29 July 2016

Forest of Scissors

Igor Ballyhoo's venerable Forest of Scissors has been temporarily reconstructed at LEA7. This immersive and gigantic field of sharp objects is a delight to photograph and explore, although both my partner Kinn and I were oddly pushed off the platform repeatedly. (Try flying above or below if that happens.) As new material is in development elsewhere on the sim, which is owned by Rose Borchovski for an LEA grant, the Forest of Scissors may disappear soon. Thanks to the astute observation of friend and photographer Anita Witt for the alert.

28 July 2016

Vordun Museum and Gallery

Exhibitions of real life artworks in Second Life often seem less successful than real life artworks exhibited in real life, or virtual artworks being exhibited in the virtual world. Perhaps the conundrum rests in part on the relatively low resolution (1024x1024 pixels maximum) that prohibits a truly high definition view of artwork in Second Life, or perhaps it's the way in which art is displayed. If it's the latter, then the Vordun Museum and Gallery has tackled the challenge admirably, as organizer and curator Jake Vordun has created a truly gorgeous space for exhibitions that is sure to delight any visitor. The Vordun features a large main gallery (pictured above) and two smaller spaces (lower two images), in addition to a gift shop; attractive sculptures by Jake are situated in the front garden of the museum.

Visitors will want to accept the experience as they arrive, permitting the attachment of a HUD for in-depth audio commentary. The large main gallery currently features European Masters: 300 Years of Painting, an exhibition that features historic paintings from 1500 through 1799 by artists such as van Eyk, Vélazquez, Rembrandt, Bruegel, Arcimboldo, Gainsborough, Rubens and Holbein. In the adjacent South Wing, showing until October 9, is A Night to Remember, an immersive exhibition that explores the ship Titanic and its fateful maiden voyage. "Upon entrance, visitors will receive a card with the name, age and class of an actual Titanic passenger," says Jake. "They'll then begin their chronological journey through six galleries, moving from the ship's constructions, to life on board, to its ill-fated strike of an iceberg. In the final gallery, guests can take their boarding pass to the memorial wall and discover the actual fate of their passenger." And in the smaller North Wing is an exhibition of images, Lip Service, by Celeste Forwzy (a.k.a. Jim), which will remain on display until September 19. If you enjoy your visit, please consider leaving a contribution in support of the Vordun, and visit the museum's website for current information.

27 July 2016

Preiddeu Annwn

Designed by Hypatia Pickens, a professor at the University of Rochester, Preiddeu Annwn is a spectacularly beautiful sim woven with intrigue and history that explores the poem "Preiddeu Annwn" from the 14th century Welsh manuscript Llyfyr Taliesin (The Book of Taliesin) ("a mysterious poem," as she described it to me). Constructed with the participation of five students in Hypatia's spring 2016 media studies class ("I forced them to read Welsh poetry," Hypatia laughed), the multi-level sim takes visitors on a journey that ranges from a brilliant pastel sea (image above) to darkly shrouded scenes (lower images), many of which are accompanied by explanatory texts in Welsh and English. As the parcel description says, "What better place to stage the Otherworld than in the immaterial Otherworld of Second Life? A visual representation of a medieval Welsh poem from The Book of Taliesin, that begins with the prisoner Gweir. Find him in the four levels of Annwn and a way out of the labyrinth."

"'Preiddeu Annwn' ('the spoils? or the cattle? of Annwn') is found in The Book of Taliesin (ca. 1300)," explained Hypatia, "and I was given a small grant by the [University of Rochester] Rossell Hope Robbins Library to maintain its virtual presence in SL as long as I taught a course using it. Taliesin is a poet said to have been court bard to Urien Rheged of the sixth century, famous for his praise poems but also his unintelligible challenges to readers — who he intends to baffle with his arcane knowledge. My students brought together the materials of skillful artists in Second Life to make a labyrinth in which one hunts for the mysterious prisoner Gweir who sings till Judgment his bardic prayer before the Spoils of Annwn. Six stanzas repeat the refrain 'except seven none rose up/returned from the Fortress of X.' The last two seem to chastise monks for their lack of esoteric knowledge. We made this together from almost nothing, black ink on a page, dark hints, many translations, much critical reading, and all the materials of poetic inspiration."

The extensive vignettes encountered throughout the sim seem to go on almost endlessly, and their rich content warrants repeated trips. Visitors will encounter four distinct locations: the starting point, where one receives information and directions on how to experience the sim; the sea (from here, sit on the mound below the ships); the underground Annwn/Annwfn (a term of uncertain origin explained in one of the rooms); and finally the "Isle of Gweir," the castle where Gweir is imprisoned, reached through a teleport door beyond the Door of Hell — the only way out of the sim.

