Tag Archives: Linden Endowment for the Arts

The Anthropic Principle in Second Life

“I want to give the feeling that you’re an explorer, only having the tale of one man, written in a little book, to guide you,” Gem Preiz says of his latest installation The Anthropic Principle, which Caitlyn and I have the privilege of exploring ahead of the official opening on Thursday, April 20th. And truth be told, hat’s exactly the feeling he has created.

As one might expect given the focus of Gems work, fractal art plays a role within the installation,  and visitors do undertake a journey through various spaces to view them. But the familiar journey and the art itself are only a part of things. The Anthropic principle is a piece which binds together many parts: storytelling, a contemplation on religions, extra-solar life, the nature of human origins and philosophy, in a world which has a highly effective, TRON-like feel to it.

In particular, and as the title suggests, it draws upon the anthropic principle, a philosophical consideration that observations of the Universe must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it. In particular, the installation draws upon the weak anthropic principle as Brandon Carter, an Australian theoretical physicist, first employed the term in its contemporary form.

If this sounds terribly dry – don’t be fooled. Gem utilises the anthropic principle as a foundation upon which to build a story, a story visitors use as a guide to their travels through a series of cityscapes. Broad in scope, the story encompasses the recent discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system (which you can read about in this blog here, here and here), and well as touching upon one of his previous exhibitions, Wrecks (which you can read about here), to present an installation which is both fascinating to explore and which gets the grey matter working!

A journey starts with some simple instructions: on arrival, set your viewer to midnight, make sure you have Preferences > Graphics > Advanced lighting Model checked and particles turned up (you don’t need to set draw distance to 400m, the spaces are all relative enclosed, and half that distance works fine). Then, grab the story from one of the cubes on the floor (English and French versions available), enable the audio stream, have a read (recommended) and – when you’re ready – head for the Stonehenge-like structure where a teleport awaits.

This will carry you to the first destination – a city on one of the distant worlds of TRAPPIST-1. You’ll learn about the first journey to this world through the worlds of an original explorer, whose tale is related through the words of the story’s protagonist. In doing so, you’ll also find clues to the route you should take through this maze of buildings and subterranean vaults, a place built be a civilisation remarkably similar to our own, and with similar broad religious beliefs, prompting questions on origins.

The story guides visitors through these places, each rendered in that TRON-like style, bright lines of colour – orange, yellow, white, blue, red – although the way is not always obvious. Within these realms are galleries (sometime one, sometimes more than one – look for the deep blue lines on floors and in entrances to rooms) where hang Gem’s magnificent fractal art pieces, all of them an integral part of the unfolding story.

From the city through to Hell and thence back to the city and onwards to Paradise, visitors are gently exposed to Gem’s take on the Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP), an interesting and thought-provoking idea that not only will a universe capable of supporting give rise to living beings capable of observing and reflecting upon it, but that those lifeforms, wherever they are spawned in our universe will pass along an almost identical evolutionary path, up to an including forms philosophies and religious ideals, architecture and more, which all stand as a reflection of our own civilisation through the centuries.

This really is a journey worth taking rather than describing. Not for the ideas that Gem gently puts forward, but because  whether or not you’re in the mood for philosophical conjuring, the various environments are really worth seeing, and the fractal art within them is, as ever, mind-blowing; each piece a story in and of itself.

And when you do visit, do make sure you have the accompanying sound stream playing.  The selections of Hans Zimmer’s music are remarkably apt, and Gem has clearly chosen the pieces with care: time and again both Caitlyn and I were struck by the perfect fit of music with our own rising expectations as we ascended ramps or descended stairs towards the waiting light of new rooms…

All told, a fascinating exhibition and another selection of stunning fractal art. When you have completed a visit and found your way back to the landing point, you can touch the poster there to visit No Frontiers, another of Gem’s installations (which you can also read about here), which is running concurrently with The Anthropic Principle through until the end of June.

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The Poetry of the Planets in Second Life

Poetry of the Planets: Uranus – The Magician

Gustav Holst’s The Planets is perhaps one of the best-known suites of classical music; I doubt there are many reading these words who have not heard it at least in part. Notably, perhaps, thanks to Mars: Bringer of War and Jupiter: Bringer of Jollity (a movement from which is often used – possibly with Holst’s own posthumous disapproval – as the music for I Vow To Thee My Country).

Written between 1914 and 1916. Each movement of the suite is named after one of the seven major planets of the Solar System beyond Earth, and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst. The pieces are richly evocative and emotive – hence their popularity in modern western culture, and perfect for interpretation through many mediums – dance, theatre, film and musical re-arrangement.

