Within Storm’s Country of the Mind in Second Life

Storm Septimus, Untitled – LEA 28

Untitled, the latest installation by Storm Septimus, is an extraordinary build. Deeply personal, a visit to is to take a journey into Storm’s Country of the Mind; a reflection of her thoughts and feelings around disability and illness.

Like The Void before it (see here), Untitled is something of a dark place – if not literally, then certainly in tone. As such, it may not appeal to everyone – but for those who visit, I urge patience; this is a build rich in symbolism and metaphor.

Storm Septimus, Untitled – LEA 28

A visit begins on a rocky platform high in the sky, home to a desk filled with syringes, prescription containers for pills, and – other items which might in certain situations be associated with mental illness: a knife and bottles of alcohol. A denuded (dead?) tree stands over the desk, which has a single flower, a small tractor and an old toy sitting with it; all of them metaphors for life and death.

An ornate mirror stands close by, a touch teleport offering the way to the second island (or to the Lower Garden – although I recommend a trip to the second island ahead of any jump to the Garden. Rising from a sea of roiling cloud, this island is a place of vivid symbolism, in places mindful of Invictus (see here). Central to it is a sea of blood surrounding a smaller island, home to the mirror teleport. Scattered around the rim of the island are expressions of illness: old-style hospital screens, wheelchairs, bed frames and theatre lights.  Elsewhere are the wrecks of ships, old watchtowers, trees twisted in the shapes of strange creatures, while atop a high plateau sit images of death – tomb stones, broken limbs of mannequins, all of which is crowned by a small chapel.

Storm Septimus, Untitled – LEA 28

The Lower Garden reveals that the landing point sits upon the shoulders and upper backs of four huge statues, semi-bound by chains – a further symbol of being held prisoner to illness and disability. A bridge spans the gap between this lower garden and the base of the second island, revealing that latter is in part held aloft by two huge creatures. Troll-like in form, they are held in place by great chains, hands locked in place in great cast iron restraints, further holding them in place. Between and either side of them, blood rises in three streams, feeding the pool above.

Scattered across these landscapes are diaries waiting to be discovered and read. They offer further personal insights into dealing with illness, disability, doubt and depression. There are also places to sit and reflect on what is being presented in the open, and for those who explore carefully, other teleport points. One of these, deep within the island, suggests a place of sanctuary – an inner sanctum of the mind, a place filled with small comforts: a favourite chair, a select of treasured books, and open vault of memories – although a little darkness remains in the form of a centipede wrapped around the glass bell containing the beauty of a flower.

Storm Septimus, Untitled – LEA 28

“I wanted to highlight the emotional effects of disability,” Storm says of the installation. “I know I could have gone so many ways with that [but] the build ended up being that lonely, desolate, hopeless place of despair in my mind.” And indeed, the emotional power contained within the installation is inescapable; it permeates throughout every element, presenting a powerfully immersive environment which, dark though it may be, offers considerable food for thought.

When visiting, there are a few things to keep in mind: firstly, you’ll need to have Advanced Lighting Model enabled in order to fully appreciate the more subtle touches in the installation – such as the reflections in the teleport mirrors. Also be sure to try touching things as you explore the installation; some – like the diaries – are interactive. Also, be aware this build has a lot going on, and viewer performance can be very variable throughout it.

Storm Septimus, Untitled – LEA 28

Storm has also passed an invitation to disability  support groups to display information about their work in the Lower Garden. So, if you represent such a group and would like  to have your information displayed there, please drop Storm a line.

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MOSP returns to Second Life

MOSP 2018

Chic Aeon has re-opened her Machinima Open Studio Project (MOSP) for machinima makers and photographers. First seen in 2012, MOSP has been through a number of iterations – as my past posts on the project will hopefully show. Offering indoor and outdoor film sets, studio facilities for filming shows and the like.

In this latest iteration, which is still under development, MOSP opened its doors in mid-January, offering – as a start – a ground-level location, based on her installation A Steamy Mystery at Terradale, with some additional element, and a city setting up in the sky, someone reminiscent of the original city setting from MOSP’s original iteration.

