30 June 2015

SL12B Cake Stage

The events may be over at SL12B — Second Life's 12th Birthday celebration — but a few days still remain to take in the sights. Among them is a most astonishing build, the Cake Stage, designed and constructed by Mikati Slade. If you have time to see only one thing at SL12B, this would be it: a mammoth and exuberantly colorful structure that encompasses four regions and towers 200 meters into the air. (If you click on the top image to zoom in, just to give a sense of scale, you'll see me, a tiny dot just past the red carpet on the left.) Mikati, whose work was aptly described by Bryn Oh as "a sophisticated 8-bit cone of candyfloss," remarked to me that she thought it was the best thing she's ever created.

At the center of the structure — the intersection of the sims Fascinate, Pizzazz, Captivate, and Stunning (indeed, all apt words for describing the Cake Stage, although the names of the other SL12B sims — Impressive, Beguile, Wonderous, Astonish, Spellbound, Astound, Enchant, Spectacular, Electrify, Dazzle, and Stupendous — would all be fitting descriptors as well) — is a stage that affords a remarkable view, looking up through the girders, arches and supports toward the top of the build. In keeping with SL12B design principles, the Cake Stage prims are phantom, making it easy to fly unhindered to explore all its facets. Outside, encircling the large cake, are twelve smaller cakes, inside each of which is a small gift. The SL12B sims will continue to be accessible until July 4.

28 June 2015

Adieux, Roche

Kei Frequency alerted me last night to the impending closure of Roche, one of my favorite spots on the grid, and a location that I have photographed for years. Created by ddsm2 Mathy with contributions from hiyoko Mathy (Mocha Bellic), it's a breathtaking landscape that evokes rural Hokkaido, and one of the locations profiled by Eric Grundhauser of Atlas Obscura (read here). The sim was supposed to close last night, but as I write this on Sunday, June 28, it's still open, so run over for a final visit if you'd like to say goodbye.

26 June 2015

SL12B Artist Parcels

SL12B, the community celebration of Second Life's 12th birthday, is in full swing, and there's much to see and do — but only until July 4, when the sims close their doors. Among the many sights are sixteen parcels that were reserved to highlight the arts — which isn't to say that the arts aren't well represented elsewhere in SL12B, either in individual builds or in the massive central displays. In the interests of time, this is simply a quick list of those sixteen offerings, in no particular order.

Artist Asmita Duranjaya exhibits Asmita's Dream (detail above), featuring 3D fractals that create, as she playfully puts it, "a kitschy-pinky-dream-installation" housed in an elaborate palace.

Solkide Auer's build, Tree of Life, shown above, was inspired by a similar structure displayed at the 2015 Milan Expo in Italy. Although it's well lit in the image here, the parcel windlight is quite dark, and that's because Solkide invites visitors to wander among the lit fountains at its base and to teleport to the top of the structure, where you can walk (although it won't appear so at first glance) through a series of interactive lights.

David DuCasse and Leydi Yifu have created the impressive Georges Méliès: The Impossible Voyage, in which a train is barreling straight into the sun (detail above), a tribute to the early 20th-century filmmaker. Photos by Leydi wrap the bottom of this installation.

Giovanna Cerise's beautiful creation, "dream... reminiscences... reality" is a redevelopment of earlier materials (including Chaos, Kosmos), that towers up into the small parcel space. Be sure to find the teleporter at the ground level that will take you to the interior of the upper sphere (shown below from the exterior).

Iso Huet's delightful build, In Dreams Awake (above), begins outside of a graffiti-covered building — but as we step in we find ourselves on fields that stretch beyond view (image below), amid standing stones perhaps reminiscent of Stonehenge (my partner Kinn remarked that the landscape reminded her of Somerset or Wiltshire). The images, which Iso didn't take but stitched together, create a completely immersive environment.

The 1920s Berlin Project welcomes you to miniature reproduction — just walk through the wall of photos that greets you to stroll down the street full of shops. Frau Jo Yardley, the proprietor, is often there in person behind the bar, as she is in the photo above.