Poetry of the Planets: the Teleport Temple

Holst’s Suite forms the focus for Caledonia Skytower’s Poetry of the Planets, which opened on Sunday, April 2nd, and runs through until the end of May. It offers a unique means ffor further interpreting Holst’s music – through the designs built by Caledonia, the music and our own words.

“Legend has it that the Ancient Gods of the Greeks have abandoned this realm, but evidence of their existence can be found above, in celestial spheres,” Cale explains. “These signs and symbols, both direct and abstract, are also reflected in Gustav Holst’s 1918 orchestral suite, The Planets, Op 32.”

Poetry of the Planets: Venus – Bringer of Peace

And thus, we are invited to take the teleport boards from Olympus Island, where a visit begins, and travel the spheres of Holst’s suite (Bringer of War and Bringer of Jollity – to use the original titles for each piece in the suite before the names of the planets were appended in 1918 – have yet to be added).

Within the spheres, scenes have been set which elegantly reflect the central theme of each piece, while a web link allows visitors to hear the associated piece from Holst’s suite via YouTube. Uranus, for example, offers a world of light and symbols, circles turn, runes glow, stars are born and fade mist hides and reveals – all emblematic of the arcane science of magic.

Meanwhile, Saturn offers a long winding patch that twists ever upward, passing windows in which a candle slowly burns. Steps along this winding path are in keeping with the doleful beat to The Bringer of Old Age, while the windows and the candle remind us of the passing of years, the slowness of progress up the hill a physical reminder of growing age until we reach the top – and?

As you explore these spheres and allow their mystique and the beauty of Holst’s music infuse you, you may well be moved to words and poetry – which is precisely the aim.

“Let your exploration of one or all of the planets inspire you to write a poem, Cale explains. “You need not be an experienced poet – all poems are welcome. You are even welcome to write a poem about Olympus Island itself.

“One poem a day will be featured here on the project blog,  In May, at the end of the project, there will be a reading event to share selections from the featured project poems.”

Poetry of the Planets: Neptune the Mystic

Dropboxes for poems can be found within each of the spheres, close to the landing point in each (where a blue sphere also offers a teleport back to the temple at ground level), and Cale points out that all rights to the poems submitted are retained by the poem’s author.

Poetry of the Planets is an inspired idea, bringing together fable, mysticism, music and words – and a wonderful means by which we can immerse ourselves in Holst’s suite. I look forward to a return visit to witness Bringer of War and Bringer of Jollity – and to trying my hand at writing a poem or two.

Poetry of the Planets will be open through until the end of May, as noted – and don’t forget to visit the resource centre while there.

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Sniper’s Second Life 1999 – 2017: The Story

“The initial project, ‘The Little Prince’, would take a long time,” Sniper Siemens explains in introducing Second Life 1999 / 2017 – The Story, which is now open through until the end of June 2017. “For my health and work reasons, I could not make it this year. I apologise for the inconvenience.”

Frankly, I don’t think an apology is warranted; if anything, Sniper’s look at the entire history of Second Life from 1999 through to the present should be a permanent, living installation in Second Life (although Sniper may well shoot me for saying so!).

Second Life 1999 / 2017 – The Story – Project Shining: the start of the ongoing work to massively overhaul SL’s technical capabilities

Before I get into the Story of Second Life, let’s take a look at the story of the story of Second Life. The installation originally began in July 2014 as Second Life History, a relatively modest but informative installation, complete with humorous touches which continue to mark these exhibitions. In February 2015, Sniper returned with The Greatest Story Ever Told, expanding on the original idea, offering more information, a new presentation layout and lots of new little characters to show you each of the many notable events throughout Second Life’s history (and that of its precursor, LindenWorld).

For this latest installation, Sniper builds on the 2015 design, bringing it bang up-to-date with everything that’s happened since that installation was exhibited, with a look at things like  Bento, the starter avatar updates, improvement to Sl web properties such as the Community platform, etc., and a tongue-in-cheek “look” through the gates at Sansar.

Second Life 1999 / 2017 – The Storyremembering Lumiere Noir, one of the many residents who did so much to empower all of us in our time in-world

From the landing point / information point, visitors progress along a footpath passing through the years sequentially, from 1999, with the originals of Linden Research and The Rig, progressing through LindenWorld, Primitars, early experiments with AI creatures, to the birth of Second Life. From there, major notable events, positive and negative (depending on your perspective if you were around at the time). All are marvellously presented, with a great balance between information – presented via static information boards,  interactive elements, and in-world videos.

