Currently open through (I believe) until the end of October 2018, is Ethereal Shapes, an installation of form and light by Noke Yuitza. It comes with an intriguing introduction (touch “Info” on the board on arrival):
Within the forms of faces, animals, flowers… in groups of stars, ink, glitter… There are 4 scenes: Dreamer, Galaxy, Ballet, and Eyes. The concept that brings them together is the dreamer that looks at how stars dances in a galaxy ballet.
The landing point – a gazebo that appears to have been in part delicate spun from light – sits at the centre of a series of scenes brought to life by the shimmering play and movement of light. They stand in a circle against the darkness of night sky (note the windlight for the installation appears to have been set at parcel level, so if you are not using Firestorm, you may have to manually swap to Midnight in order to appreciate the setting properly).
The ring of scenes, linked by more shimmering tendrils of light that form intricate, ghostly flowers, are pointed t to by short walkways radiating out from the gazebo. Two of these routes may appear to have greater prominence than the others as they are marked by avenues of the gossamer, gently pulsating flowers. However, I’d venture to suggest it does not matter which of the five routes you opt to take in stepping off the gazebo; all of the scenes will captivate both eye and imagination.
These are elements designed to appeal to our imaginations, the dreamers within us, calling to us to look beyond the obvious and see what lies within each of them – the hidden faces, the hints of animal or creature outlines by curve and twist of leaf; the majesty of the cosmos around us, and the life it gives to us – and so much more. As such, words alone are insufficient to convey this installation; it needs to be experienced first-hand.
In this, having to manipulate the camera freely is of a huge advantage – and those who have a means to flycam via a joystick, game controller or Space Navigator style of mouse controller will be at a distinct advantage, as with some of the elements within the installation, a distant look isn’t always enough to fully grasp, rationally or via the imagination, the subtle beauty of things.
Take for example, the plants and the play of light across them. It is as if they are in motion: dancers caught in an intricate ballet, or intangible creatures leaping into the air or caught on the wing. Then there are the very human figures also give to dance, their outlines broken into tiny constellations of softly pulsing light and flaring blooms of flowers. Zoom on these, and it is like zooming into the microcosm of the the heavens, a delicate reflection that we are in fact star-stuff.
Ethereal Shapes is an environment where the longer one spends within it, the more captivating it becomes. It is also a setting that is hosting a number of music events while open; so be sure to check the events board as well when visiting.
Astral Dreams Project is an exhibition celebrating Italian arts and creativity in Second Life, and to which I was recently invited to seen by the exhibition’s creator, Oema Resident.
“I was asked by Jack Davies and Mina Arcana, (the holders of the famous Astral Dreams region) to work with them to create an artistic project that helps to promote work of Italian artists in Second Life,” Oema informed me ahead of my visit, and framing the exhibition for me.
Given Italy’s role in the development of art and artistic expression in all its forms down through the centuries – architecture, painting, sculpture, design, and so on – an exhibition celebrating the work of some of the many Italian artists in Second Life really is appropriate; and Oema, Mina and Jack have clearly endeavoured to fold as many aspects of artistic expression into this installation.
Take, for example, the setting itself. This is a reproduction of the Piazza di Spagna, Rome, one of the most famous squares in that city, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church located at the top of the Spanish Steps, which descend to the Fontana della Barcaccia. Within the exhibition setting, these elements come from the collections of Italian SL designers Acqua Aria and Dogma9, who are also responsible for the buildings used to represent the rest of the piazza – although a little licence has been taken in places. The Palazzo Barbieri, for example, site to one side of the square. In the physical world it more correctly belongs within Piazza Bra in Central Verona; but its presence here is very much in keeping with the theme of the project.
The square itself presents two rows of boutique gallery spaces for 2D art displays, facing one another across the cobblestones, while the buildings either side of the Spanish Steps (one of which occupies to location of the Keats-Shelley Memorial House) are presented as galleries spaces for the sculptures of Ciottolina Xue and Mistero Hifeng.
During my visit, the 2D display spaces featured the work of Paola Mills, Lorys Lane, Renior Adder, Desy Falcone, Magda Schmidtzau, Clarisa Congrejo, CandieSheel, Degoya Galthie, Jarla Capalini and Oema herself. I’m not 100% certain if these artists will be rotated with others, or if they will remain on display throughout the life of the project. Oema did indicate to me there are events in the planning to introduce further artists; but this doesn’t necessary mean those currently on display might vanish; there is still room for more.
