Guernica: a statement against war in Second Life

London Junkers: Guernica – January 2023

The greater portion of humanity’s history can, unfortunately, be told in terms of conflict and war. Whether driven by territorial desires, religious zealotry, political expediency, or inherent ethnic / racial divides, wars large and small, tribal, national or international have pockmarked the stories of successive civilisations. With the 21st century just into its 23rd year, we have already witnessed some 27 significant conflicts and wars around the globe – roughly twice the number seen within the first two decades of the 20th century.

Little wonder then, that London Junkers has chosen as he latest installation – opening on Wednesday, January 11th, 2023 at 13:00 SLT – to bring back Guernica, his 3D reproduction of Pablo Picasso’s famous oil painting, regarded around the world by many through the years as the most moving and powerful anti-war painting in history.

For those unfamiliar with the painting, from mid-1936 through until late 1939, Spain was torn apart by a civil war between the then-Republican government (notably aided by Soviet Russia and by Mexico) and the Nationalists, lead by a group of generals who had failed to seize power in a coup d’état in mid-July 1936 and were aided by Fascist Germany and Italy.

London Junkers: Guernica – January 2023

As a part of that conflict, General Francisco Franco called upon the German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion and the Italian Aviazione Legionaria to bomb the small – but to the Basques, historically and culturally significant – town of Guernica. Ostensibly, the raid was to deny retreating Republican army use of the town’s bridge to cross the Oka River. However, the use of incendiary bombs later the later raids carried out by the German Condor Legion and which set the town ablaze, does suggest the the bombing was intended to break the spirit of the Basque army.

The attack levelled almost all of the town, with it and the strafing of roads and streets by fighters was seen as a war crime. On hearing about the raid at his home in Paris, Pablo Picasso was horrified. Already been commissioned by the Republican government to produce a painting for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 Paris International Exposition (and to raise funds for the Republican cause via exhibitions around the world), he decided to express his outrage at the murder of women and children – both of whom he saw as “the very perfection of mankind” – through a painting commemorating those lost.

London Junkers: Guernica – January 2023

In all, the painting – over 7.5 metres long and around 3.5 metres high – took Picasso 35 days to produce, and while it was the result of a commission by and for his nation’s Republican government, and he was himself an anti-fascist, and thus vehemently opposed to the likes of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini, he saw the painting as a means to express his overall abhorrence to the war and the effect the actions of both sides was having on his homeland.

The Spanish struggle is the fight of reaction against the people, against freedom. My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. How could anybody think for a moment that I could be in agreement with reaction and death? … In the panel on which I am working, which I shall call Guernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death. 

– Pablo Picasso

Interpreting the painting tends to be subjective; while there is clear symbolism throughout, some of which is clear – such as the woman on the left mourning the loss of her babe-in-arms; the woman with arms upraised to the right, the lick of flames both above and below her, the fallen, dismembered soldier -, so to is there symbolism (or metaphor) which is harder to discern. The presence of the bull and horse, for example; both animals have enormous significance in Spanish culture, and would appear to have significance here – but Picasso himself warned against reading too much into their presence other than, perhaps, as symbols of his nation.

London Junkers: Guernica – January 2023

But that said, the overall horror and destruction, the pain, death and sorrow that surround war is all too clearly evident throughout the piece. As such, when visiting London’s installation, I strongly recommend viewing it from far enough back so you can see all of the piece in a single frame such that it might be viewed as the original. From here all the nuances of the piece can be seen, such as the way the horse’s nose, nostrils and teeth offer a stylised human skull, for example. By moving / camming close helps to bring individual pieces within London’s interpretation of Picasso’s work, allowing us to ponder their meaning.

This symbolism also extends to the landing point / event stage for the installation. Sharing the same black / white / greyscale tones as the painting, this area features two Junkers dive bombers (not actually used in the Guernica raid, but utterly symbolic of the terror of warfare), swooping down on the stage. Between them, a dove – the symbol of peace – sits trapped within a sphere, a symbolism which speaks for itself. Above this sits the trunk of a tree, representative of both the line of Gernikako Arbola, or [oak] Tree of Guernica – a central facet of the Biscayan people (and by extension, Basques as a whole); and the third tree in the series (1858-2004), which  miraculously survived the bombing of the town. Finally, two board on the stage provide, respectively, an introduction to the installation and London’s own indictment of war, in the form of a poem, might be read.

