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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The Itakos Project in Second Life

The Itakos Project: Tutsy Navarathna

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera,” American photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams  wrote in The Camera. “You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” It’s  a thought-provoking statement which encompasses the richness and depth of photography as an expression of art and artistry; suggestive that photographs can be part of a wider, deeper journey through life.

It is also a quote Akim Alonzo has chosen to encapsulate The Itakos Project, which is now open through until the end of 2017. A gallery complex of three buildings arranged around a courtyard, with the main building flanked by two pavilions and facing an events space across the courtyard.  The name for the project has, like the quote from Adams, been carefully selected, echoing as it does the name Ithaca, the Greek island and legendary home of Odysseus. In doing so, it also evokes the idea of a journey  – or, as Akim himself notes, a dream or the search for beauty and emotion.

The Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo

The aim of the project is to present the work of SL photographers who, through their work, engage upon story-telling or presenting the ideas of stories, or who seek to present beauty and emotion through their study of the avatar and the worlds around it.

For the initial exhibition, Akim presents his own stories told through his images and work within the project’s Blue Pavilion, while in the Red Pavilion focuses on Maloe Vansant and Paola Mills under the joint title of The Itakos Collection. Within the main gallery structure can be found Subtle Scent of Solitude, by Imani Nayar and The Dancing Serpent by Kate Bergdorf. Also to be found in the foyer area of the main building is a teleport doorway leading to a separate platform wherein can be found The Venal Muses,  an exhibition by artist and videographer Tutsy Navarathna.

The Itakos Project: Maloe Vansant and Paola Mills

“Poets, painters, photographers, writers, film-makers and musicians were all inspired by the atmosphere of brothels and their venal muses,” Tutsy notes in introducing the exhibition. “Some, like Toulouse-Lautrec have even made it an essential part of their work. Painters like Degas, Manet, Derain, Munch, Ronault, Van Dongen, portray ladies of little virtue lounging on a sofa, on the rooms of their lupanar….”

Thus those taking the teleport to The Venal Muses find themselves in a softly lit setting with plush red walls, soft furnishings, all of which are redolent of the boudoir for a woman of easy virtue whilst also retaining the feel of a gallery. On the walls of the rooms and halls of this space hang striking images by Tutsy, rendered as painting and richly recalling the work of the artists he mentions.  It’s an evocative space, not just because of the inherent depth within the images, but because the design of the space casts the visitor perhaps into the role of voyeur or – on a deeper level – patron, within some of the scenes presented.

The Itakos Project: Tutsy Navarathna

All of the exhibitions on display offer much to those visiting, but with its richness of setting and uniqueness artistic expression, both of which reach directly into the subject matter, The Venal Muses is perhaps the most captivating of the current exhibitions currently on display at The Itakos Project. From the project’s notes, I understand feature artists at the gallery will change on a monthly basis while the upper floor of the main building will be devoted to displaying work by artists enrolled in the Soul Portraits – Itakos Art Gallery in Second Life Flickr group.

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