I say this because both the Palazzo Barbieri and the Trinità dei Monti were, at the time of my visit, home to reproductions of classical Italian paintings, so they might yet develop into further gallery spaces for SL artists. If nothing else, the “Coming Soon” sign that was displayed outside the Palazzo Barbieri indicates that this at least would be a further gallery space in the near future.
There is perhaps a slight preponderance of avatar studies among the 2D art currently presented. This is not surprising, given the popularity of this genre of SL photography. However, it does run the risk of overwhelming the eye, and is perhaps why, that among the 2D artists, I found myself repeatedly gravitating towards Renior Adder and Degoya Galthie, both of whom offer quite different displays to the rest (which also should be taken to mean I did not appreciate the art of the other artists around the piazza!).
I don’t have dates for further openings in the project, but I will be keeping my eye on it to see who else might have their work exhibited – and I certainly recommend it as a worthwhile visit for those who enjoy SL art.
Salt is an immersive arts degustation. I’ve quite deliberately misappropriated the term ‘degustation’ [the careful, appreciative tasting of various foods, generally taken in good company] as this imparted itself as an ideal transition, because each segment-course is a unique work of its own volition.
Eliza Weirwight, discussing Salt
Salt is the title of the immersive installation by Eliza Weirwight, which formally opened over the weekend of June 16th and 17th, 2018. In terms of her non-commercial work, Eliza is perhaps best known for developing installations that reflect issues that concern her. This was certainly the case when I first encountered her work through her 2013 piece 35 Elephants, which you can read about in my article here.
This embodiment of matters that concern and / or have influenced Eliza are very much at the heart of Salt which, as Eliza notes in her introduction (quoted above), stands not as a single installation per se, but as a collection of scenes or elements or vignettes – call them what you will – which stand as pieces in and of themselves, but which all are drawn together via subtle threads of thought and outlook.
I will say from the top that this is not an easy installation to interpret. There is a deep layering of themes, whether they are in support of LGBTQ rights or statements speaking out against violence or inequality. In particular, there is a strong commentary on matter such as the objectification of women, gender-based violence, sexual predation, discrimination, hatred and on the state of “western” society as a whole which some may well find discomfiting. But so too is the installation richly emotive and evocative.
To define Salt, it is necessary to provide a little background information: while it is itself a new installation in and of itself, Salt has been a work gestating in thought and ideas for some time, as Eliza explains:
I was asked to produce a piece for One Billion Rising [Fourth Position]. It was eight little segments addressing things that were concerning to me … Some of the topics had such gravity, I refused to see them as disposable, and I had this idea bouncing around my head for a few years that I want to do this big thing, so I’ve woven a lot of that original work into Salt, because just about everything in this work matters to me. Some of it is my stories, and some of it is other people’s stories
Eliza Weirwight, discussing the origins of Salt
The “other people’s” stories Eliza references encompasses all those who have faced prejudice and / or hatred of any kind, be it based on gender, race, colour, sexual orientation or sexual predation. Within some of these issues she has drawn directly on the lives of others – notably Marilyn Monroe and Phan Thi Kim Phuc; within others, she has drawn upon the work of artist of all genres – painters, writers, poets, musicians, to add flavour (depth) to the framing of the subjects represented by them. These influencers include – but are not limited to – David Bowie, Andy Warhol, M.C. Escher, Edgar Degas, William Blake, Maya Angelou, Pablo Neruda, and Norman Rockwell.
The way these influencers are used is both intricate and subtle. For example, the very design of the structure housing Salt is mathematically precise in it use of shapes, whilst also offering something a challenge to the eye. Thus through it, we catch a glimpse of Eliza’s own appreciation for Escher’s work and the way in which it has captivated her thinking over the years. Elsewhere within the installation, Blake’s masterpiece The Tyger sits with a section related to violence, and thus its complex questioning on the nature of the creative force behind a creature as deadly as tiger becomes transformed into troubling questions on the subject of violence and those who would so willingly visit it upon others, becoming a further provocative motif within the section in which it sits.
Some of these references are delicately nuanced. The row of soup tins in Campbell’s Soup brand colours might initially appear to be “just” a homage to Andy Warhol. However the labels on these cans offer a statement on the ease with which bigotry and vitriol can be espoused on the basis of other people’s sexuality. Given Warhol’s own sexual orientation and attitudes prevalent in “respectable” society towards male homosexuality throughout most of his life, there is a deeper poignancy contained within this piece than might first be apparent.