London Junkers: Guernica – January 2023

When writing about the original presentation of this installation in 2012, I noted it might be said that the bombing of Guernica washed away the last vestiges of the romanticism so often afforded war through word, verse and idealism. Sadly, it did not bring an end to war itself, as witnessed by the events that followed on the heels of the Spanish Civil War, and all the conflicts since, per the opening comments of this piece.

In this, and given all that is occurring within Ukraine in particular (and before it, Georgia), the return of Guernica to Second Life at this time helps reminds us that so long as we are driven by the need for power, for dominance (and dominion) over others and in elevating politics and / or religion above our fellow humans, the innocent will continue to suffer under the yoke of war.

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2 Lei: No Violence in Second Life

2Lei – No Violence: Solkide Auer and Magda Schmidtzau

November 25th is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and since 2010, the day has been marked in Second Life by the collaborative arts group, 2Lei.

They do so by bringing together artists, galleries, event organisers, musicians and speakers in a multi-faceted, art-centric season intended to focus on the levels of physical, sexual and psychological violence that are specifically directed towards women and girls around the globe, and raise awareness of the need to put an end to what is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today.

2Lei No Violence: Mistero Hifeng

Some of the facts surrounding violence against women are horrifying:

  • 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2012; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances.
  • Only 52% of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care.
  • Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday, and often in force / arranged marriages, including in countries such as the United States where between 2000 and 2010, more than 167,000 children — almost all of them girls, some as young 12 — were married in 38 states, mostly to men 18 or older
  • While 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).
  • 71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 4 of these women and girls are sexually exploited.
2Lei No Violence: Storie’s Helendale (glitterprincess.destiny)

For 2018, 2Lei is presenting No Violence, an installation that brings together some 73 artists from across Second Life, as well as offering a range of daily presentations and music events, details of which can be found on the 2Lei blog, or via the note cards provided at the installation’s central landing point.

As with the 2017 event, No Violence is one of the more involved art installations I’ve visited in Second Life. The core of the installation is spread across three levels, starting at ground level in the region and connected by spiral staircases. In addition, teleport stones at the landing point provided access to My Name is #25 / A Wrong Party, by Storie’s Helendale (glitterprincess.destiny). Others may also involve teleport elements, so careful exploration is recommended.

Such is the size of this installation, and the message it contains, a single visit is perhaps not the most ideal way in which to appreciate all that is presented by No Violence. Simply put, there is a real risk of visual and / or emotional overload that could leave one numbed to the core message.

2Lei No Violence: Betty Tureaud

Hence the use of daily events, both presentations and musical. These allow visitors to break up time within the region over numerous days – not necessarily back-to-back – and perhaps focus their attention on two or three of the individual displays and installations at a time. And even if you’re not drawn the any of the live events, breaking your visit down in a similar manner may still help both with appreciation of the art offered within No Violence and it’s central, and important message.

Installations vary in form: some are static, some are interactive, several  – such as My Name is #25 / A Wrong Party – are narrative in nature. Information plaques are placed with each, offering background and depth to pieces, as well as providing information on the artist responsible. Some, as with Betty Tureaud’s The Book Keeper Says, offer links to practical advice for those who may be the victims of violence and abuse (in this installation’s case, domestic violence / abuse).

2Lei No Violence: 2D art gallery

No Violence will remain open through until the end of 2018, with the list of supporting events for December still apparently in development at the time of writing this review, so be sure to keep an eye on the 2Lei website, in-world group and other resources.

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In a KÖMA in Second Life


JadeYu Fhang has a reputation for being one of the most visually evocative artists in Second Life, her installations often plumb the depths of the human consciousness and psyche (examples: Roots and War, Everywhere and Nowhere and OpeRaAxiEty), and this is certainly the case with her latest installation, KÖMA (coma).

Billed as a “limited-time multimedia art installation”, KÖMA is at once intricate, dark, confusing, and  – perhaps ultimately – revealing.

The intricacy of the installation is apparent on arrival, as is the confusion. Panels around the sides of the region, one of them flashing and flickering slowly with individual screen-like patterns, towering high above the visitor and imparting a sense of insignificance. Clouds scurry across a void like sky, a basso rumbling filling the air. Alongside the landing point rises a strange structure, looking to be one part exotic lighting rig, two parts science-fiction drone. Screens at the base offer information on how to view the installation (in short: there’s no route or TP – you walk around the base level and level up to the upper level), while at the top is an armless female torso supporting another computer screen as its head.


