The Vordun: new home, new exhibits and some favourites

The Vordun Gallery and Museum

The Vordun Gallery and Museum, curated and operated by Jake Vordun, has relocated to its own full region, and as a result has undergone something of an expansion.

Connected to its former home on the region Jake has his Fancy Decor business, the new Vordun Gallery and Museum now boasts two floors, offering highly flexible display space with – at present – nine gallery halls (although some look like they could either be expanded or split, depending on the needs of individual displays).

The Vordun Gallery and Museum: Pictures of the Floating World

As I discussed exactly two years ago just after The Vordun originally opened (see: The Vordun: a new art experience in Second Life), one of the attractions with this gallery is the care with which Jake and his team have striven to make a visit to The Vordun something of a an experience that mirrors a visit to a physical world gallery or museum – and this is certainly continues with the gallery’s new location.

I wanted to expand the non gallery areas. The lobby in the old build was a small cube. I think the newer big lobby with café, bathrooms, elevator, coat check etc, gives it a more real-life feel. Plus adding the second floor adds a ton of new space for more exhibits!

– Jake Vordun on expanding the Vordun Gallery and Museum

The Vordun Gallery and Museum: Claude Monet

The realism element was particularly reflected in the initial exhibit at the Gallery, European Masters, 300 Years of Painting, offering as it did a scripted audio tour of the pieces on display. In the intervening years, European Masters has become something of a permanent fixture at the gallery, and I’m pleased to say this is still the case following the move as it continues to occupy the main ground floor hall.

The ground floor also sees three other exhibitions that were open at the time of the move also continue. Two of these, Pictures of the Floating World and Proverbs of the Low Countries, I wrote about in June 2017 (see: Floating worlds and Dutch proverbs in Second Life). Both of these are again exhibitions designed to not only reveal the art to visitors, but actively engage the visitor with the art. Sincerely Yours / Postcrossing, meanwhile, brings to life the fascinating world of postcrossing.com, which invites people to sign-up and send a postcard to a total stranger in another part of the world, thus joining a chain of sharing that has seen some 40 million postcards exchanged at the rate of 187 being sent per hour!

The Vordun Gallery and Museum: Claude Monet

The rear hall on the ground floor is home to one of the new exhibitions at the gallery: Claude: Monet Impressions, a celebration of one of the founders – and possibly the greatest exponent  – of French impressionism Claude Monet. With something of a focus on some of Monet’s more famous paintings – notably those of his gardens at Giverny – this is at the same time a varied exhibition, featuring some of his portrait work and touching on the man and his life as well. All of which makes for an excellent introduction to Monet for those unfamiliar with his work.

The upper floor of the gallery holds the promise of the return of A Night to Remember, commemorating the loss of the RMS Titanic. This interactive installation had its début in Second Life at the Vordun as a part of the gallery’s original opening. It then travelled to the LEA where it was expanded somewhat (see: A Night to Remember in Second Life). Thus, the forthcoming its re-opening at The Vordun will be something of a coming home.

The Vordun Gallery and Museum: Rembrandt

Also on the upper floor The Vordun offers visitors the chance to immerse themselves into the life and work of the great Dutch master, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn – but form an unusual angle. Best remembered as painter, Rembrandt was also a master draughtsman and printmaker, being a pioneer in the world of etching. It is this aspect of his art – for which he was perhaps most famous during his lifetime – that is celebrated here. Be sure to touch the images to gain deeper insight into each of them.

Alongside Rembrandt is another interactive, experience-driven exhibition, Musica Antiqua, a most engaging journey into music from the middle-ages to the Baroque period (the era of Bach, Vivaldi, Albinoni, Handel, Percell, Pachelbel and more). It features models of various instruments paints and  – most immersely – the music of the instruments themselves through audio and video.

The Vordun Gallery and Museum: Musica Antiqua

As with some of the other exhibitions at The Vordun, this is a HUD-driven exhibition (the HUD should auto-attach on entering the exhibition space, providing you have accepted the gallery’s experience. If you haven’t, you’ll again be asked to do so). Audio can be heard by pressing the number on the HUD corresponding to the instrument  / painting you are viewing. Three additional button (indicated by the number with the video icons alongside them) will open a playback panel in your viewer, but note that a) you may have to click the panel to engage video playback; and b) playback is dependent upon HTML / Flash support in your viewer – an nearby chat link will help for those experiencing issues, and depending on their view of the security of Flash.