While the vignettes and scenes within Salt do, as noted, stand individually, so too can they complement each other, adding a further richness of narrative to taste and consider. Take, as another example, the exceptionally poignant section on Marilyn Monroe. Framed around an excerpt of six-page letter she wrote to the psychiatrist who would find her dead a year later, it cannot fail to evoke sympathy at the depth of personal suffering individuals can experience as we reflect of Monroe’s own life and suffering and the price that can be paid as a result of societal expectations.
But there is also a broader narrative here as well. Within the section, there are two images – Monroe examining a small sculpture of Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans by Edgar Degas – a man famous for his paintings of ballet dancers, and second of Monroe practising ballet. Both images offer a visual link back to the preceding section (in which a representation of Petite Danseuse de Quatorze can be found), although there is more at work thematically between the two sections.
As the quotes from likes of Vanity Fair and The Guardian accompanying the representation of Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans note, the manner in which Degas presented ballet dancers can often contain an almost misogynistic delight in portraying the pain and suffering inherent in their craft, somewhat objectifying them. Elsewhere in his art there can be a sense of male sexual predation. Thus, given that a lot of Monroe’s own suffering was a direct result of the objectification she faced, together sexual predation, the placing these two elements together within Salt intertwines the two, presenting visitors with a much more intense sense of narrative shared by both.
In 2013, Sculptor Barry Richez presented Dreams In Space, an immersive arts / story environment focusing on a group of survivors who escape the poisoning of life on Earth and establish themselves as a small colony in the M51 galaxy.
Now he presents the sequel to that installation, Dreams in Space 2, currently open through until the end of June 2018. It builds on the original, utilising elements from that story – the pyramid on Earth; the (now flourishing) colony at M51. It’s a multi-level setting, commencing on the ground and moving up into the sky. It’s also, to start with, a little bit of a mystery in that visitors must find their way from the landing pint to a hidden teleporter.
On arrival, visitors are advised to set their time of day to midnight (if their viewer doesn’t accept the local windlight) and enable local sounds and particles. The arrival point is within the pyramid, on three of the internal walls of which scroll texts (in French), one of which focuses on the Buddhist Sutta Nipata and another from Confucius. The exit from the pyramid sits opposite the landing point, with a couple of airlocks and stairs leading to the surface.
Here one passes into the alien environment the Earth has become – a place of night and glowing plants and trees through which a path winds, passing through further airlock type doors. These offer access and egress to / from a biodome – possibly the attempt by the colonists to re-introduce flora and fauna to Earth which, as the story notes from 2013 (provided in the introductory note-card) indicate.
The path eventually comes to an end – but the journey is just beginning. From the end of the path, follow the red arrow and flashing lines, and with patience visitors will reach a conical structure in which sits the teleporter to the rest of the installation. This offers access to five areas:
City Arts – an orbital environment, in which elements of Barry’s art can be found travelling through tunnels and airlocks.
Gallery Alphalune Creations – a space station where more 2D and 3D art is on display. Note that to access it, you’ll need to join the local group (follow the instructions from inviter by the station’s entrance, then touch the door keypad, followed by touching the door).
Theatre – a retrospective of Barry’s 2015 Othello, the Moor ofVenice, also know as Desdemona, Killed By A Pool Cue.
Flying Arts – a space offering further destinations via a second teleport, including the opportunity to fly, Inspire Space like. Note this second teleporter will also take visitors back “downstairs” through the different levels.
Colony – the human colony in M51, waiting to be explored.
With around 27 teleport destinations, 2D and 3D art elements and experiences, Dreams In Space 2 makes for a mixed art / experiential style environment which makes for an interesting and intriguing visit.
“There are experiments and exhibits inside buildings,” Artist and sculptor Silas Merlin says of his installation at LEA 14. “It’s a collection of the things I happen to be building this semester, so there’s no specific theme; but I do have LEA in mind whatever I do, so I think everything is in theme in that respect.”
It’s certainly an intriguing environment, bringing together Silas’ gift for 3D sculpture and his pastel artwork in a place where exploration is encouraged – indeed required, if one is to see everything. It is also a place which includes certain nods to others here and there, be they intentional or otherwise; with the intentional ones offered a little tongue-in-cheek and without rancour.
The landing point to the installation is located in a tall tower sitting just offshore to the rest of the build. This tower contains the first of Silas’ experiments: the use of a cubemap and a 360-degree image to create a reflective hemisphere on the stone floor (you’ll need to have you viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) enabled via Preferences > Graphics in order to see the reflection, otherwise the hemisphere will simply appear to be a black object).