Behind this, within the region are a set of surreal scenes. Two giant heads rise from the mirror-smooth base of the installation, a swirling mass of what appears to be rose petals caught in a frozen swirl around them to rise towards the upper platform of the installation. Supported by another of the strange devices, this platform is home to a tableau of female figures, sitting and standing amidst flicking, ghostly projections and with most facing a large screen. What appears to be filaments of lightning flashes from their eyes and arcs around some of their bodies. Below them, peculiar female forms, arms replaced by insect legs and heads by computer monitors, are arrayed while screens on the supporting device flicker with images that might be medical in nature or represent memories, while all around this scene is a further rolling booming of sound and a voice echoing a single word köma.

Central to the installation is a golden female form, apparently frozen in the act of being struck down. She is also surrounded by a pattern of rose petals, caught with filigrees of white lightning-like light, also in stasis, and few of which – perhaps tellingly – either commence or terminate in her head. On the mirror surface around her, patterns of vein-line lines drift endlessly outwards, while a close by a “rain” of flicking gold leaves falls, each one of which reveals itself to be a tiny, flicking screen when examined.


With the exception of the rose petals and the golden “leaves”, the majority of the installation in monochrome in nature, giving it – along with the foretelling deep booms and rumbling – giving the installation its dark edge. It is also a scene reflected in the mirror-like base I mentioned, which around the kneeling figure is disturbed by drifting patterns of red lines looking like veins of blood.

But what do we make of all this? I think the clue is in the title. Comas are a medical condition filled with a certain mystique. We know what the external physical characteristics of a coma are – but what is actually going on within the victim’s head when they are within a comatose state – so often those surviving a coma and regaining their faculties suffer from post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) which affects their recall of memories – including anything their brains may have experienced whilst comatose.


In this light, many elements of the installation fall into place: the figures, the flashing images of figures and faces are perhaps the flicking memories or experiences the brain plays to itself whilst otherwise seemingly unresponsive to external stimuli; the strange devices become medical tech; the rose petals become blood corpuscles, vital in their role in carrying oxygen to the brain to keep it functioning and to life as a whole; the lightening-like filaments perhaps represent the flash of electrical links between synapses, and so on. So to does the figure falling to her knees perhaps represent the victim of a sudden event – a stroke or similar – collapsing, her situation triggering a comatose state as the rest of the strange figures and the echoing rumble and boom suggest the distant intrusion of medical on the comatose mind.

When interpreted in this way, the dark tones of the installation roll back, and we find ourselves immersed in an environment intended to evoke what it might be like to step into another’s coma and witness first-hand what is going on deep within the subconscious, well away from the accepted signs of neural activity and responsiveness.


But that is only my interpretation. You may find KÖMA speaks to you differently. It awaits your discovery.

SLurl Details

  • KÖMA (LEA 22, rated: moderate)

Four kilometres of art in Second Life

DC Spensley Retrospective

Despite receiving an e-mail invitation, I regret I was unable to attend the official opening of David “DC” Spensley’s towering – in a literal sense – art retrospective on September 22nd, 2018. However, as soon as time allowed, I did take the opportunity to jump over and immerse myself within it.

Known in-world as Dancoyote Antonelli, DC is one of the pioneers of visual arts in virtual worlds, working independently and in collaboration with other early pioneers to create 3D art that were considered ground-breaking at the time. In the United States, his work has been referenced in mainstream press, including The New York Times, Reuters, Step by Step Design, and Fibreculture Journal.

In 2006, DC also founded the world’s first virtual, aerial dance company – the ZEROG SkyDancers. On seeing the troupe perform, former Linden Lab alumni John “Pathfinder” Lester compared their work as genre-expanding as the Cirque Du Soleil. More recently, in 2014, DC and the ZEROG Skydancers again pushed the boundaries of performance art and dance, with Avant Garden. This mixed reality performance featured dancer Kathleen Moore performing on stage at the Little Boxes Theatre in San Francisco, a rear protection screen allowing her to interact with the troupe as they performed within Second Life.

Kathleen Moore performs on stage at the Little Boxes Theatre in San Francisco, August 2014, interacting with members of the ZEROG Skydancers performing in Second Life.

For this retrospective, DC presents many elements of his work (and notable elements by other artists) in which is likely to be the tallest structure yet built within Second Life: rising 4,000 metres from its water level base, the Tower of Light. The art is presented on a total of 40 levels extending from the tower, with a number being interactive either by touch (control panels and media boards) or physical avatar collision. Information plinths are placed on each level to deliver contextual notes and insights on each of the elements being presented, making this an informative, as well as visual installation.