As well as walking around the installation, visitors can opt to take a train ride through the exhibits. A Canopied station forms part of the landing point. Simply touch the rezzer to generate a car, jump in and touch the car to start your ride. You can stop along the way at any time to take a closer look at exhibits by touching the car once more – just make sure you cam over to them, don’t get out of the car or you’ll have it de-rez on you! A further touch of the car will resume your journey, while barriers at certain points also encourage you to stop in case you risk missing something. With a change of train half-way around, this is a really charming way to see the exhibition (rail traffic allowing!) – kudos to Sniper for including it.

Second Life 1999 / 2017 – The Story – Bento in images and videos

Journey’s end for Second Life 1999 /2017 – The Story is a shady park alongside of the cheeky “look” at Sansar. However, this isn’t the end of the installation. A teleport station will take you on to a look at the History of Burning Life, (or Burn 2 as we now know it).  This can also be toured by rail car – just follow the path to the right as you exit the main landing area and before you enter “1999”.

I am an unabashed fan of Second Life’s history (and I’m flattered to have played a very small and indirect role in this exhibit), so cannot recommend this installation highly enough anyone wishing to gain a rounded understanding on Second Life, Linden Lab and Burning Life / Burn 2. It really is a pleasure to visit, marvellously informative without ever drowning you in a flood of information, and rich in gentle touches and delightful flicks of humour. I also couldn’t help be notice the layout of the exhibit seems to include a fair amount of space for future expansion as well 🙂 .

Second Life 1999 / 2017 – The Story – the central Burn 2 exhibition

Second Life 199 / 2017 – The Story is an absolute delight, and as noted, will remain open through until the end of June 2017. Be sure not to miss it!

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Video by Sniper Siemens

Art Is… Rhythm in Second Life

Art Is … Rhythm – Nessuno Myoo

Art is… Rhythm is a collaborative arts installation now open in Second Life. Led by Dunt Gant, it involves Daco Monday, Kicca Igaly, Nessuno Myoo and Paola Mills, with a concert series presented by Ahnue Heartlight.

“Rhythm is a progressive succession in the order of things,” Dunt says. “In this installation, rhythm works as a subtle link between poetry (Daco Monday), dance (Kicca Igaly), and music (Nessuno Myoo), as shown by the three artists as 3D constructions. Paola Mills presents her vision of these three art forms by completing the 3D installation with her 2D photographs. As for myself, I tried to accompany these works with my presentation: a large 3D charcoal drawing, white and black, light and shadows.”

At Is … Rhythm – Paola Mills

On arrival, visitors are asked to adjust their viewer settings as per a board on one wall of the arrival area. Note this has a slight error, referencing “basic shadows” rather than “basic shaders”. The 512m minimum draw distance also seems excessive, given the installation is enclosed; 260m-270m is really sufficient and less taxing on a system.

A teleport platform from the landing point carries people down into the installation proper, which I believe will also be the locations of the planned concerts. This is a space in which light and shadow accent monochrome walls and floors, the ivory teeth of a piano keyboard undulating around the walls. The space is actually split into two, the upper level largely covered by transparent prims, offering a view down to the lower, on which sit two of the artist’s pieces: Kicca’s Dance with Me and Nessuno’s Before the Silence. To one side of this level, poala’s photography floats as pages in a book of music, or is held aloft by the outlined figures of dancers.

Art Is… Rhythm – Kicca Igaly

Two ramps descend from the photo area to the lower floor (also reached via TP), where Daco Monday’s piece rises to pass through the transparent upper level. This level also houses an interactive ballet barre by Kicca. The concert season for the installation will launch on Sunday March 19th, celebrating Before the Silence with Ultraviolet Alter will performing live. Additional events will likely be posted on the installation’s web page.

“I always used memories from my RL life as a source of inspiration for my SL artwork. The collages I do, my travels, the sea, my pictures, my artistic preferences, etc,” Dunt says of the design for the space.

Art Is … Rhythm – Daco Monday

“For the sim rendering, I got inspired by my conté pencil and charcoal drawings on paper. A 2D in which lights and shadows are seeking the volume this medium do not have. I therefore used flat prims as brush strokes.  Shadows provide volume to the flat medium, allowing all my artwork to become 3D.”

I found Art Is… Rhythm is a curious installation. Artistically, there is n doubting the creativity and expression presented within it; but emotionally – for me at least, over two visits (and a brief stop-over at the opening) – it didn’t resonate. Perhaps this is because, as a space intended to support visual and aural art, seeing it sans any concert robbed it of its voice.  As the installation is open through until the end of June, I may well have to return for a third visit to find out.

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