While exploring, please be sure to have advanced lighting model turned on with shadows (sun/moon + projectors), as well as the parcel media stream, which features sonic material developed by the class. "We did the first two stanzas [of the poem] in Welsh and then one of the students did the voice over," Hypatia explained. And, she adds, at Isle of Gweir, "In one of the rooms you will find selections from the papers my students wrote about the poem and the project."

Yesterday, Hypatia published a machinima, long in the works, that documents the build and provides additional layers of interpretation. Visitors who are interested in learning more about the Rossell Hope Robbins Library, a special collections library focused on medieval literature, history, philosophy, theology, demonology and criticism, can visit its virtual location in Second Life here in the lovely sim Verdigris. Beyond its sheer beauty and fascination, Preiddeu Annwn exemplifies the possibilities of Second Life in higher education, which deserves renewed examination.

26 July 2016

A Watercolour Wander

Now open at LEA12 (with a formal grand opening to be announced and held in August) is A Watercolour Wander, a sim-wide installation by Ceakay Ballyhoo, better known simply as CK. Recently, she began experimenting in real life with watercolors, and considered ways to merge her artwork there with her endeavors in Second Life, culminating in this sim that looks, from every vantage point, like a giant immersive watercolor.

"The idea of walking into a painting has always been a very attracting and intriguing one," says the artist, and that's precisely what one does at A Watercolour Wander: a path leads through pastel scenes to various two-dimensional painted panels that mirror the environment around them so closely that one sometimes can't quite tell they're there (first three images here). And the path leads directly through the phantom panels, extending to visitors the experience of walking through a painting.

Each of the eleven scenes depicted on and around the panels — A Starry Forest Night, Mr Nut at the Forest Tunnel, Meeting Pinkie Papillon amongst the Flowers and Butterflies, The River, The Birches, The Silent Mountains, The Rock at Lavender Forest, The Bird among the Blue Birches, The Lady and her Lover, The Watchers, and The Fish — is complemented by a story, and CK suggests that visitors read those either prior to or during the walk-through. Although the stories provided on the sim — follow the sign saying "Info" at the landing point — they're more appealingly presented, along with images, on CK's website here. The sim also contains a central area with a spot to relax and take in the entire view (image below).

25 July 2016

Soul of Colors: Variations on The Magic Flute

Now open at LEA21 is a sim-wide installation by Giovanna Cerise, Variations on "The Magic Flute," representing the first component in Soul of Colors, the next component of which will appear in September. This immersive environment was first created by Giovanna on the now-gone sim Imparafacile back in January 2012. "I thought maybe it would be nice to show it again," she explained to me. "This was my first big installation, and I wanted present it again before submitting my new work for September. It's all built in prims except for the stairs at the entrance — before working with mesh I had always worked with prims, and it was a good school."

Reflecting Giovanna's love of opera (and following on last summer's Tristan und Isolde — read here), the build investigates Mozart's timeless opera and collaboration with librettist and singer Emanuel Schikaneder, Die Zauberflöte, or The Magic Flute, K. 620, a masterpiece that premiered in 1791 shortly before the composer's death. Reflecting the progressive philosophical views of the artists — both Freemasons influenced by the Enlightenment — the libretto interweaves Masonic and idealistic elements through the entertaining storyline.

Venturing through the build, visitors move along a series of staircases from one scene or vignette to another, all representing different moments in the opera. "The Magic Flute is a path of growth and overcoming obstacles," Giovanna added. "Climbing the stairs is a metaphor for this ... [The artwork] unfolds in a series of environments full of references, allusions and allegories, in an infinite game of layers that overlap and intersect." (Indeed, guests who decide to walk the stairs through the entire path will discover one flight that's intentionally blocked — flying around the barrier is the only option.)

Throughout Variations on "The Magic Flute," visitors are invited to hear excerpts linked to the various scenes depicted, and are also invited to be "stimulated by the use of poses that encourage interactivity." Those who are interested in learning more about Giovanna Cerise's artistry would be well served to read an extensive interview with her conducted by Bryn Oh in December 2015 — read here. Variations on "The Magic Flute" will remain on display through the end of August.

24 July 2016

The Singularity of Kumiko

Earlier this year, artist Bryn Oh received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) that funded in part the development of a 30-minute machinima on The Singularity of Kumiko, an immersive installation that first opened at Bryn's sim, Immersiva, in February 2014 (read here). After receiving the grant, Bryn rebuilt The Singularity of Kumiko (which had long since closed) for the purposes of making the machinima, and just today published the final result, shown below. In lauding the OAC's support, Bryn said, "I am really happy with them. They are pretty open minded as to what art can be."