Movement between the levels is achieved via a teleport HUD available from the landing point, or by sitting on a tour cushion,. The latter also allows for direct transfer to a desired level within the two (by means of a smooth vertical ascent rather than a TP), or can take riders on a “grand tour”, visiting each of the levels in turn. All three option are valid means of travel, delivering the visitor to each level alongside its associated information plinth, although I enjoyed the “grand tour” the most.

DC Spensley Retrospective

In a considered touch, the “tour cushions” will not simply poof should a visitor stand at any given level. Instead, they remain rezzed for long enough to get up, inspect the art, try any supplied controls or watching any associated video (if trying them / watching while seated proves inconvenient) before sitting once more in order to resume a journey to other levels.

Exploring the Tower of light is also both an exploration of DC’s thinking and his approach to art and of something of the history of visual arts in SL as a whole – although it should be noted this is not a chronological journey through DC’s art. Rather it is a thematic voyage, enfolding within it his concept of “hyperformalism”, exploring the nature of “native” art produced within a virtual world.

Rather, the historical aspect is born out of the majority of these pieces either being created before the advent of true mesh capabilities in Second Life, or which eschew the use of mesh in keeping with the aim of hyperformalism. Thus, these are primitive art, a term I use in reflection of their construction, not as a suggestion of any lack of sophistication they might otherwise contain; rather the reverse in fact: the nature of primitives actually requires these pieces to be sophisticated in design and scripting (and examples of all the scripts can be found in the relevant information note cards provided by DC).

DC Spensley Retrospective

It is also the information cards that offer insight into DC’s thinking and ideas around hyperformalism, with some also acting as a glimpse of part of the platform’s history. Of those who, like me, have been active in SL for the last decade, some of the names mentioned are liable to set memories tumbling: Qarl Fizz, Dekka Raymaker (who only returned to SL in August 2017 after a 6-year hiatus), and Nomasha Syaka to name but three (Nomasha’s sculpted horse was a decorative mainstay in many of my early SL homes, and is still to be found within the Library section of inventory).

When visiting, I would suggest allowing sufficient time to visit all 40 levels within the Tower, rather than breaking a tour up over two or more visits, as this offers the fullest potential to appreciate both the art and the concepts involved in DC’s work.  And as a purely subjective opinion, I would suggest using the viewer’s default midnight setting when travelling through the installation. This removes the distraction of the surrounding clouds, and more particularly adds a tangible depth to the colours within the Tower and the art it presents, giving a greater sense of presence whilst touring.

DC Spensley Retrospective

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More art at the Astral Dreams Project

Astral Dreams Project

The Astral Dreams Project has opened a further round of artist exhibitions. As I noted in July, when the installation first opened in July, the aim of the installation, itself a reproduction of the Piazza di Spagna in Rome, was to celebrate Italian arts and creativity in Second Life. However, for the latest exhibition, Oema Resident, the installation’s curator, has thrown her net a little wider.

Astral Dreams Project: Giovanna Cerise

Occupying the two 3D galleries (one of which occupies to location of the Keats-Shelley Memorial House) are home to exhibitions by JadeYu Fang and Giovanna Cerise. Both are striking artists, perhaps best known for thematic installations of their own.

For Astral Dreams, both offer pieces that appear to be influenced by some of those installations pieces. Giovanna, for example, includes a piece reminiscent of Clinamen Read here for more) and an element of From the Worlds to the World (read here for more). Meanwhile, JadeYu includes pieces that are reminiscent of her OpeRaAnxiEty (read here for more) among the selection of pieces for her exhibit.

Astral Dreams Project: CybeleMoon

Across the piazza, the twelve 2D art spaces present works by nabrej Aabye (physical world art); Dido Haas (avatar studies); Cullum Writer (physical world digital art); Kiana Jarman (avatar studies); CybeleMoon (Hana Hoobinoo) – mixed media / SL photography); Megan Prumier (avatar studies); Skip Staheli (avatar studies); Nekotto (avatar studies); Ambre (Ambre Singh) – avatar studies; Lam Erin (waterscapes); Naiike (avatar studies) and Ful Macchi (landscapes).

Of these artists, I confess to be drawn to the images and imagery of CybeleMoon – who creates the most fantastic stories through her art; the remarkable studies by Dido Haas, who has a way of capturing the very life of her avatar; the fabulous digital forms by Cullum Writer; and Lam Erin’s painting-like landscapes and waterscapes.