Getting to the rest of the installation is perhaps best done by flying from the landing point. A rugged landscape, with a ground pattern and plants which are in places mindful of Cica Ghost’s designs, this is a place littered with buildings and ruins, many of which look to have been extruded from living rock rther than constructed. Some rise like the towers of a castle, others seem to have echoes of Hindu or Aztec architecture, and others are far more free-form.
Many of these structures have elements inside or on them. These range from experiments with projectors and projected lights – so again, keep ALM enabled during your visit – to little vignettes of characters from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (as seen through the 1953 lens of Walt Disney Pictures) to places to sit down and relax, and so on.
The Peter Pan elements can be found in a little scene featuring the Darling family, and a charming little diorama featuring some of the principal characters – Pan himself, Hook, Tiger Lily, the crocodile, the alarm clock, etc. Larger versions of some of the characters can also be found dotted about the landscape, with Hook’s ship sitting in a small bay.
Two of the larger structures within the landscape are particularly engaging, albeit for different reasons. The first takes form of a temple with a somewhat Hindu styling to it. It has been raised in recognition of a certain – controversial, shall we say – artist who has not had the best of relationships with the LEA, being s known for her … disruptive … influence.
“She seems to target LEA artists,” Silas playfully said of the artist concerned, “So I thought it would be fun to have a temple with offerings to appease the angry goddess!”
The second building offers a selection of pastel drawings by Silas. However, these are very different to his usual studies. Predominantly black-and-white, they have something of a dark, haunting tone to them, with even the colour paintings hinting at spirits and the supernatural.
A part of the installation that may not be obvious to visitors sits at 3021 metres in the air. Here, on a platform sits a small ghost town of buildings – some of which reminded me of some of the structures in Silas’ Felsenmeer experience in Sansar. It sits among a number of platforms containing unfinished elements, and offer another point for exploration, even if you do need to map teleport your way up to it.
A curious but engaging mix of Silas’ work, LEA 14 will remain open to visitors through until the end of June.
Seductions is the title of a combined 2D and 3D installation by Alo Congrejo and Lorys Lane, with Alo providing the overall build and Lorys the photographs.
“[Seductions is] An urban pathway,” the artists state of the installation, “that guides the visitor through images representing the seduction in different fields and contexts.”
It’s a curious piece; one suggestive of depth, but which can be can be slightly confusing in the manner, the images appearing to be at odds with the general geometry of the setting, in which cubes (including the rooms in which the images are displayed), squares, rectangles, cylinders, spheres, and so on, can draw the eye to them, and away from the photographs.
The images themselves, spread across a series of red rooms – the colour itself matching the core theme of the installation -, present multiple aspects of seduction, from couples becoming intimate through to the initiation of seduction – the use of undewear and nightgowns and slips; to the way casual or suggestive acts can lead to more intimate acts: the casual touch of hand on body, the more deliberate placement of a bare foot placed between spread thighs, the start of attraction in catching sight of someone across a room. It’s a fascinating range of images, each with a unique narrative – and some have something more – as the artists openly acknowledged.
Jack Vettriano (born Jack Hoggan) is a self-taught Scottish painter, who images can encompass themes of seduction and acts of seduction (although his portfolio covers far more subjects). Several of the pieces within Seduction are offered as an homage to Vettriano’s work. Which they might be, I leave to you to decide; suffice it to say that they are presented in such a way to offer an homage without in any way being derivative – they are all of themselves unique in style and presentation.
And the setting? It exudes a certain amount of impersonality surrounding the photographs; this in itself fits the overall subject, as the act (or art) or seduction is a personal act, one that generally takes place in rooms and spaces away from the public eye, even as the world continues on around it: the ebb and flow of people in streets and places outside. Acts of seduction and intimacy can also cause embarrassment; hence, perhaps the reason for the 3D animated pieces: the offer the eye a “distraction” from the acts of – dare I say – foreplay depicted here.
The setting also has another interpretation: acts of intimacy, of seduction, can be born out of the most unexpected encounters: a meeting on the street, at a café, in the midst of the bustle of daily life. Some of this is to be found within the photographs, and the setting itself offers a further echo of this.
Seductions is, as noted, a curious installation – but this is not meant negatively; the simple fact is, the more time spent within it, the more it engages the eye and mind, the 3D environment and the photographs working in unison to attract us and offer stories for our imaginations. From the landing point, take the teleport to the main platform.