Eta’s little boxes in Second Life

Hannington Endowment for the Arts: Little Boxes

Etamae opened her first 3D art installation on August 15th, 2020, with Little Boxes at the Hannington Endowment for the Arts (HEA).

Little Boxes. A simple little song or a political satire about the creation of suburbia and associated conformist middle class attitudes and a reminder to us all how easy it is to lose one’s individuality to ‘fit in’.

– Etamae’s introduction to Little Boxes

Little Boxes was written in 1962 by Malvina Reynolds, an American folk/blues singer-songwriter and political activist and initially became a hit for Pete Seeger in 1963. It was written in response to Reynolds witnessing the birth of suburbia in California through the development of tract housing like that seen in Daly City, San Francisco.

It’s a song that can easily be listened to as a little bit of fun or as a genuine satirical warning against the loss of genuine individuality in the face of the marching drive of middle-class idealism, where everyone attends the same schools and universities, seeks the same class of careers, lives among peers with the same backgrounds and careers and wanting the same precisely the same education / career path for their children.

Hannington Endowment for the Arts: Little Boxes

All of this is perfectly reflected in Eta’s installation, presenting as it does five gaily-coloured little house boxes visitors are invited to enter, each one reflecting within it as specific element of the song’s lyrics (with more on the walls outside) that can be read or – with a click on them – listened to. This makes it something of a simple, light-hearted visit, or a piece to give us pause to reflect on the whole question of individually vs. conformity, which has become perhaps even more prevalent in the decades since the song was first recorded – and in far more than just middle-class suburbia.

Whether you opt to look at Eta’s little Boxes as a tongue-in-cheek installation, or an underscoring of Reyonold’s song, it’s worth hopping over to HEA and taking a look at it and the other installations on offer there. In the meantime here’s the song.

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Picturing the lighthouses of Second Life

HEA: A Tribute to Lighthouses

If there is one thing region designers / owners tend to love in Second Life, it is lighthouses. Over the years, I’ve visited and written about hundreds of region designs around the grid, and one of the most common elements to be found across them is the humble (or grand, or steampunkish or fallen or … and so on!) lighthouse. And they reside not just on public regions either; they can oft pop-up on private region homes (so much so that a couple of estates around Blake Sea actually requested tenants stop using lighthouses as island décor!).

And to be fair, they can be an eye-catching sight – I admit to photographing more than a few in my travels and frequently use one of SL’s most famous lighthouses: that of Blake Sea – Crows Nest (itself modelled after Fastnet, off the southern coats of Ireland) as a backdrop for photos of boats and aircraft.

Give their extensive use, lighthouses present an interesting topic for a photographic exhibition – as witnessed by the Queen Bee Gallery July exhibition at Hannington Endowment for the Arts (HEA). A Tribute to Second Life Lighthouses features no fewer than 38 images of lighthouses from around Second Life, captured by Ferugina Luna.

HEA: A Tribute to Lighthouses

Offered in a range of styles: individual pieces, themed groups, lightly processed, untouched and significantly processed, triptych style, and do, on these are images that cover all of the various types of lighthouse to be found within Second Life – inland, coastal, tall, short, with accompanying keeper’s house, standing alone, guarding sea routes or looking out from beaches or cliffs…

To be sure, thirty-eight is a lot of images to take in. On the one hand, they reveal that when all is said and done, there is a little number of individual variants to be found within SL (excluding those that are custom-built). It means there is a certain amount of repetition to be found within the images – the aforementioned fallen lighthouse, for example. On the other, by having so many images to hand it is possible to see the many individual ways in which region owners and designers put them to use to make a statement about their land; while the same design may appear in multiple images, the manner in which each is used can be quite individual.

HEA: A Tribute to Lighthouses

There’s something else in this as well – seeing the same design from multiple angles can do much to “place” it in terms of the possible inspiration behind it. Thus, A Tribute to Second Life Lighthouses offers visitors a twofold treat: images of the subject matter from around SL, and an opportunity to consider where on Earth some of the inspirations for the building designs come from. For me, I found myself looking at photos from around the UK; others might well be put in mind of famous lighthouses from their part of the world. My one regret with this exhibit is the in-world locations where the pictures were taken isn’t evident.

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Sharing FionaFei’s dream in Second Life

Hannington Endowment for the Arts: FionaFei

FionaFei invited me to visit her new installation that opened on May 29th at the Hannington Endowment for the Arts (HEA). Entitled I Had a Dream, And You Were There, it is a reflection of thoughts and feelings that may come upon us unbidden, be it through dream or through finding an object or hearing a sound or seeing an image or event, that bring to mind someone now gone from our lives.

Set as a dream-like forest, the trees rendered in Fiona’s familiar ink wash black on white, that we’re invited to explore. Within it, the ground is white, as if mist is sliding through the trees, brushed ferns grouping around the base of trunks. Among these trees are park benches offering places to sit in contemplation.

On or near the benches are bright red objects: an alarm clock here, a scarf draped over a branch there, a hat hanging on the back of a bench, a flittering butterfly or two, and so on. All of them are precisely the kind of thing liable to trigger a sudden memory of someone once close to us. Touch them, and they will even offer a specific memory in local chat.

Hannington Endowment for the Arts: FionaFei

For those who have lost someone from their physical or virtual lives, I Had a Dream is liable to be an evocative visit. And by “lost”, I don’t necessarily mean the individual memory recalls has passed away; we lose people from our lives in a wide variety of ways: friendships form and end; closeness fades as physical distance grows; relationships naturally shift in desire, want and need, and so on. Even so, memories of their presence and former closeness can remain with us long after a parting of the ways have come and can – no matter how the parting came about – still come to the fore in the most unexpected ways.

