Guernica: a statement against war in Second Life

London Junkers: Guernica – January 2023

The greater portion of humanity’s history can, unfortunately, be told in terms of conflict and war. Whether driven by territorial desires, religious zealotry, political expediency, or inherent ethnic / racial divides, wars large and small, tribal, national or international have pockmarked the stories of successive civilisations. With the 21st century just into its 23rd year, we have already witnessed some 27 significant conflicts and wars around the globe – roughly twice the number seen within the first two decades of the 20th century.

Little wonder then, that London Junkers has chosen as he latest installation – opening on Wednesday, January 11th, 2023 at 13:00 SLT – to bring back Guernica, his 3D reproduction of Pablo Picasso’s famous oil painting, regarded around the world by many through the years as the most moving and powerful anti-war painting in history.

For those unfamiliar with the painting, from mid-1936 through until late 1939, Spain was torn apart by a civil war between the then-Republican government (notably aided by Soviet Russia and by Mexico) and the Nationalists, lead by a group of generals who had failed to seize power in a coup d’état in mid-July 1936 and were aided by Fascist Germany and Italy.

London Junkers: Guernica – January 2023

As a part of that conflict, General Francisco Franco called upon the German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion and the Italian Aviazione Legionaria to bomb the small – but to the Basques, historically and culturally significant – town of Guernica. Ostensibly, the raid was to deny retreating Republican army use of the town’s bridge to cross the Oka River. However, the use of incendiary bombs later the later raids carried out by the German Condor Legion and which set the town ablaze, does suggest the the bombing was intended to break the spirit of the Basque army.

The attack levelled almost all of the town, with it and the strafing of roads and streets by fighters was seen as a war crime. On hearing about the raid at his home in Paris, Pablo Picasso was horrified. Already been commissioned by the Republican government to produce a painting for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 Paris International Exposition (and to raise funds for the Republican cause via exhibitions around the world), he decided to express his outrage at the murder of women and children – both of whom he saw as “the very perfection of mankind” – through a painting commemorating those lost.

London Junkers: Guernica – January 2023

In all, the painting – over 7.5 metres long and around 3.5 metres high – took Picasso 35 days to produce, and while it was the result of a commission by and for his nation’s Republican government, and he was himself an anti-fascist, and thus vehemently opposed to the likes of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini, he saw the painting as a means to express his overall abhorrence to the war and the effect the actions of both sides was having on his homeland.

The Spanish struggle is the fight of reaction against the people, against freedom. My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. How could anybody think for a moment that I could be in agreement with reaction and death? … In the panel on which I am working, which I shall call Guernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death. 

– Pablo Picasso

Interpreting the painting tends to be subjective; while there is clear symbolism throughout, some of which is clear – such as the woman on the left mourning the loss of her babe-in-arms; the woman with arms upraised to the right, the lick of flames both above and below her, the fallen, dismembered soldier -, so to is there symbolism (or metaphor) which is harder to discern. The presence of the bull and horse, for example; both animals have enormous significance in Spanish culture, and would appear to have significance here – but Picasso himself warned against reading too much into their presence other than, perhaps, as symbols of his nation.

London Junkers: Guernica – January 2023

But that said, the overall horror and destruction, the pain, death and sorrow that surround war is all too clearly evident throughout the piece. As such, when visiting London’s installation, I strongly recommend viewing it from far enough back so you can see all of the piece in a single frame such that it might be viewed as the original. From here all the nuances of the piece can be seen, such as the way the horse’s nose, nostrils and teeth offer a stylised human skull, for example. By moving / camming close helps to bring individual pieces within London’s interpretation of Picasso’s work, allowing us to ponder their meaning.

This symbolism also extends to the landing point / event stage for the installation. Sharing the same black / white / greyscale tones as the painting, this area features two Junkers dive bombers (not actually used in the Guernica raid, but utterly symbolic of the terror of warfare), swooping down on the stage. Between them, a dove – the symbol of peace – sits trapped within a sphere, a symbolism which speaks for itself. Above this sits the trunk of a tree, representative of both the line of Gernikako Arbola, or [oak] Tree of Guernica – a central facet of the Biscayan people (and by extension, Basques as a whole); and the third tree in the series (1858-2004), which  miraculously survived the bombing of the town. Finally, two board on the stage provide, respectively, an introduction to the installation and London’s own indictment of war, in the form of a poem, might be read.