Across the hall from Musica Antiqua and Rembrandt is another unusual exhibition of physical world art – one perhaps at times overlooked outside of stately homes in Europe: that of tapestry. Threads of Gold celebrates this art through both wall hangings (perhaps how we most often think of tapestry) and upholstery embroidery – the latter again through the use of models.

The Vordun Gallery and Museum: Threads of Gold

The Vordun has cut a path of its own in terms of Second Life galleries, focusing as it does on physical world art. I personally find this one of the great attractions with the gallery; by doing so, it can bring the world’s art and artists to an audience who might otherwise never have the chance to experience the personal delight of what is to all intents and purposes a “first-hand” view of the art that the printed page can never really match.

That said, and allowing for the lean towards making The Vordun as close as possible to the feeling of visiting a “real” gallery, I did again find myself wishing in places that displays that do not provide auto-zooming used larger versions of the images they present (overall quality of the original image allowing, of course). This would potentially make them easier to appreciate by those less skilled in camera manipulation or who – more particularly – might suffer from poor vision.

The Vordun Gallery and Museum: The Great European Masters

Emphasising physical world art is something Jake would like to increase, as he informed me during a visit. “I’d love to have some Second Life artists showcase their physical world art.” There is nothing planned for this as yet, Jake has been focused on getting the gallery moved and the new exhibitions opened. However, we did discuss a few names, and SL artists who are not averse to displaying their art in-world might want to contact Jake directly to discuss their work and possible opportunities.

In the meantime, congratulations to Jake and his team for the gallery’s expansion and four new and very engaging exhibitions.

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A touch of Frost (and more) in Second Life

The Vordun: Frost: Visions of Winter

Wintertime in the northern hemisphere is when thoughts turn to snow and holidays, and within Second Life, this is no exception. Many regions take on a winter look and feel, the ground, trees and buildings caught under white blankets or dusted with snow, even as more often falls from the sky. For many in the physical world, despite the cold, it is a time of joy and for treks through virgin drifts of snow or – in the case of the younger at heart snow fairies, snowmen and sledges and sleighs.

Celebrating this time of year is not new; people have always found enjoyment with winter and the changes it brings to the world, and right now we can witness this for ourselves at a recently opened exhibition of art at The Vordun Museum and Gallery, created and curated by Jake Vordun.

Entitled Frost: Visions of Winter, it offers selected reproductions of classical pieces of art spanning 500 years, celebrating winter in all its glory, as the introductory notes explain:

In this exhibition, you will see twenty painting, drawings, prints and manuscripts depicting different aspects of the season. Be it landscapes, winter costumes or feasts by the fire, these pieces will show you glimpses of winter from the  15th century to the 20th.

The Vordun: Frost: Visions of Winter

The Vordun has a reputation – thoroughly deserved – for bringing high-quality reproductions of physical world art, properly licensed, into Second Life. This exhibition, located in the gallery’s rearmost hall, is no exception. Including paintings and drawings by the likes of Francesc Masriera i Manovens, Jacob van Ruisdael, Sebastiaan Vrancx, Claude MonetJean-Baptiste Pater, Francis Wheatley and Hendrick Avercamp, this might at first be considered a wholly European view of winter – but not so; America is represented via James Abbott McNeill Whistler, as is China through the ink on paper Winter Forest in Flying Snow by Wen Zhengming, with Scandinavian artists also being present among the images.

I really cannot stress the quality of these pieces, which together with the environment in which they are set. As I noted when it first opened in July 2016, The Vordun beautifully recreates the experience of visiting a physical world art gallery – so much so that it one of the those select Second Life experiences that leaves me regretting we cannot have fully immersive virtual reality in Second Life. Certainly, for those building in Sansar, it is perhaps the model of how to plan and build a virtual gallery space.

The Vordun: Frost: Visions of Winter

This is not only because of the look and feel of The Vordun, but in the way Jake has developed a visit as a Second Life experience in the technical sense of the word, presenting visitors with the opportunity to view the works in the main hall exhibition of European Masters: 300 Years of Painting as immersively as possible, via scripted camera control and the use of both voice and text to impart information on each piece on display.

