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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Another World in Second Life

Another World

Another World is the title of a full region installation by Solkide Auer. It is described (literally) as, “a flight in a pure geometric ambience where shapes and colours try to give a momentary lapse of relaxation. Nothing else than be at peace with yourself” – although I’m pretty sure “lapse” should actually read “period”, and I blame Google translate for the error, not Solkide.

Open through until the end of June, this is an intriguing piece – region windlight (or midnight) is recommended, and you will be to have Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) enabled in your viewer (Preferences > Graphics) to appreciate the build. Projected lights are used extensively throughout the build, so if you leave ALM off, all you’re going to see is a lot of grey.  Shadows are not required to see projected lights, so you don’t have to enable them (reducing any performance hit); however, if you can, the nature of some of the shapes in the build means than the play of light across them gain added depth.

Another World

As the description states, this is a world of geometric shapes – spheres, hexagrams, hollowed spheres, squares, circles, straight lines, sine curves – all brought together in a landscape which takes on many different forms as you travel through it. Parts of the lower section resemble a gigantic roller coaster, the sine curves twisting and rolling through and around the other shapes as coloured light play across them. Elsewhere, it might be taken to be a giant’s building set, the larger shapes such as the hexagrams apparently made up of girder-like sections somehow locked together; in other places it has the look of a great machine, with elements coruscating and / or pulsing with colour.

There are a number of ways to appreciate the installation, and I recommend that you try as many and yo can. First and foremost, there is the aircar ride, available from the landing point. I suggest riding this in Mouselook if you can. There is also a series of teleport doors available, which will deliver you to different points and levels in the build, presenting the chance to see it from different aspects.

Another World

Camming also offers the opportunity to see this build and the lighting from angles neither of the other two options can offer, so if you’re practiced with ALT-camming, I recommend you have a go. Better yet, if you have a gamepad, joystick or Space Navigator, flycamming is highly recommended.

Whichever you opt for, in whatever order – make sure you have the music stream enabled. The occasional advert can be a little jarring, but the music really does set the mood for this installation.

Another World

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