London Junkers: Guernica – January 2023

When writing about the original presentation of this installation in 2012, I noted it might be said that the bombing of Guernica washed away the last vestiges of the romanticism so often afforded war through word, verse and idealism. Sadly, it did not bring an end to war itself, as witnessed by the events that followed on the heels of the Spanish Civil War, and all the conflicts since, per the opening comments of this piece.

In this, and given all that is occurring within Ukraine in particular (and before it, Georgia), the return of Guernica to Second Life at this time helps reminds us that so long as we are driven by the need for power, for dominance (and dominion) over others and in elevating politics and / or religion above our fellow humans, the innocent will continue to suffer under the yoke of war.

SLurl Details

Linden Endowment for the Arts: update

Storm Septimus, Untitled – LEA 28, March 2018

As I blogged in mid-July, the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) as we currently know it is due to close at the end of August (see: Linden Endowment for the Arts to officially close). Following that news, I further blogged about a move to try and save – or replace – the LEA (see: LEA: more on the closure, and a move to save it).

Obviously, any move to save / replace the LEA would require the (preferably active) involvement of Linden Lab. In the meantime, Tansee Resident and Riannah Avora, the two artists who formed the in-world group to try to save the LEA have been collecting ideas and feedback from artists and those supportive of LEA, which have been supplied to them via note cards. On August 7th, Tansee contacted me to let me know of the current situation:

I will share with you that we have 33 note cards and I would say 90% of all the ideas presented are all the same, so we know that we are moving forward in the right direction.

One of the note cards received came via Scylla Rhiadra, who took up my request to collate comments put forward in the forum thread also on the subject – so I’d like to pass on my thanks to Scylla for doing that!

The Eternal Suspense, Giovanna Cerise - LEA 21
Giovanna Cerise, The Eternal Suspense – LEA 21, May 2015

Tansee also confirmed – as per comments made through the “LEA 2.0” group, that contact has been made with Derrick and Patch Linden, and a meeting has been set-up to discuss what the group has been doing and the ideas that have been gathered.

In the meantime, people have also contacted the Lab directly on the subject, which has prompted the following general reply:

Thank you for your expressed interest in the Linden Endowment of the Arts (LEA) program. As this program comes to an end we are considering our options to move forward with Arts Program support. Once a decision is made on how best to support the amazing talents within the Second Life community we will post a public blog so that everyone will have an equal opportunity for involvement.

Thank you for your support of The Arts in Second Life,

Linden Lab™

Tansee has dropped a line to Izzy Linden, from whose account the above was sent, to confirm the planned meeting is still going ahead and to ask if input from the group is still required / welcomed.

None of this means that the LEA will be “saved” of course, but it is encouraging that the Lab is considering matters internally, and is willing to hear from residents in the matter. As such, I’ll endeavour to provide further updates as and when possible / appropriate.

Images of Heaven is Second Life


Heaven by Oema and Van Loopen is not a new exhibition, having been open since May 2019 – but it is one that will be closing at the end of August 2019, and I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. It is a multi-media installation involving hand-drawn images, mobile sculptures, music and an ethereal setting, which Oema describes as follows:

Heaven was born from the idea of bringing together some of my drawings depicting female faces. At first, Van Loopen and I had no idea how to create an original structure that could accommodate drawings … In addition to the church and the drawings, we thought of creating special media effects to be placed so that the visitor, enabling multimedia, could be fascinated by the lights, movements, shapes, colours, and sounds in sync.


Placed against the nave walls towards one end of the ruined cathedral, Oema’s drawings are presented in monochrome, each one very much a focus on an emotion and / or a response. They sit framed within evocative titles, the words of which – assuming they are read by visitors via a right-click edit – add to their depth and potential interpretation by the observer.

The images face in towards the central isle of the nave, where sculptures by Noke Yuitza are animated to turn slowly amidst a gentle blizzard of light and shapes that dance as if given life by the music to which the installation is set – music and lyrics specifically chosen to form an active part of the installation, and which should be enabled and listened to.