Sadly, this aspect of The Vordun doesn’t extend into Frost: Visions of Winter, but that is not to say the latter is lessened in any way; rather the reverse. Frost stands as a captivating exhibition in its own right, while for those who haven’t visited The Vordun before, the presentation of European Masters: 300 Years of Painting, makes a visit to the gallery doubly worthwhile – and also gives the opportunity to appreciate two other long-running exhibitions there: Pictures of the Floating World and Dutch Proverbs (both of which you can read about here), which are as equally stunning as Frost and European Masters, and sample Postcrossing, a celebration of the website of the same name and the use of postcards to bring half a million people around the world a little closer together.

The Vordun: Frost: Visions of Winter

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Floating worlds and Dutch proverbs in Second Life

The Vordun: Pictures of the Floating World

Now featured at The Vordun Museum and Gallery  curated by Jake Vordun, are two new exhibitions Caitlyn and I recently dropped in on, and which make for an engaging visit.

The first, and most recent, is Pictures of the Floating World, occupying the gallery’s South Wing. This takes visitors in to the world of ukiyo-e, (literally “picture[s] of the floating world”) a form of Japanese art using woodblock prints and paintings which flourished from the 17th through 19th centuries.  Ukiyo (“floating world”) refers to the hedonistic lifestyle enjoyed by the  merchant class of Edo (modern Tokyo) who were at that time benefiting the most of the city’s economic expansion, and who became one of the prime audiences for the art, purchasing it to decorate their homes.

The Vordun: Pictures of the Floating World

Much of this is explained in the foyer to the exhibit, via an informative wall panel together with notes on how ukiyo-e were / are made (see the image below). Such is the design of this foyer area, it is as much a part of the exhibition as the images themselves, and deserves the time taken to read the information offered. Beyond it, 20 images of ukiyo-e art are presented, each with its own information tag which provides the name, artist and date of creation for the piece.

If I’m totally honest, I’d have preferred the prints to be somewhat larger: ukiyo-e is a beautiful art form, and the small size of the works here do make it difficult to fully appreciate some of them, and having to zoom a lot can intrude into one’s appreciation of individual pieces. But make no mistake, the is an exhibit well worth seeing and appreciating – I particularly like the central themed display of five images focused on the shamisen musical instrument.

The Vordun: Pictures of the Floating World

Also on the south side of the gallery is Proverbs of the Low Countries, which opened in May. Reached via a short hallway, it comprises a single, large reproduction of Pieter Bruegel The Elder’s The Blue Cloak (or Netherlandish Proverbs or Flemish Proverbs or The Topsy-Turvy World, depending on your preference), painted in 1559. This is a truly remarkable piece which may at first seem a chaotic, nonsensical rendering of somewhat comical people; in fact it contains no fewer than 112 illustrations of Dutch language proverbs and idioms, offered together as a commentary on human folly.

Finding your way around the 112 proverbs – many of which transcend Dutch use and will be recognisable to English speakers (and probably familiar to those from other European nations as well) – is made possible through the use of a dedicated HUD. Instructions on obtaining this are provided on the wall of the hallway leading to the painting, so please be sure to read and follow them in order to be able to properly appreciate the piece.

The Vordun: The Blue Cloak (1559) by Pieter Bruegel The Elder

Floating Worlds and Proverbs are two considered, informative exhibitions which again demonstrate both the uniqueness of The Vordun in the art presented there, and just how informative / educational / enjoyable an art exhibition can be in Second Life.  Don’t forget as well, that when visiting the gallery, you can also enjoy the long-running European Masters, 300 Years of Painting (which you can read about here), and Winning a delightful exhibition showcasing the 51 winning entries from four years of The Arcade’s photography competition.

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The Vordun: a new art experience in Second Life

The Vordun Gallery
The Vordun Gallery

Saturday, July 12th witnessed the opening of The Vordun Museum and Gallery, created and curated by Jake Vordun, the owner of Fancy Decor.

Occupying a large, modern building on one side of the Fancy Decor region, the museum and gallery presents a venue capable of supporting multiple exhibitions, with two art exhibits and a museum exhibition being presented for the opening season. Together they make for a unique and immersive visit.

The Vordun: European Masters
The Vordun: European Masters: 300 Years of Painting

The first of the art exhibitions is European Masters, 300 Years of Painting, which occupies the main gallery hall. On displays are over 30 paintings from the period 1500 through 1799, all of which are presented in a scale consistent with one another and to their physical world originals.  These can be freely perused and admired, title cards alongside of each one offering information on its provenance:  artist, title, year of painting, medium and the physical world collection where it current resides.

