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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Crumbs from nightmares in Second Life

Crumbs From My Nightmares

How do we express our nightmares? What words would we chose, what lyrics would we consider suitable? What songs or images might we regard as reflecting those dark, frightening thoughts and dreams which pass through our tangled thoughts as we sleep?

Questions like these occupied Slatan Dryke as he developed Crumbs From My Nightmares, a personal look at the dreams which can trouble his sleeping hours.

Crumbs From My Nightmares

“How could I express what a nightmare is with simple words? The breaking into the nights of unknown and disturbing elements, made visible by the Imaginary as a bearer of psychic content, free from the control of the principle of rationality?”

Using extracts from literature – M. R. James, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Lafcadio Hearn and Ambrose Bierce, together with 2D images, 3D art and phenakistoscope, to present a vision from within the realm of nightmares: beasts feeding on flesh, hearts beating, words to chill the heart, bodies reposed apparently in death, ghoulish cartoon images, all held under a haunting audio scape.

Crumbs From My Nightmares

It’s a curious mixture; a rich tumbling of imagery in both form and words,  in places unsettling, in places familiar; sometimes edged in darkness, sometimes edged in the familiar or even the cartoonish. Just as we’d experience, perhaps, within a nightmare.

“The Imaginary is not real but true, messenger of a profound truth, therefore recognizable and unacceptable, Slatan continues, “The monsters represent the dark parts of the soul, in their various erotic, anxious or aggressive components. The Imaginary with its strange and disturbing images causes the turmoil that threatens the familiarity of the daily life.

Crumbs From My Nightmares

How much are our nightmares a part of us?How do they shape is, inform our natures? These questions also run through this piece, with Slatan further adding food for thought. “The perturbation as a feeling of fear and repulsion, arises from the risk of revealing the ‘ghost’ of desire and how much strong is the wish to control it. The irresistible necessity of controlling, natural in mankind, produces that protective mechanism that has enhanced the existence with monsters, vampires and ghosts, not only in dreams and nightmares.”

Crumbs From My Nightmares is an installation wherein the artist’s liner notes play an important role in helping focus thoughts and responses to all that we’re seeing in the installation. But while he may not that these may be his nightmares, many may find the symbolism here familiar, giving them pause to ponder within the framework of thought he offers.

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Revisiting Poetry of the Planets in Second Life

Poetry of the Planets: Uranus – The Magician

I returned to Caledonia Skytower’s Poetry of the Planets because when I first previewed it at the start of April 2017,  Jupiter and Mars had yet to open. This has now changed, with Cale recently completing both and opening them to the public, completing her “suite” of seven settings inspired by Gustav Holst’s famous suite, The Planets. Given this, and the fact that Bringer of War and Bringer of Jollity (the names of the planets were only added to the suite’s movements after their 1918 premiere) are perhaps the two most well-known pieces from the suite, a return to visit them seemed entirely appropriate.

Bringer of War, as one might expect takes us to the remnants of a campaign somewhere in the out reaches of Roman’s empire. From the landing point of the army’s camp, complete with banners and tents, visitors can follow the path down to the battlefield itself, where fires burn and the heaviness of death hangs in the air.

Poetry of the Planets: Mars, Bringer of War

It’s a setting entirely in keeping with Mars and its role as home to the Roman god of war, dark and foreboding. However, my own view of Mars is biased, being shaped by the images of Mars returned to us by the probes we’ve sent there: the winding depths of Vallis Marineris, the fractured chasms of Noctis labyrunthus, the towering peaks of the Tharsis volcanoes and the great cone of Olympus Mons. There is a grandeur to Mars as we know it today which I feel brings a new meaning to Holst’s piece; one less threatening, but more majestic than might have previously been the case. Which is not in any way to negate Cale’s vision, but rather demonstrates how our perceptions of the suite can be as much influenced by the planets as the music can influence our thinking about the planets.

Bringer of Jollity takes visitors to a marvellous crystalline maze, filled with columns reflecting and refracting light, through which a path runs, leading visitors between the columns to a set of golden steps. These in turn provide the means to climb up to a ballroom. One again, the theme of Holst’s piece is marvellously interpreted. It is not heard to image the passageways of the maze filled with the laughter of children as they chase one another up and down them, seeking whatever secrets the hallways might hide. Meanwhile, the ballroom offers a place of adult happiness among the dances – and dance itself might be said to reflect the beat and tone of the movement, with the almost eternal dance of Jupiter’s cloud system forming a backdrop.

Poetry of the Planets: Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity

Poetry of the Planets has a supporting website, and visitors to the installation are invited to submit poems, haikus and even short stories (up to a maximum of 2,000 words) inspired by one of more  of the settings, for publication on the website (authors retain the copyright on their work). Submissions can be made in-world via note card at any of the mail boxes within the installation, or directly to Cale herself.

Also, Poetry of the Panets will feature in the May 22nd instalment of Designing Worlds, and the show will be embedded in the Poetry website. The installation itself will remain open until the end of May for those wishing to visit or re-visit. As I noted in my preview, it 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.

Poetry of the Planets: Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity

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