It’s an immersive, engaging installation. The visitor, after following the instructions close to the landing point, is undeniably drawn into the piece, particularly if the titles of the drawings are viewed. But at the same time, so little is actually revealed about the subjects themselves; on whom are the images based? Avatars? People from the physical world? Friends? Family? Entirely from the imagination? No clue is given, heightening our involvement with the images and the installation as whole.

SLurl Details

  • Heaven (LEA 1, rated: Moderate)

LEA: more on the closure, and a move to save it

Linden Endowment for the Arts: Another World, May 2017

Following my post on the forthcoming closure of the Linden Endowments for the Art (see: Linden Endowment for the Arts to officially close), committee member JMB (Jo) Balogh posted a personal statement on the closure to Facebook.

As I’m not active in any capacity on that platform, Jo subsequently sent me a copy of her comments via note card, and since I have received numerous questions both in IM and via Twitter, etc., on why the LEA might be closing, I sought Jo’s permission to reprint her thoughts below.

At the same time, and for interested parties, there is a new in-world group for those would would like to see the LEA’s work continue into the future in some manner.

Jo’s Comments on the LEA’s Closure

Again, please note, as Jo states, these are her views on the LEA closure, rather than any form of official statement on the matter; nor do they represent the views of other committee memebers. Nevertheless, they may help shed some light on things.

This is a personal statement, not on behalf of the committee, just my point of view.

For quite a while it was obvious to the Committee that the LEA program as such was slowly dying. Applications for grants were way down and there were complaints that LEA had become boring and predictable. The committee had shrunk in numbers and giving up the right to apply for a grant made becoming a member a non starter for many good people. We spend months discussing it amongst ourselves and in meetings with LL. We concluded that it was not fixable within the current framework and that the only way forward was to step down and let a new group of people with new innovative ideas take it forward. Basically for LEA version II to be started from scratch again, just as it was in 2010. So that’s what we did. We stepped down and left it with LL.

So this is where it stands. I’m sure that LL would be happy to provide the regions again if some of you can come up with a solid proposal for promoting the Arts in Second Life and be willing to run it because it is takes work, a lot of work, trust me on that. It’s a labour of love because it is not paid work. In those years since 2010 Art in SL has changed dramatically and will continue to do so. Go for it! Make it happen.

JMB Balogh (Jo Balogh)

Linden Endowment for the Arts: Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, April 2016

The New In-World Group Seeking a Continuance of the LEA’s Work

Potentially (but not necessarily) as a result of Jo’s comments, a new in-world group has started, called LEA 2.0 The New Future~ SAVE LEA! Which can be joined by visiting the group join boxes at LEA 5 (up until the end of August 2019, at least).

Founded by artists Tansee Resident and Riannah Avora, the function of the group is described as:

Join Group to SAVE The LEA Sandbox, AIR grants, Core grants and the future of SL Virtual Art and Creativity. Be Proactive. This is an opportunity for “Positive” voices to be heard and be a part of the continuing growth and innovation of virtual art and creativity at LEA with dignified and equal respect to all concerned artists.

Please Be specific with your suggestions. Offer reasonable solutions.

Suggestions can be sent to either Tansee or Riannah in-world or dropped into the green boxes placed on LEA 5 (again, at least until the end of August 2019). In an introductory note card, Tansee adds:

Be Proactive & Positive. Avoid Negativity. Write your suggestions and observations on a note card. Be specific. Be respectful. Offer realistic solutions and explanations why you think something will work and how you envision it working. We have 2 weeks to compile input & present to LL. The plan then is to have a meeting at LEA Theatre.

So, if you wish to contribute ideas of a realistic and positive nature for the future of the LEA – or some next generation LEA – now is the chance to do so.

Linden Endowment for the Arts – Love, Henry, July 2015

For my part, I would simply suggest the following regarding an future organisation akin to the LEA:

