Tag Archives: LEA Reviews

Crumbs from nightmares in Second Life

How do we express our nightmares? What words would we chose, what lyrics would we consider suitable? What songs or images might we regard as reflecting those dark, frightening thoughts and dreams which pass through our tangled thoughts as we sleep?

Questions like these occupied Slatan Dryke as he developed Crumbs From My Nightmares, a personal look at the dreams which can trouble his sleeping hours.

“How could I express what a nightmare is with simple words? The breaking into the nights of unknown and disturbing elements, made visible by the Imaginary as a bearer of psychic content, free from the control of the principle of rationality?”

Using extracts from literature – M. R. James, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Lafcadio Hearn and Ambrose Bierce, together with 2D images, 3D art and phenakistoscope, to present a vision from within the realm of nightmares: beasts feeding on flesh, hearts beating, words to chill the heart, bodies reposed apparently in death, ghoulish cartoon images, all held under a haunting audio scape.

It’s a curious mixture; a rich tumbling of imagery in both form and words,  in places unsettling, in places familiar; sometimes edged in darkness, sometimes edged in the familiar or even the cartoonish. Just as we’d experience, perhaps, within a nightmare.

“The Imaginary is not real but true, messenger of a profound truth, therefore recognizable and unacceptable, Slatan continues, “The monsters represent the dark parts of the soul, in their various erotic, anxious or aggressive components. The Imaginary with its strange and disturbing images causes the turmoil that threatens the familiarity of the daily life.

How much are our nightmares a part of us?How do they shape is, inform our natures? These questions also run through this piece, with Slatan further adding food for thought. “The perturbation as a feeling of fear and repulsion, arises from the risk of revealing the ‘ghost’ of desire and how much strong is the wish to control it. The irresistible necessity of controlling, natural in mankind, produces that protective mechanism that has enhanced the existence with monsters, vampires and ghosts, not only in dreams and nightmares.”

Crumbs From My Nightmares is an installation wherein the artist’s liner notes play an important role in helping focus thoughts and responses to all that we’re seeing in the installation. But while he may not that these may be his nightmares, many may find the symbolism here familiar, giving them pause to ponder within the framework of thought he offers.

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Revisiting Poetry of the Planets in Second Life

Poetry of the Planets: Uranus – The Magician

I returned to Caledonia Skytower’s Poetry of the Planets because when I first previewed it at the start of April 2017,  Jupiter and Mars had yet to open. This has now changed, with Cale recently completing both and opening them to the public, completing her “suite” of seven settings inspired by Gustav Holst’s famous suite, The Planets. Given this, and the fact that Bringer of War and Bringer of Jollity (the names of the planets were only added to the suite’s movements after their 1918 premiere) are perhaps the two most well-known pieces from the suite, a return to visit them seemed entirely appropriate.

Bringer of War, as one might expect takes us to the remnants of a campaign somewhere in the out reaches of Roman’s empire. From the landing point of the army’s camp, complete with banners and tents, visitors can follow the path down to the battlefield itself, where fires burn and the heaviness of death hangs in the air.

Poetry of the Planets: Mars, Bringer of War

It’s a setting entirely in keeping with Mars and its role as home to the Roman god of war, dark and foreboding. However, my own view of Mars is biased, being shaped by the images of Mars returned to us by the probes we’ve sent there: the winding depths of Vallis Marineris, the fractured chasms of Noctis labyrunthus, the towering peaks of the Tharsis volcanoes and the great cone of Olympus Mons. There is a grandeur to Mars as we know it today which I feel brings a new meaning to Holst’s piece; one less threatening, but more majestic than might have previously been the case. Which is not in any way to negate Cale’s vision, but rather demonstrates how our perceptions of the suite can be as much influenced by the planets as the music can influence our thinking about the planets.

Bringer of Jollity takes visitors to a marvellous crystalline maze, filled with columns reflecting and refracting light, through which a path runs, leading visitors between the columns to a set of golden steps. These in turn provide the means to climb up to a ballroom. One again, the theme of Holst’s piece is marvellously interpreted. It is not heard to image the passageways of the maze filled with the laughter of children as they chase one another up and down them, seeking whatever secrets the hallways might hide. Meanwhile, the ballroom offers a place of adult happiness among the dances – and dance itself might be said to reflect the beat and tone of the movement, with the almost eternal dance of Jupiter’s cloud system forming a backdrop.