Astral Dreams Project: Cullum Writer

Which is not to say I don’t have an appreciation of the work by the other artists; truth be told, all over something eye-catching or unique. Together they all make an interesting exhibition, one that will be open through until at least the end of the month.

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Through the Gates of Oria in Second Life

Gates of Oria

Now open through until the end of the year is Tah’s (Tahiti Rae’s) latest full region installation, Gates of Oria.  Tahiti has a reputation of building immersive, often deeply expressive installations in Second Life. I first visited one of her installations, 4077 MASH, a homage to the television series and a commentary on war, in 2014 (read here for more), and then was totally captivated by her Love, Henry installation from 2015 (read here for more) and by EVRE in 2016 (read here), her evocative, complex examination of consciousness, connectedness and time.

Gates of Oria does, in many ways, share the same roots as both Love, Henry and EVRE. As with both of those installations, it is very much a journey; one that, like Love, Henry, is intended to stir the emotions, tripping them into play by engaging our imaginations. At the same time, and like EVRE, it takes us on a physical journey through numerous worlds, the very triggers for engaging our imaginations and teasing our emotions, which vary in their themes from light to dark, reflecting the fact that fantasies come in many shades.

Gates of Oria

They say it takes 300 years for an oak tree to grow; 300 years for it to live; And 300 years for it to die. Perhaps our fantasy love took 300 years to grow; An eternity to live; And never dies. Maybe .. it’s real.

– Tahiti Rae, Gates of Oria

This is an installation designed to visually, aurally and musically connect with visitors, as is explained at the landing point. Along with the viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model, enabling local sounds and the music stream for the installation is strongly recommended. I’d also suggest setting draw distance to around 300 metres, so the fullness of the larger spaces can be more easily seen without interruption. As the landing point also notes, proportions can be a little off in places, so when travelling a little playing with ALT-click camera movement and the use of the mouse wheel (or using the CTRL-8 / CTRL-9 / CTRL-0 combinations) can be required, particularly in the spaces where the backdrops appear intended to blend with the build.

Gates of Oria

Exploring the installation can be achieved in one of two ways: by teleporting to the ground and then travelling to the Gates themselves (additional telelport points within statues), and returning to the ground after each visit to make the next. Or, for those short on time, a note card listing the landmarks for all ten worlds can be used to hope directly from one to the next. The former of these approaches again echoes EVRE, except here there is no need to seek out the teleport points, they are found within groupings of statues. As such, and while the statues offer text to set the scene for the world to which that connect, there is no reason the note card LMs cannot be used to move between the different worlds once an initial visit to ground level has taken place.

Fantasy … can be such a risk; such a deep mystery; and profoundly the strongest certainty ever known.

– Tahiti Rae, Gates of Oria

I’m not going to run through all of the worlds; they are for you to experience for yourself. Suffice it to say all are very individual in tone and design, although some motifs can be found in more than one. Some openly demand exploration and can be extensive – such as Labrinto, which is perhaps the set piece of the installation; others are not quite as straightforward as might first appear to be the case, requiring equally considered exploration as there can be many details so easily missed in a quick walk / cam through. Deathless, for example, holds a certain Game of Thrones echo awaiting discovery. Still others are more open in nature, settings designed to allow the imagination to simply take flight – as with 4 Suns.

Gates of Oria

Within several of the worlds, art by CybeleMoon (Hanna Hoobinoo) can be found. Always fantastic in scope, these images give further flight to the imagination. Emotions are also stirred by the audio stream which, although occasionally interrupted by the briefest of adverts, offers music Tah states she has selected specifically for the installation.  Drawing heavily from the world of film (and where else, given the installation is about fantasy and imagination?), the music does add further depth to Gates of Oria – although I admit that I’m perhaps a little biased here in my response, as the stream features pieces by some of my own preferred composers  / arrangers, from the likes of M83, Taro Iwashiro, Bear McCreary, and the amazing Ramin Djawadi, through to several of the established greats of cinematic soundtracks: Morricone, Williams, Horner, Eidelman, Arnold, and more.

A series of events are planned throughout Gates of Oria’s run, details of which can be received by subscribing to Tah’s group at the landing point.

Gates of Oria

There are some minor niggles we encountered – falling through apparent solid objects in a couple of places, while the Eagles in Labrinto steadfastly refused to work for me (I simply right-clicked them for the guide description in the build floater); some of the guidance given was also a little confusing (“Exit far right corner” rather than “Exit to your right”). However, Gates of Oria is nevertheless evocative, imaginative, fully deserving of the time needed to explore and appreciate it.

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