It’s also important not to ascribe the installation to a specific loss on Fiona’s part. As she states in the introduction to the installation:

It is a creative manifestation of thinking about someone and wishing that they were here … The artwork is not about any specific person.

– FionaFei

Hannington Endowment for the Arts: FionaFei

Simply and artistically presented, I Had a Dream… is an installation that can unfold to reveal considerable emotional depth, echoing as it does, feelings that many, if not all of us, have felt in our adult lives.

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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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Hannington Endowment for the Arts (HEA) in Second Life

HEA, December 2019: Thoth Jantzen

The Hannington Endowment for the Arts (HEA) is a new, community-fostered arts centre and group that has been founded to “to unify The Arts and artists in SL by providing a central info location to find all participating art related events and locations .”

Established following the closure of the Linden Endowment for the Arts  – with which it has no official connection, being entirely resident supported and run, HEA has been made possible by long-time Second Life resident Hannington Xeltentat, for whom the centre and group have been named, and who directly sponsors HEA activities and art installations available at the HEA’s in-world gallery spaces, which are managed by Tansee and available on a grant basis for 1, 3 or 6 months at a time.

HEA, December 1029: Cica Ghost

For the inaugural HEA grant series, which opened on November 30th, 2019, the gallery spaces present installations by Cica Ghost, Thoth Jantzen, Lorin Tone (building structure by Elicio Ember) and Betty Tureaud. Set to join them soon are two further installations by Patrick Moya and Bryn Oh respectively, although at the time of our visit, the space for Bryn’s exhibit was “temporarily” home to The Garage Gallery of Happy Stuff, presented by Impossibleisnotfrench (aka Harry Cover).

It’s important to note that the gallery setting – and the exhibits – are best appreciated by having your viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) function enabled via Preferences → Graphics (you do not need to necessarily enable shadows, however), and having local sounds enabled. For Thoth Jantzen’s installation you should also be willing to accept the local parcel media.

All four of the “main” artists present at the time of our visit offer 3D installations that perfectly reflect their art. Cica offers Drawn Town Small, a charming miniature of her February 2019 installation Drawn Town (which you can read about here). Like the larger version, this one comes with sit points and animations for people to discover, while Betty presents a nicely layered piece with Art of the Game that reflects her traditional use of colour as expression.

HEA, December 2019: Betty Tureaud

For TJ’s Mess, Thoth Jantzen presents a selection of pieces, some of which might be familiar to those who have enjoyed Thoth’s work at events such as past SL Birthday celebrations. Combining light, colour and sound, Thoth’s work can be living pieces, interactive pieces, and this is certainly the case here with the three larger elements. Be sure to note the instructions on entering the exhibition space.

I’ve always enjoyed Lorin Tone’s use of sound and his demonstrations of what can be achieved with sound and LSL scripting in Second Life. Within Borealis Revisited, he presents another master class – one with a deeper narrative to it than might be apparent, so excuse me if I delve a little more deeply into it.

Within a structure built by Elicio Ember, lie four small moons / planets, all orbiting a central sphere. Together, these five orbs form a set of musical emitters, the sound from the lower four constantly shifting aurally as you sit on the benches below them. Between the benches and the upper spheres are four larger, interactive orbs (three of which have a passing resemblance to the Jovian moons Io, Ganymede and Callisto respectively, and the fourth to Mercury), also circling a central point while rotating slowly about their own axes. As Lorin then explains:

The build is based on and inspired by a musical piece titled Aurora, composed by Hans Zimmer (used with permission from his management). [It] has been cut into almost 60 pieces and rebuilt into five sound emitters. Each set gradually fades in and out, and each sound emitter has a different number of silences built in; the result is five musical sections that constantly evolve, never repeating the same combination twice. [The lower spheres] contain 36 solo female voice sounds. When clicked, each will randomly play one sound one time.

– Lorin Tone, on Borealis Revisited.

HEA, December 2019: Lorin Tone

Aurora was written by Zimmer to commemorate those killed or wounded in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting (at the time the 3rd largest mass shooting in the United States but which is now ranked 18th – which says a lot in and of itself). It’s a hauntingly beautiful piece, and Lorin’s installation presents it as such and entirely uniquely given the way the composition constantly shifts and changes between each silence, complete with the opportunity for visitors to add their “voice” to the choral by touching the interactive spheres.

Harry’s The Garage Gallery of Happy Stuff – which as noted is a temporary installation pending Bryn Oh’s arrival at HEA, although I very much hope Harry considers an installation of his own work – is a charming mix of pieces, 2D and 3D, many of which cannot fail to raise a smile. When visiting, don’t miss the eggshibition of his charming mesh eggs, which present scenes drawn from Harry’s life experiences and memories. Most are interactive (touch the lids to close / open them and hear an accompanying sound), and the “?” plaque on the plinths supporting six of the smaller eggs can be touched for a note from the artist on the meaning behind the egg.

HEA, December 2019: The Garage Gallery of Happy Stuff – Impossibleisnotfrench

All of the HEA gallery spaces are gathered around a central landing point and information centre / arts hub, the lower part of which presents room for events, and the upper platform the information centre. The latter includes a seating area, a teleport connecting HEA to other major art galleries, installation and facilities in Second Life, and a computer terminal where artists can obtain a grant application.

As noted above, grants are available for one, three, or six month periods, with awardees presented with a total land capacity of 1,000 LI each. Grants are awarded at the discretion of the HEA staff on the basis of concept, originality, ability and space availability, and applications are open to all who are “dedicated to The Arts to learn, teach, and display their own unique original style of creativity in Second Life for all to enjoy.”

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