Poetry of the Planets: Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity

Poetry of the Planets has a supporting website, and visitors to the installation are invited to submit poems, haikus and even short stories (up to a maximum of 2,000 words) inspired by one of more  of the settings, for publication on the website (authors retain the copyright on their work). Submissions can be made in-world via note card at any of the mail boxes within the installation, or directly to Cale herself.

Also, Poetry of the Panets will feature in the May 22nd instalment of Designing Worlds, and the show will be embedded in the Poetry website. The installation itself will remain open until the end of May for those wishing to visit or re-visit. As I noted in my preview, it is an inspired idea, bringing together fable, mysticism, music and words – and a wonderful means by which we can immerse ourselves in Holst’s suite.

Poetry of the Planets: Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity

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The Anthropic Principle in Second Life

“I want to give the feeling that you’re an explorer, only having the tale of one man, written in a little book, to guide you,” Gem Preiz says of his latest installation The Anthropic Principle, which Caitlyn and I have the privilege of exploring ahead of the official opening on Thursday, April 20th. And truth be told, hat’s exactly the feeling he has created.

As one might expect given the focus of Gems work, fractal art plays a role within the installation,  and visitors do undertake a journey through various spaces to view them. But the familiar journey and the art itself are only a part of things. The Anthropic principle is a piece which binds together many parts: storytelling, a contemplation on religions, extra-solar life, the nature of human origins and philosophy, in a world which has a highly effective, TRON-like feel to it.

In particular, and as the title suggests, it draws upon the anthropic principle, a philosophical consideration that observations of the Universe must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it. In particular, the installation draws upon the weak anthropic principle as Brandon Carter, an Australian theoretical physicist, first employed the term in its contemporary form.

If this sounds terribly dry – don’t be fooled. Gem utilises the anthropic principle as a foundation upon which to build a story, a story visitors use as a guide to their travels through a series of cityscapes. Broad in scope, the story encompasses the recent discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system (which you can read about in this blog here, here and here), and well as touching upon one of his previous exhibitions, Wrecks (which you can read about here), to present an installation which is both fascinating to explore and which gets the grey matter working!

A journey starts with some simple instructions: on arrival, set your viewer to midnight, make sure you have Preferences > Graphics > Advanced lighting Model checked and particles turned up (you don’t need to set draw distance to 400m, the spaces are all relative enclosed, and half that distance works fine). Then, grab the story from one of the cubes on the floor (English and French versions available), enable the audio stream, have a read (recommended) and – when you’re ready – head for the Stonehenge-like structure where a teleport awaits.

This will carry you to the first destination – a city on one of the distant worlds of TRAPPIST-1. You’ll learn about the first journey to this world through the worlds of an original explorer, whose tale is related through the words of the story’s protagonist. In doing so, you’ll also find clues to the route you should take through this maze of buildings and subterranean vaults, a place built be a civilisation remarkably similar to our own, and with similar broad religious beliefs, prompting questions on origins.

The story guides visitors through these places, each rendered in that TRON-like style, bright lines of colour – orange, yellow, white, blue, red – although the way is not always obvious. Within these realms are galleries (sometime one, sometimes more than one – look for the deep blue lines on floors and in entrances to rooms) where hang Gem’s magnificent fractal art pieces, all of them an integral part of the unfolding story.

From the city through to Hell and thence back to the city and onwards to Paradise, visitors are gently exposed to Gem’s take on the Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP), an interesting and thought-provoking idea that not only will a universe capable of supporting give rise to living beings capable of observing and reflecting upon it, but that those lifeforms, wherever they are spawned in our universe will pass along an almost identical evolutionary path, up to an including forms philosophies and religious ideals, architecture and more, which all stand as a reflection of our own civilisation through the centuries.