  • Keep things simple, keep them open. One of the long-running critiques concerning the LEA was its star-chamber like nature. Meetings were largely closed-door affairs, the by-laws tended to discourage guests  rather than welcome them (with some understandable reasons for doing so); the grant selection process came to be seen (and not entirely fairly) as biased in favouritism; the blog / website never really reported on committee activities, furthering perceptions that it was all somehow secretive, etc.
  • Revisit the AIR grants: these were set-up at a time when arts installations had to be largely built and scripted by hand, making them intensive builds. Times have changed, and as more recent years have shown, installations can be developed using prefabricated mesh elements that can be used in a transformational manner, rather than being built from scratch. So, are 6-month grants actually still required? Could they be reduced somewhat to allow a greater range of expression through a year? Need they all aligned, starting and finishing on the same dates twice a year, or could they be set to operate on a more rolling-style basis with smaller groups of them overlapping with start / end dates? Is 20 AIR regions actually too much to be properly managed, and would a smaller number be preferable?
  • Utilise outreach and engagement. This loops back to the first bullet point in some respects. For assorted reasons, it is not unfair to say the LEA often tended to be regarded as being “apart from”, rather than “a part of” the broader diversity of arts and expressionism in Second Life. Better engagement with the broader arts information groups (e.g. SL Art, Cercle Fafner, to name two of the more prominent groups) would therefore perhaps be beneficial.

There is a lot more on specifics that will likely need to be looked into – up to, and including, I would suggest – the Lab’s own involvement in any LEA-like organisation (and their willingness to be perhaps be more involved than has in the past been the case; but then, this is the Linden Endowment for the Arts – at least for the time being). However, I offer these points as more generic points for possible discussion, if deemed relevant.

Should you have ideas of your own, then please – as noted – contact Tansee and Riannah, or drop your feedback into the green boxes on LEA 5 while they are available; and if you’re interested in keeping track of what might come of this move, join the in-world group.

Linden Endowment for the Arts to officially close

Linden Endowment for the Arts: Eidola, 2019

The Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) is to officially close on August 31st, 2019. The announcement came via a notice came via a note card circulated via the Linden Endowment for the Arts Info group, and follows on from a contraction of the scale of the LEA’s operations in Second Life and an announcement made in November 2018 stating the organisation would be going through a restructuring.

The Committee of the Linden Endowment for the Arts regrets to inform residents of Second Life that the LEA regions will be closing at the end of August 2019…

The Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) was established to help create a centre of arts activity in Second Life. It was founded in 2010 and launched its first events in 2011. For the last eight years, it has been a collaborative venture between Linden Lab and the arts community. Guided initially by a board of renowned Second Life artists and more latterly also bringing in people with a strong interest in promoting the Arts in Second Life, the LEA has been committed to providing access to engaging experiences in the arts for the Second Life community. Over the last eight years, through its exhibitions, programs, and events, the LEA has fostered awareness of artists’ contributions to our virtual world and encouraged others to get involved and be inspired.

– from the announcement of the LEA’s forthcoming closure

Linden Endowment for the Arts: Exodus: A Trip for Life, 2017

Sponsored by Linden Lab, and with 29 regions at its disposal, the LEA was initiated under Mark Kingdon’s tenure as CEO at Linden Lab to function as something of a “arts council” in Second Life, run directly by a committee of residents. The core ideals behind the LEA – as expressed on the official website were to:

  • Provide a starting point for artists in Second Life, and for those interested in art to make connections and display their work.
  • Encourage and cultivate art and artists within Second Life.
  • Foster community, creativity, and innovation among artists and all residents interested in art.
  • Provide a way for artists to promote their art.
  • Collaborate with existing art regions, galleries, exhibits, and performance spaces to help nurture their valuable participation in SL arts.
Linden Endowment for the Arts: City Inside Out, 2015

The regions were split into two primary programmes: the “core” regions (nine in all) which could be used by artists from across Second Life for relatively short-term projects, and 20 Artist in Residence (AIR) regions that could be “booked” for six months at a time. Following the announcement of the restructuring in November 2018, the 20 AIR regions were wound down as the last batch of installations for 2018 came to an end. With the formal closure at the end of August 2019, the remaining nine core regions will be shut down.

The LEA was a brave attempt to try to help promote arts within Second Life, although its very nature was bound to be somewhat controversial. Indeed, following its formation, there was a certain degree of hostility directed towards it, a lot of which was unfair.

Linden Endowment for the Arts: Speculum, 2015

As was pointed out to me after I wrote the article on the 2018 restructuring announcement, running any organisation like the LEA is going to be a thankless task; there is no remuneration for time given, there is always going to be hostility over actions taken and the grants awarded, and so on; it really can be a thankless task. Nevertheless, there were times when the committee really didn’t help itself, such as failing to adequately act in accordance with its own by-laws after a committee member openly griefed a privately-held arts region in 2015 (other than hiding those by-laws when challenged under them following said incident).