Livio Oak Korobase's contribution, The 10 Truths, is inspired by a text by Sidey Myoo (Michał Ostrowicki of Jagiellonian University), that can help "make a common base for the pioneers of virtual worlds" with such truths as "The Electronic World is a human world, capable of accommodating human dimensions: emotions, feelings, and spiritual values." Livio's build is highly interactive, offering poses for individuals and groups throughout.

Loki Eliot has created something really special with Childhood Dreams, which makes use of experience keys to help tell a story. And to make an important point — as Loki says, "Some people wonder why child avatars exist. This exhibit was built with the view to show the creative and fun world that the child avatar seeks ... how Second Life has made the impossible possible, a return to childhood dreams." A frame from his remarkable story is shown above.

Mistero Hifeing offers some of his exquisitely detailed figures and landscapes in Cammino e Vivo Capovolto (aerial image above), which he describes as a surreal journey beyond time.

Ethereal by Pixels Sideways invites you to take the "dreamy cloud ride experience" to see the entire build (above), part of which is hidden below underwater (be sure to read the instructions first). You're invited to share elements of your dreams with others and to see who might share them with you.

Lorin Tone's installation, Audible Dreams, shown above from the air, isn't something to see as much as it is to hear, with a soundscape that constantly changes and invites interaction. "Each pillar has a different series of sound sets installed, along with varying silences between them," says Lorin. The rotating objects above the water and the "ambset emitters," when clicked, preloads and plays a list of sound effects in order, once. You'll need to have your volume turned up fairly high to really have the desired experience.

Visions!, by Djehuti-Anpu (Thoth Jantzen), shown above, is a multi-level multimedia experience that makes extensive use of moving images and sound, so be sure to turn on parcel media. "Visions! takes you on a visit through the Mediamagic Mind, which is composed of 3 parts, each with its own way to be experienced," explains the artist. The three sections — Neovortex, Mediabellum (Kaleidoscopium III), and Hippycampus — offer distinct environments, but there are aspects that can also be appreciated without media running.

In Cosmic Geometry by Wizard Gynoid, shown above in a detail, the ground is covered by a triangular pattern comprising fifteen six-pointed multicolored stars, over which a sphere holds a slowly rotating dreamcatcher.

I was invited to create an exhibition, which I've presented as Matter and Memory in SL12B Astound. These Second Life photographs, dating from 2011 to 2015, capture scenes — ranging from landscapes to “not possible in real life” situations to architecture — all created by residents. This exhibition is a tribute to their imagination, their creativity, and their generosity in sharing their works so that others might enjoy them. Special thanks to Anthony (ADudeNamed Anthony) for designing and constructing the lovely pavilion. A few additional works are on display at the neighboring Dreamitarium Auditorium, and a box of freebies is available, too.

If you adore maps, then walk rather than run over to Maps of Second Life (above), a fascinating display of maps that traces not only the history of the Second Life grid, but also explores smaller areas such as Bay City or Caledon. The travels of the mysteriously lost Magellan Linden are chronicled, and you'll have fun with an interactive thumbtack map.

The City State of New Babbage has on display the Hawksley Pumping Station (below), which serves as a charming introduction to the steampunk town. A display of vintage photographs on the ground floor is topped by the multi-level mechanical room, filled with moving parts, steam and stained glass windows. Thanks to each of these artists for sharing their work with the SL community. I'll be writing about some of the other arts builds at SL12B in the coming days.

25 June 2015

HuMaNoiD

Now open at LEA6 is HuMaNoiD by Wendy Xeno, which hearkens back to her picturesque standalone sim of the same name that closed a little over a year ago (about which I last wrote here). Now enclosed in a dome to prevent the view of neighboring sims from disturbing the tranquil waterscape, the build is a scene of serenity, with small islands dotting our field of view, offering many spots for respite and meditation. Previously one of Second Life's most photographed and visited sims, this new iteration is certain to become a destination point for explorers.