MOSP 2018

It is at this latter location that people first arrive. This offers outdoor night setting with a parking lot, façades for tower blocks, backed by surrounding backdrops of city high-rises seen against a misty night sky; so using the local windlight or setting your viewer to a cloud night setting is recommended for a visit, although with careful filming, daylight settings should work on the space as well.

The landing point faces a resource centre, which includes teleports to other set locations (again, only the ground level being open at the time of my visit although others provide hints as to what is coming). not far from this is a series of small stage sets, one of which is outfitted as a photography studio with backgrounds and green screen as well as pose balls. There is also a classroom / meeting area. Further afield, but still within the surrounding high-rises are further lots, apparently awaiting building-out. With cars parked around the lot, the building shells and the entrance to a subway station, the setting offers a fairly simple location for filming, which I assume will be added to over time.

MOSP 2018 

“This all new build offers full sim-sized environments for ease of shooting and continuity,” Chic says of the facility. “There is flow. There are surprises and plenty of details. Builds have been optimized for LOD2 to ease the drain on computer systems and let those with mid-level machines still turn on shadows or depth of field when needed.”

For those needing an outdoor small-town style of location for filming, the ground level “Terradale” set might fit the bill. “Obvious steampunk references have disappeared,” Chic states, “and many new buildings have been added. Structures are clustered for better filming and photography and ‘clutter’ has been added to private areas for a more realistic feel.” There is also an information centre inside one of the buildings, again offering teleports between the different stage / set levels.

MOSP 2018

Chic also notes, “While the infrastructure and many of the furnishings and props have been made by myself, the work of other content creators is also featured. Artist buildings are noted with name plaques; gacha collections with buildings have markers. If in doubt, right-click and inspect to note who to thank for bringing this sim to life.”

In previous designs, MOSP gradually developed a wide range of film sets and opportunities, from rural to city through outdoor settings to sci-fi, so it will be interesting to see how this iteration is developed and what additional resources are provided. In the meantime, the current facilities are open for people to use, and specific enquiries or questions should be directed to Chic Aeon.

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A journey into Sapiens in Second Life

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

Sapiens is the title of a new region-wide installation by fractal artist Gem Preiz, which has an official opening at 13:00 SLT on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018.

This is – quite literally – a huge installation. It starts at ground level, on a walkway where visitors can find information givers on the installation and how best to view it. Camming out from this will reveal a large floating cube shape, formed by a 3x3x3 matrix of smaller cubes, which is something of a motif for the installation:  can also be found at the end of the catwalk, where a smaller version acts as a teleport which will deliver visitors to the installation proper.

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

The build takes the form of a giant “labyrinth” very industrial in looks (something heightened by the stream venting at various points throughout). More raised catwalks form a grid around huge towers rising from the floor, catwalks and towers alike enclosed by massive walls. The walkways are further enclosed under high ceilings. At various points around this grid of catwalks – such as where they intersect with one another or in the corners of the grid – are platforms, some of which  have square holes at their centres. Above these rise huge shafts, further platforms visible at their tops, and from which square sections may periodically descend to fill the open spaces in a platform below, becoming elevators visitors can stand on top be carried between the levels of this vast complex.

Throughout each level – all of which have a slightly oppressive feel about them due to the repeated fractal designs of floors, walls and ceilings which imparts a feeling of unending sameness – Gem has variously put pieces of his fractal art, forty in all. These are intended to represent four themes: technology, mazes, darkness and confinement. Some many only appear once, others may be repeated; all are meticulous in their design and presentation and are visually captivating. They are not images one sees as one is drawn into them. Most reflect the environment in which they are set: enclosed and confined, limited; other suggest broader horizons and the promise of places we might yet discover.

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

There is more here to be seen than may be at first apparent. For a start, depending on which elevators you use, you may find the build seems to have 3 levels – but if you use others, you’ll find it actually has four (I’ll let you decide which lead where…). Also, triangular windows in the corners of the central towers hint at a world beyond the confines of the tunnels and catwalks. This can be seen by flycamming through the walls or by – on two of the levels of the build at least – finding the door marked EXIT, which can be opened with a touch (but do not step through without flying!).