However, there can be no doubting then when all is said and done, the LEA did a tremendous amount of good for the artists who participated in its programmes, offering many the means to express themselves and reach audiences in a manner that might never otherwise been able to achieve.

Linden Endowment for the Arts: Astral Dream Project – Leonardo 500, 2019. One of the last LEA core region exhibitions

For example, there have been collaborative projects too numerous to mention; there have been individual installations offered for use by a wider community (take Chic Aeon’s MOSP installations for example); there have been works embracing political and social issues (such as the 2LEI installations); investigations into matter of health (which through their construction and presentation may well have offered catharsis to the artists behind them). There have been installation that have allowed the many faces of art of be examined, explored and enjoyed music, song, dance, storytelling, the visual interpretation of classic works. And there have been those that have simply offered the opportunity for us to express joy and laughter – and so much more.

As such, and while the LEA many have had its warts and at times had to face undue criticism, it has through its nine years of existence been a force for good for those arts who have been able to make use of its facilities and it has certainly helped enriched art within Second Life and allow many to appreciate work and installations they might otherwise never get to see. So, it’s not unfair to say its passing will be missed.

Related Links

Da Vinci and Steampunk in Second Life

Astral Dreams Project: 500 Leonardo

The latest edition of the Astral Dreams project, curated by Jack Davies and Mina Arcana, opened its doors at the start of June 2019 to present 500 Leonardo “celebrating 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci in [a] Steampunk setting”.

Featuring art and models by Nabreji Aabye, Caly Applewhyte (Calypso Applewhyte), Sergio Delacruz, Desy Magic, Lara Tommaso and Ciottolina Xue, this is something of an installation in two parts: a celebration of the works of Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, the most famous polymath of the Italian Renaissance, and a selection of steampunk inspired displays.

Astral Dreams Project: 500 Leonardo – Sergio Delacruz

The setting is a series of island floating in the sky dome, the largest of which features the Leonardo Museum and the landing point. In the grounds are marvellous models of some of da Vinci’s inventions: notably his proposal for a wheeled fighting machine, and his aerial screw.

While neither of these was built in da Vinci’s time (and the fighting machine would have been impractical under battlefield conditions), the fighting machine contained a number of elements and ideas still found in modern tanks and armoured vehicles, while the aerial screw is regarded as an antecedent of the helicopter. Sharing the outdoor space with both is a model of his catapult, all three beautifully modelled by Sergio Delacruz.

Astral Dreams Project: 500 Leonardo – Sergio Delacruz

Within the museum building is a broader celebration of da Vinci’s work, featuring reproductions of some of his paintings and his anatomical sketches, together with more models and reproductions of drawings of some of this other inventions – most notably his flying machine, celebrated in both model and drawing. Information in Italian on all of these, and the models outside, can be obtained via web links supplied by touching individual drawings / paintings or the easels alongside the models. In this, the display may well have been made more accessible to a visiting audience by providing language options in the links.

Just outside the door to the museum building are teleports that will take visitors to the installations by Nabreji Aabye, Caly Applewhite, Desy Magic, Lara Tommaso and Ciottolina Xue. These all focus more on the steampunk element of the installation, offering both 2D or 3D works by the respective artists. The teleports come in two flavours: a plain disk system that will auto-teleport you around the artists’ installations, and a menu-driven teleport unit (with a large floating sign) that allows you to choose your destination.

Astral Dreams Project: 500 Leonardo – Desy Magic

500 Leonardo is a curious mix; on the one hand the celebration of da Vinci’s life and the installation celebrating steampunk and art stand distinctly apart; on the other, they are somewhat linked.

As an engineer, inventor and visionary, de Vinci saw far ahead of his time, developing tools and technology that were far ahead of their time, from winches to the aforementioned fighting and flying machines; so too is steampunk associated with invention and machines. Da Vinci was also a cartographer, a science associated with exploration, and steampunk often encompasses the idea of exploration and discovery. I also have little doubt that da Vinci himself would be fascinated by the whole steampunk genre and its inventiveness as it sits within its 19th century framework.

Astral Dream Project: 500 Leonardo – Ciottolina Xue

SLurl Details