Wendy has recreated several of the original skyboxes to provide additional environments, and these are accessed through the doors at the landing point — they include Zen moment, Sepia winter, Dream in blue (shown above), Gypsy, and Cirque (my personal favorite), many of which are beautiful enough to stand on their own as independent builds.

The new HuMaNoiD isn't a precise duplicate of its predecessor — Wendy dispensed with the taller islands, which simply didn't work against the dome, and added elements such as the delightful balloons shown above. The windlight setting (also shown immediately above) is now darker and more austere, but visitors of course have the option of changing that (the original from years ago being [TOR] SUNRISE - Whisked), and can even derez the dome for an extended view of the horizon, as shown below. HuMaNoiD will remain open through the end of July.

21 June 2015

Fae Varriale at Ce Soir

Now on display at Ce Soir is an exhibition of photography by Fae Varriale, an artist who is equally accomplished in creating three dimensional works. The portraits on display are fanciful captures, often dark and moody, "inspired by myth, folklore and fantasy as encountered in the many worlds of Second Life," as curator Mireille Jenvieve explains. Each of the images is available for sale, and the exhibition will be on display through the month of June. While you're there, take time to explore the other delights at Ce Soir, which features a regular calendar of events and happenings.

20 June 2015

Farewell, L'Arc en Ciel

Asa Vordun recently announced the impending closure of her lovely sim L'Arc en Ciel (about which I most recently wrote here), scheduled for June 28. One of Second Life's most photographed and visited sims, with landscapes and environments ranging from bucolic pastures to urban decay — all lit by shooting stars — it has featured an ever-changing landscape. Unfortunately, encounters with rude visitors seem to have taken a toll on Asa's patience, and she feels the uphill battle isn't worth the effort to police proper behavior. So be sure to take the opportunity to visit within the next week, and thanks to Asa for having shared her lovely space with the community.

11 June 2015

Alpha Tribe

Designer Alpha Auer, famed for her brilliant and fanciful avatars, has been busily redesigning her sim, alpha.tribe, which officially reopens today, Thursday, June 11. When I last wrote about the sim just over a year ago (read here), I remarked on the excellence of the various artworks installed throughout the sim, but, as beautiful as the sim was, it lacked an overall visual cohesiveness. Now, alpha.tribe boasts an unmistakable unity, and the quality of textures, materials and creations invite a lengthy exploration. In commemoration of the sim's redesign, Alpha will release two new avatars (one that mirrors the look of the sim should be available tomorrow, with another forthcoming), and has also revamped several of her older classic outfits.

"This new build revolves around the theme of 'fool's gold,'" says Alpha. "Most of what you will encounter is new (and mostly golden): There is an 'Orientalist' pavilion where you can relax, a shipyard where a golden ship is in the process of being built, an airship that is about to take off to distant skies, a pleasure arcade where you can swing on boats, gaze at clockwork creatures, and get many prizes from a grab-a-duck gallery. There are pleasure walks, gardens, and ruins. And, yes, there is of course also the store with lots of new outfits ... This sim also pays homage to one of the greatest builders of Second Life, the urban legend who was once known as Arcadia Asylum, and then came back to delight us as Aley. Many of the prims that you will see on the sim are Aley's creations which I have modified, and re-textured to create 'fool's gold.'"

The material in the sim is mostly new, with, as Alpha points out, gold that glints in the sun, contrasting with black, often in a tight stripes or alternating patterns. The build, featuring buildings, pavilions, flora, underwater scenes, airships, sky spheres featuring special displays (such as one pictured in the first image), and floating geodesic domes filled with plants, animals and machinery, is busy and complex in every direction. Two elements have been carried over, and they fit in perfectly with the new build: a section of Transit't - Imago Anatopism, on display a year ago at LEA10 (read more here), and the fabulous Blueprint City (read more here), which still stands high in the sky over alpha.tribe (lowest image).

