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.
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.
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.
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.