However, what makes this exhibit unique is that it has an associated experience. On entering the gallery lobby, visitors should be asked to accept the gallery’s experience, smartly scripted by Tangle Giano of Madpea fame (if the dialogue is not displayed, click one of the racks of headsets on the lobby counters). Accepting it will attach a HUD and explanatory note card to your screen. The card can be clicked away once read (and the permissions requested by the experience are automatically revoked and the HUD removed & deleted on leaving the gallery area / teleporting away from the region).

The Vordun: European Masters
The Vordun: European Masters

The HUD comprises a numbered keypad and display screen, each of the numbers corresponding to a number displayed in the lower right corner of the title card for 28 of the displayed paintings. When standing in front of one such painting, clicking the corresponding number on the HUD will focus your camera directly on the picture and display additional information (courtesy of Google Culture and Art) in local chat. An audio reading of the same text is also given for those with local sounds enabled, while the provenance information for the painting is displayed in the screen area of the HUD. Once the audio track has finished, control of the camera is released, allowing individual paintings to be more freely admired.

This approach adds considerable immersive depth to the exhibition, offering something of an audio tour of the paintings on display, whilst allowing visitors to freely wander between them in an order of their own choosing.

The paintings themselves are superbly reproduced, and run from portraits of famous figures of the times, through still life scenes, landscapes, allegorical paintings and biblical scenes. All studiously avoid the use of Full Bright, and this coupled with the use of a neutral windlight settings for the region, allows them to be presented in as close to “real world” lighting conditions as possible, further enhancing the immersive feel of the exhibition.

The Vordun:: Lip Service by Celeste Forwzy
The Vordun: Lip Service by Celeste Forwzy

The north wing of the gallery houses the second art exhibition, entitled Lip Service. Running through until September 19th, it features a set of watercolour drawings of female mouth – or specifically lips – by physical world and Second Life artist Celeste Forwzy.

Twelve framed images are presented in the exhibit, and again considerable care has been taken in their presentation. The gallery space is rendering in a neutral white, with a simple wooden floor, with each drawing softly lit through the use of a projected light. The result is and environment ideally suited to focusing one’s attention on the drawings, each of which is extraordinarily attractive.

The Vordun: A Night to Remember
The Vordun: A Night to Remember

Across the hall, in the south wing, is A Night To Remember (from the 1958 film of the same name), curated by Emery Milneaux. An interactive exhibition commemorating the loss of RMS Titanic on the night of April 14th 1912, it runs through until October 9th, and is another extraordinary piece.

On entering the exhibition space, visitors are asked to attach a boarding pass to their 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. From here, visitors move through a series of rooms which take us through Titanic’s brief history, from construction to loss.

The Vordun: A Night to Remember
The Vordun: A Night to Remember

This is told through a richly mixed medium of interactive photos and title cards (click the former to focus your camera on the photo, click the latter to receive further information in chat), together with principal figures from the liner’s story: Commodore Edward Smith, the Titanic’s Captain, socialite Madeleine 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 them, and they will present a short “first hand” narrative. There are also reproductions of the ship’s Grand Staircase, together with a first and third class cabin – the latter two starkly outlining the massive class divide of Edwardian society.

However, it is the final gallery of this exhibit which is the most poignant, dealing with the liner’s sinking. In particular, in the final room, three large plaques list the names of every passenger who sailed with the Titanic, together with their fate on the night of April 14th. Through these, visitors can discover the fate of the person named on their boarding pass, adding something of a personal dimension to the exhibition. A fourth plaque commemorates the liner’s crew, 700 of whom (out of 916) lost their lives.

The Vordun: gift shop
The Vordun: gift shop

Individually, any one of the exhibitions at The Vordun would be more than worth visiting. Taken together, and a visit becomes a singular experience of many facets, one I have no hesitation in recommending. And I’ve not even covered the gift shop, which offers copies of the drawings, paintings and memorabilia for sale, together with a range of other souvenir items.

My congratulation to Jake and all involved in the project for developing such an outstanding venue. I look forward to making many future visits to The Vordun, and seeing future exhibitions, and the use of capabilities like Experience Keys might be further leveraged.

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With thanks to Kess Crystal for introducing me to Jake.