Beyond the doors the labyrinthine effect of the installation is greatly enhanced: great shafts and tunnels seeming to run outward to infinity, standing like great tower blocks interlinked by giant enclosed bridges and walkways, all stretching off into the distance, spherical shuttles scooting along them or rising and descending through them. It’s a giddying display, particularly if you just cam out over the lip of the doorways and cam up / down and around.

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

So what is to be made of all this? Gem offers an explanation in the notes accompanying the installation, which might be summarised as an expression of growth, of overcoming limitations and the shadows of primal (and other fears) we individually and as a race have and do confront. Just as this is a maze of walkways and elevators, so to is the human mind a maze of thought processes which run this way and that, sometimes intersecting, sometimes looping back on themselves, sometimes offering glimpses of what might be. And some lift us a step at a time towards greater understanding, greater abilities, even as we are shadowed by fears (these in the form of the black hands stretching out towards / over some of the catwalks); until finally, we’re ready to break free of the shadows and fears and achieve.

This latter point is beautifully presented on the upper level of the installation’s catwalks, where a golden figure sits, cowering beneath the outstretched hand of primal and other fears – but which offers the way for us to become human, to become reasoned thinkers and creators – as indicated in the final scene of this installation (which also contains for catalogues of the fractal images used within / which inspired the build a teleport cube for returning to the landing point).

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

Complex and challenging, Sapiens offers a commentary on human growth and understanding. It is a theme, Gem informs me, which will be expanded upon in a second build Demiurge, which should open in late February / March time. I’m already curious to see if it will embrace either the Platonic of the Gnostic views of the word – or perhaps combine them both.

Note: fellow blogger Diomita Maurer offers her thoughts on Sapiens, and kindly makes mention of me.

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  • Sapiens (LEA 29, rated: Moderate)

Respect in Second Life

2Lei – Respect: Ciottolina Xue

Respect is the title selected for the 2017 2LEI art recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, marked on November 25th. Open now through until the end of 2017, this is one of the most involved art installations I’ve visited in Second Life, presenting the work of some 71 visual and music artists either directly or in supporting roles, with no fewer than fifteen primary art display areas.

While marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the subject for the installation casts a wider net for Respect – including as it does respect for women, children, individuals, sexual orientation, race, self, and those around us. This makes for a very involved series of installations which requires time – possibly over more than one visit – to fully take in and appreciate. To help with this there is a range of events scheduled through the rest of the year, details of which can be found at the 2Lei blog.

2Lei – Respect: Nino Vichan

With so many displays and levels, coupled with the quality of art on display, a comprehensive review of the installation would be extremely long-winded; similarly, picking individual elements for consideration is equally difficult. What can be said is that there is a rich mix of individual focus on the broader topics noted above, some of which are deeply thought-provoking, others are visually impressive while other may appear to come at their subject from a slightly unexpected angle and one or two, frankly, might confuse or perhaps seem more a generalisation than a focus.

The ground level features the works of fifteen artists, with 2D and 3D pieces ranged around a watery setting under a bright sun, together with the landing point, presentation theatre and teleport boards for reaching the fourteen sky platforms for the installation. Artists on this level include Rebeca Bashly, Dido Haas, Mistero Hifeng, Desy Magic, Ciottolina Xue, to name just a few.

2Lei – Respect: Lagu Indigo and Stardove Spirit

The teleport kiosks provide access to 14 sky platforms, each one featuring the work of an individual arts or a collaborative team. These are – in order of ascent through the levels: Theda Tammas, JadeYu Fhang, Pale Illusion, Laug Indigo and Stardove Spirit, Aneli Abeyanti, Patrick Moya, Nino Vichan, Daco Monday, Black Label Exhibitions Corner, Nevereux, Pol Jarvinen, TerraMerhyem, Red Bikcin and Mona Byte.

Each level is of a fixed size, which the artists have been able to use as they choose, arranged so that visitors arrive on one platform (with teleport options for returning to the ground), move through the display area and out to a second teleport options for returning to the ground or continuing up to the next level. As with the ground level, there are small 2Lei boxes alongside the artist name boards which will offer a folder with the artist’s biography and – perhaps – an outline / description of the work they are displaying.