This really is a journey worth taking rather than describing. Not for the ideas that Gem gently puts forward, but because  whether or not you’re in the mood for philosophical conjuring, the various environments are really worth seeing, and the fractal art within them is, as ever, mind-blowing; each piece a story in and of itself.

And when you do visit, do make sure you have the accompanying sound stream playing.  The selections of Hans Zimmer’s music are remarkably apt, and Gem has clearly chosen the pieces with care: time and again both Caitlyn and I were struck by the perfect fit of music with our own rising expectations as we ascended ramps or descended stairs towards the waiting light of new rooms…

All told, a fascinating exhibition and another selection of stunning fractal art. When you have completed a visit and found your way back to the landing point, you can touch the poster there to visit No Frontiers, another of Gem’s installations (which you can also read about here), which is running concurrently with The Anthropic Principle through until the end of June.

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The Poetry of the Planets in Second Life

Poetry of the Planets: Uranus – The Magician

Gustav Holst’s The Planets is perhaps one of the best-known suites of classical music; I doubt there are many reading these words who have not heard it at least in part. Notably, perhaps, thanks to Mars: Bringer of War and Jupiter: Bringer of Jollity (a movement from which is often used – possibly with Holst’s own posthumous disapproval – as the music for I Vow To Thee My Country).

Written between 1914 and 1916. Each movement of the suite is named after one of the seven major planets of the Solar System beyond Earth, and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst. The pieces are richly evocative and emotive – hence their popularity in modern western culture, and perfect for interpretation through many mediums – dance, theatre, film and musical re-arrangement.

Poetry of the Planets: the Teleport Temple

Holst’s Suite forms the focus for Caledonia Skytower’s Poetry of the Planets, which opened on Sunday, April 2nd, and runs through until the end of May. It offers a unique means ffor further interpreting Holst’s music – through the designs built by Caledonia, the music and our own words.

“Legend has it that the Ancient Gods of the Greeks have abandoned this realm, but evidence of their existence can be found above, in celestial spheres,” Cale explains. “These signs and symbols, both direct and abstract, are also reflected in Gustav Holst’s 1918 orchestral suite, The Planets, Op 32.”

Poetry of the Planets: Venus – Bringer of Peace

And thus, we are invited to take the teleport boards from Olympus Island, where a visit begins, and travel the spheres of Holst’s suite (Bringer of War and Bringer of Jollity – to use the original titles for each piece in the suite before the names of the planets were appended in 1918 – have yet to be added).

Within the spheres, scenes have been set which elegantly reflect the central theme of each piece, while a web link allows visitors to hear the associated piece from Holst’s suite via YouTube. Uranus, for example, offers a world of light and symbols, circles turn, runes glow, stars are born and fade mist hides and reveals – all emblematic of the arcane science of magic.

Meanwhile, Saturn offers a long winding patch that twists ever upward, passing windows in which a candle slowly burns. Steps along this winding path are in keeping with the doleful beat to The Bringer of Old Age, while the windows and the candle remind us of the passing of years, the slowness of progress up the hill a physical reminder of growing age until we reach the top – and?

As you explore these spheres and allow their mystique and the beauty of Holst’s music infuse you, you may well be moved to words and poetry – which is precisely the aim.

“Let your exploration of one or all of the planets inspire you to write a poem, Cale explains. “You need not be an experienced poet – all poems are welcome. You are even welcome to write a poem about Olympus Island itself.

“One poem a day will be featured here on the project blog,  In May, at the end of the project, there will be a reading event to share selections from the featured project poems.”

Poetry of the Planets: Neptune the Mystic

Dropboxes for poems can be found within each of the spheres, close to the landing point in each (where a blue sphere also offers a teleport back to the temple at ground level), and Cale points out that all rights to the poems submitted are retained by the poem’s author.

Poetry of the Planets is an inspired idea, bringing together fable, mysticism, music and words – and a wonderful means by which we can immerse ourselves in Holst’s suite. I look forward to a return visit to witness Bringer of War and Bringer of Jollity – and to trying my hand at writing a poem or two.

Poetry of the Planets will be open through until the end of May, as noted – and don’t forget to visit the resource centre while there.

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