill work and plating that are almost decorative in look and feel – the finery that can so often be found in more delicate pieces from the era. Each image is uniquely beautiful and  – literally – multi-faceted, demonstrating Gem’s multi-panel approach to his art that allow him to offer marvellously high-resolution pieces of his original art.

Steampunk Moods: Haveit Neox

On the floor above Gem’s exhibit is an extensive display of in-world photography by Melusina Parkin, featuring steampunk elements found throughout Second Life, both large and small and presented in a suitably metal-walled environment. Many of the images present objects and scenes in Melu’s familiar close-up style, focusing our attention on specifics, rather than a broader scene, while still conveying an entire story to a piece. Several of them present familiar steampunk themes – powered airships: both dirigible and boat-hulled. Propellers also feature, while there are hints of Verne and Wells to be found.The models of Battersea Power Station, dating from the 1930s, might seem a little incongruous. But given it is an iconic emblem to industrial power, it is somehow fitting.

Passing through the display of Melusina’s art brings visitors to a second hall, where Haveit Neox’s contribution can be found. This takes the form of an iteration of his installation, The Miniature Goal, first seen in 2014.  Within it, Haveit asks, “What if our physical world shrunk in proportion to the resources we drain from it?” As I wrote back in 2014, this is a fascinating piece; here it perhaps offers a slightly different look at steampunk. The technology of the latter is somewhat based on the consumption of fossil fuels and other natural resources, consideration of the consequences are perhaps not so at odds with the core theme.

Steampunk Modes: Bénédicte Petiet

Above the floor featuring the physical world art of   Bénédicte Petiet. Again, the canvas here is broader than what might be regarded as “traditional” steampunk. Like Melu, Bénédicte presents the most of his images in close-up: machines, wheels, pistons, gears, relays … all are presented here. So to are what might be considered elements from outside the realm of steampunk itself: cars from the recent past, and even street scenes. With the exception of the latter – which appear to be a mini-exhibit in their own right – the rest of the images suggest something almost “retro-futuristic”: the past we can recognise presented through a digital medium of their future.

All told, a multi-faceted exhibition, well worth exploring.

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Five Years of Fractals in Second Life

Five Years of Fractals – Gem Preiz

Now open at the R&D Art Gallery complex is Five Years of Fractals, celebrating five years of Gem Preiz’s remarkable fractal art in Second Life.  Split over two floors of the exhibition space, the displayed art is divided between retrospectives of Gem’s past installations at the Linden Endowment for the Arts, and his exhibitions and installations displayed elsewhere in Second Life.

Normally displayed in a very large format, Gem’s work is always a masterpiece of fractal design and storytelling on a grand scale. As such, what is seen within Five Years is but the tip of the iceberg – a soupçon if you will – that should remind those familiar with Gem’s work with the power and majesty of his art and hopefully serve to whet the appetite of those new to his work such that they will want to see more.

Five Years of Fractals – Gem Preiz

I certainly fall into the former of these two groups. I’ve long been an admirer of Gem’s art and his virtuosity in both setting a mood and telling a story for almost as long as he has been exhibiting in Second Life, and a number of my personal favourites out of his installations are presented here, both directly and indirectly. The ground level section of the exhibition space presents a retrospective of, for want of a better category name, Gem’s “non-LEA” work. Some of this is presented through individual images, other is animated frames which page through scenes from those exhibitions. On this level we can again experience Polychronies, Rhapsody in Blue FractalsMythsTemples, Metropolis – complete with silhouettes of the figures which formed a part of it painted on the walls behind the images – and more.

As well as the art itself, there are books of his work visitors can peruse and also links to videos of some of this exhibitions – which I unhesitatingly recommend watching, bringing together as they do not only the art as it could be seen in situ whilst on display, but which also marry the images to the music Gem has offered with each installation, thus, through the videos as well as this exhibition, we can re-immerse ourselves in his art or gain greater familiarity with it and understand the inter-weaving of images and music.

Five Years of Fractals – Gem Preiz

Reached via teleport discs, the lower level of the exhibition space focuses on Gem’s LEA exhibitions, as noted. Among the pieces displayed, we can once again experience the visions of his Cathedral Dreamer, journey through his trilogy of stories, Vestiges and Wrecks, which formed his Heritage pairing, and No Frontiers, the unofficial sequel to Heritage, while images from the likes of The Anthropic Principle and No Frontiers cover sections of the walls behind some of the images. As with the upper level of the gallery, objects offer links to videos of some of the installations, while spaced around the gallery area are props and elements from others – such as the air car and the shuttle which Gem his used in his installations, allowing visitors to fly through them.

Fractal art is not uncommon in Second Life, but there is something very unique in Gem’s work. Perhaps it is the way in which it reflects both his interests – cosmology, nature, geology – and blends them with his background education in science and mathematics to present stunning visions of nature and future (or even ancient) scenes which are evocative, and both beautifully geometric and wonderfully fluid. Perhaps it is because, in composing his pieces, he presents not just individual pieces of art, but entire stories  we can explore and witness.

Five Years of Fractals – Gem Preiz

Whatever the reason, I very much welcome this opportunity to revisit – at least in part – many of his past extraordinary installations – and in doing so, to look forward to his next.

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