2Lei – Respect: Rebeca Bashly

As noted, there is a lot to see here – and I admit that in viewing the sky platforms, I was particularly drawn to Nino Vichan’s installation, and the Black Label Exhibitions Corner piece. The latter, largely focusing on GlitterPrincess Destiny’s images. This is perhaps the most involved, and shows a considerable amount of expression on the subjects in an environment that is semi-interactive, requires exploration and offers a lot to see.

In all, a thought-provoking series of exhibits, rich in interpretation and presentation.

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A Night to Remember in Second Life

A Night to Remember: first hall

Currently open through until the end of 2017, is A Night to Remember, created and curated by Emery Milneaux. Taking its name from the 1958 British film about the last night of RMS Titanic’s ill-fated 1912 maiden voyage across the Atlantic, it presents an interactive commemoration of that tragedy, one which originally appeared in Second Life as one of three immersive exhibitions presented at the opening of the Vordun Museum and Gallery in July 2016 (see here for more), and which has now been expanded somewhat.

The current exhibition is presented in a purpose-built museum space, complete with front entrance (the landing point) and ticket hall / lobby area sitting before the main exhibition space. This gives one the feeling of visiting an actual museum exhibition and adds depth to the installation. On passing over the threshold of the exhibition proper, on the far side of this foyer area, visitors will receive instructions on how to proceed through the halls via text chat, together with a boarding pass, which should be worn (default location: lower right of your screen). This bears the name of an actual passenger aboard the Titanic, with the promise that the fate of the passenger will be revealed further into the exhibition.

A Night to Remember: the Grand Staircase

The story of Titanic’s maiden – and last – voyage is told through a richly mixed medium of interactive elements (click a photo to focus your camera on it, for example; click the information plaque beside it to receive further information in chat), together with principal figures from the liner’s story: Commodore Edward John Smith, the Titanic’s Captain, socialite Madeleine Talmage Astor, first class passenger and survivor, Frederick Fleet, one of the vessel’s lookouts on the fateful night, and a young newspaper boy in London, Ned Parfett. Bump into any of these characters, and they will give a short “first hand” narrative.

The first hall, featuring the presence of Commodore Smith examines the ship’s design, construction, layout and launch, and offers reproductions of items related to the liner. Beyond this, visitors pass along a recreation of the ship’s first class promenade deck to reach a model of the ship’s famous Grand Staircase which linked the Boat Deck and E Deck, together with reproductions of a first class and a third class cabin – starkly outlining the massive class divide of Edwardian society.

A Night to Remember: the Titanic in miniature

However, it is the display prior to reaching the Grand Staircase and the cabins, together with the last hall within the exhibition which are the most poignant. The first of these is one of the expansions to the original exhibition, and commemorates the music of the Titanic and the eight members of the ship’s band. Wallace Hartley, John Law Hume, John Wesley Woodward, John Frederick Preston Clarke, and Percy Cornelius Taylor spend the voyage playing as a quintet, while Georges Alexandre Krins, Roger Marie Bricoux and William Theodore Ronald Brailey played separately as a trio up until the night of the disaster.

After the call had been given to abandon ship, all eight men – none of them White Star Lines employees, but contracted from the Liverpool firm of C.W. & F.N. Black, and so classified as passengers – famously played together in order to calm passengers after the call to abandon ship had been given, and remained aboard to perish in the freezing waters of the Atlantic. Within A Night to Remember, the pictures of all eight men are displayed, together with information on their musical repertoire – complete with a HUD-based sample of the music they played. Also included is a remarkable commemoration of their passing: a reproduction of Wallace Hartley’s violin – the original of which survives to this day, having been recovered from the Atlantic together with Mr. Hartley’s body, a few days after the sinking.