Teleporters located throughout the sim are recommended for ensuring a thorough visit, taking visitors to Blueprint City, Esplanade, Curio, GridRuin, Grotto, Pastoral (top image), Seahorsey and the Store (several of these locations being submerged, and several in the air), but there are quite a few other spots explorers will need to find on their own. Also, visitors should be be sure to have your local sounds turned up. Photographers and others are invited to rez for up to 60 minutes — the images here were all taken using the sim's default windlight settings, which are [NB]-MistyDay-4pm on the ground and [TOR] SUNRISE - Cobraring 1 up at Blueprint City, and others will no doubt produce remarkable results. The sim is an exquisite construction and is not to be missed. If you'd like to lend support, the best option would be to make a purchase from the shop, and visitors can there obtain a landmark to the larger alpha.tribe store in the Insilico sim.

10 June 2015

Summer at Umbral Photography

When I last visited Umbral Photography in January (read here), it was a snowy, ice-covered world, with fields and buildings glistening the winter sun. Now, summer has arrived, and designer Coqueta Veeper (Coqueta Georgia), who co-owns the sim with her partner, vlady Veeper, has transformed the fields into lush blooms of flowers, and flocks of birds circle overhead. Rezzing is turned on to allow photographers the option of props or poses.

The landing point linked above takes visitors to the south side of the island. The north side, visually seamless from the south, includes a location that caters to the D/s community, and if that's not your thing just steer clear — the activity seems consistently contained within the club (the large building in the background in the image below). Building interiors, such as that of the home above, are exquisitely decorated — including the club itself, which might remind explorers of venues at the sim Elysion.

09 June 2015

SaveMe Oh at The Josef K Galleria dell'Arte

SaveMe Oh is possibly the most controversial — or simply reviled — figure in the Second Life artworld. Rude, abrasive, caustic, prone to interrupting performances and exhibitions, she has been expelled and ostracized from so many venues that the bans have become part of her persona. But her work is not without its own brilliance, ranging from "pop up" performances such as this that I documented four years ago, to her elegant Glassworks performances of a year ago. Wearing attachments that fill the performance space, ranging from animals to houses to prims with moving images, she often literally is the artwork, flooding the environment in every direction with images and her bitingly sarcastic humor.

Today, Tuesday, June 9 at 1 pm slt, to commemorate the May 2 release of SaveMe Oh: The Muse of Many Famous Painters (with a prologue by Preben Wolff (Josef K), text by Amaya Mendizabal, and English edits by Aquaglo/Gloria Wyatt, available on the iTunes store) SaveMe will present a performance at the Josef K Galleria dell'Arte, where works by many of Second Life's leading artists are on display. More about the book is available through this promotional video.

08 June 2015

Adieux, Venexia and Goatswood

The sands of time (and, apparently, the cost of the sims) have caught up with two of Second Life's most photogenic and well-known sites: Venexia (top and bottom images, closing on June 13) and Goatswood (middle image, closing on June 19). Dating from 2011 and 2012, respectively (and originally written about here and here), both are spectacular and monumental, especially the former, with its breathtaking architecture and attention to detail. "We would like to say a huge thank you to all those who have over the years contributed so much time and creativity towards the great success of these projects," said designers/owners Baal Zobel and Kora Zenovka in an announcement. "They have provided us with many lasting memories, and we have derived immense enjoyment from seeing them brought to life by those who have spent time playing there. We hope that you have enjoyed using as much as we have enjoyed creating them."

As much as both builds are strikingly beautiful, the sims were designed not primarily as visual destinations but rather as centers for roleplay, with clearly defined character roles, extensive scripting, and even their own currency (more here). But, over time, the sims have become more and more quiet, to the point where visitors might now find themselves wandering solo. Guests have always been welcomed and provided with a free three-day pass, but perhaps for the casual explorer that very aspect diminished the sims' desirability as places to simply visit. In any case, if you haven't ventured to Venexia or Goatswood recently — or never at all — this is last call, and you won't want to to have missed the opportunity.