A Night to Remember: the Titanic’s eight musicians

The final hall of the exhibition, laying beyond Frederick Fleet’s recounting of his time as a look-out and displays concerning the ice conditions prevalent at the time Titanic went down and photos from the site of the wreck, contains three large plaques listing the names of every passenger and crew member who sailed with the ship. These are split between the three passenger classes, and sub-divided between those who perished and those who were saved. Through them, visitors can discover the fate of the passenger named on their boarding pass, adding something of a personal dimension to the exhibition.

When we first saw A Night to Remember in 2016, we found it to be a considered, well-presented commemoration of the tragedy, and on the technical level, an extremely well-presented installation.  Neither of these views has changed, although the section dealing with the eight musicians could perhaps be a little better served with some biographical data about them (or even a link to their pages at Encyclopaedia Titanica. This is still very much a poignant, informative installation, and the opportunity to re-visit it has been most welcome. Anyone interested in the Titanic’s loss or modern maritime history should be sure to pay it a visit before the end of the year.

A Night to Remember: lost and saved

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Exodus: A Trip for Life in Second Life

Exodus: A Trip for Life

Art can be expressive in many ways. It can be an outflow of creativity, a reflection of moods and emotions, a cathartic release of hopes, fears, wants or needs; or an echo of joy or contemplation or endeavour or of life itself. And it can be a voice of conscience commenting on society, culture and politics.

Exodus: A Trip for Life is a full region installation which falls squarely it that last bracket: offering a voice of conscience in response to our societal and political outlook. In doing so, it touches – invokes – something we can so easily lose sight of – even when it might appear we are trying to empathize.

Exodus: A Trip for Life

Designed by Kicca Igaly and Nessuno Myoo, Exodus: A Trip For Life deals with the discomfiting issue of the world’s refugee crisis, which became a hot button topic on several fronts of the past couple of years; one in which some essential truths have perhaps been lost in the clamour of angry voices, political posturing, and perceived threats to security, jobs and income.

“It almost seems,” Nessuno says in introducing the installation, ” As if all the evils of our society, unable to find effective solutions to the problems which from time to time appear, have found, in the dark threat of the foreign ‘invader’ , the perfect scapegoat.”

Exodus: A Trip for Life

And yet the simple truth is, these feared ‘invaders’, these people risking life and limb and family, do so not because they’re seeking to exploit our vulnerabilities and our way of living. They do so because they already are vulnerable; their war of life has already been destroyed through war and / or political / religious upheaval and oppression. Everything they have known has been torn apart in ways we cannot understand; far from coming here as exploited, they arrive as the exploited, preyed upon in their journey by criminals and traffickers; people more interested in taking money and possessions than in saving lives.

All of this, and more is brought forth in Exodus: A Trip for Life. It starts out at sea, where a battered hulk rides a heavy swell, figures crammed into its rotting hold or crawling desperately up to the main deck and clinging in fear to anything looking remotely solid. The vessel is tossed by waves of money – a reference to the physical price those aboard have paid, while strings rise from the hull to a puppeteer’s controllers, a further reference to the exploitation inherent in trafficking the desperate, as they are time and again forced to travel in vessels unfit for purpose (and it is no coincidence that the bows of this ship bear two names, again underlining the dire circumstances faced by so many).

Exodus: A Trip for Life

Ashore, the imagery continues. New arrivals walk along a road, watched from a distance by locals, the gap between the two groups as telling at the walls that constrain the refugees to that single, lonely road. A camp sits close by, but again separated from  the locals as if in quarantine from the rest of the land, by walls and iron gates. Both the road and the camp stand as metaphors of how we see refugees; they may not be so alien, they may appear more human – but they are still “others” to be kept at bay. And we are far more comfortable when they can be moved from our sight and thoughts, as symbolised by the line of arrivals slowly vanishing into a white mist. They pass and are gone – to where does not matter, nor does the fact their plight still goes with them; we can resume our lives.

Poignant, pointed, provocative, richly nuanced and threaded with a wealth of observation and commentary, Exodus: A Trip For Life may not sit well with some; it may not even by easy to entirely decipher on a single pass. But it does have a voice; one that reaches into our conscience to whisper a stark reminder about the realities of the world around us even as sound bites, posturing and the fickle lens of the media would distract us and divert our thoughts and feelings.

Exodus: A Trip for Life

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