The machinima isn't merely a documentation of the build — it stands alone as an outstanding artwork, adding many new layers to the original story, and serves as a premiere example of the possibilities of inworld filmmaking. The Singularity of Kumiko — the immersive build rather than the machinima — can still be visited for about another month (this build differs slightly from the original displayed in early 2014), when Bryn will remove it to begin construction of something new — teleport here.

20 July 2016

Close Ups of a Doll

Now open at Berg by Nordan Art, and curated by Kate Bergdorf, are two concurrent exhibitions by photographer Maloe Vansant: Close Ups of a Doll, situated on the water level of the sim, and Yesterday: Retrospective, located in the small gallery overhead. The former, consisting of fifteen large and beautifully composed photographs (depicted in the first two images in this post) "are all new photographs depicting close-ups of avatars, inspired by our perception of the avatar as a doll," states the curator, reflecting Maloe's preferred way of being in Second Life.

The exhibition overhead, while dubbed a retrospective, features works not previously exhibited, and Maloe draws on a poem by Emily Dickinson, "Yesterday is History" (provided on the exhibition's accompanying notecard), to provide a context for her thoughts. Maloe's artworks are available for purchase, and the exhibitions will remain on display through September. Visitors should also consider visiting Berg by Nordan Art's l'annexe, which displays photography by Kate Bergdorf, and which has recently been refreshed with an excellent show of black and white images.

18 July 2016

Beautiful Bizarre (images NSFW)

Now open at DaphneArts Gallery I, curated by SheldonBR and Angelika Corral, is Beautiful Bizarre, an exhibition of photographic compositions by Angelika Corral, Asa Vordun, Gwenarielle, Leeleu Lemondrop, Loki (LokiSilverson), Maghda, Paradox Messmer, Rainbow Mubble, Sabbian Paine, SheldonBR, terrygold and Theda Tammas (the last of whom offers a three-dimensional work, pictured below). Each artist was expressly invited to create an image or object reflecting the exhibition's theme.

"It is not easy to define beauty ... It’s not about prettiness," state the curators. "Beauty is something subjective." Here, embracing styles ranging from the grotesque to the surreal to the nightmarish, the artists explore the "beautiful bizarre" in their works. Most, but not all, of the artworks are available for purchase. Beautiful Bizarre will continue on display through the month of August.

17 July 2016

The last harbor

Artist Giovanna Cerise, whose works have been mentioned many times in this blog and have been featured at many Second Life venues, has recently opened a permanent location for the display of her creations, an outdoor gallery space entitled The last harbor. Roughly a couple dozen artworks are displayed in a beautiful setting along a long stretch of land that borders the sea, allowing the viewer to study many of the objects with only the sky as background.

Generally, Giovanna has selected items that would fit admirably into a small sculpture park or personal gallery space, and has included both two- and three-dimensional creations. Her works vary considerably in style, ranging from immersive environments to what might pass for wall drawings, and most are clearly imbued with some sort of mathematical structure or design.

Visitors can venture through a set of arches to reach a seashore along the eastern edge of the parcel, where a cozy, sandy area awaits that includes places for solace or for couples to relax. Several additional works are situated along the beach. For the collector, each of the items is available for purchase.

15 July 2016

bury your fears - bury your dreams

Now open at MetaLES is Selavy Oh's bury your fears – bury your dreams, one of three interdependent elements comprising a broader work by the artist, the other two components being a real life series of "interventions" at various German graveyards staged between 2014 and 2016, and a book (published through Blurb and available either in a hardcover edition or a pdf (click here to see a preview, including a complete set of images)), subtitled "the tombstone project," that documents the interventions.

Cemeteries are culturally fascinating places of reflection in which people honor the dead, recollect memories and emotions, find themselves fascinated by history, mourn for those who have passed, and express regret for what wasn't said. In Selavy's real life interventions, a visually distinctive bright white stone is positioned on or near a grave site, photographed, and published with accompanying texts — for example, any given photo might be captioned "for the turbidity in my dreams," "for the secret left untold," "for the void behind the mirror," or any of several other short phrases. The artist refrains from providing much context — are the captions meant as expressions of regret or remorse? Are they being expressed by the artist, or by those whose remains are buried under the stones?

In the MetaLES exhibition, the artist has constructed an entire field of headstones: the stark white markers rest on the ground, slightly tilted this way and that, while letters spelling out "bury your fears" and "bury your dreams" form and disappear in the air overhead. Over time, the stones begin to ascend into the sky (view from below, second image), while large dark spheres (black flakes, Selavy calls them) languidly descend from above into the earth and sea. Although the stones are generally blank, it's possible to click on them (at the right moment) to briefly show some text (image above, where one says "for the uncertainty I felt" and another says "for the trust I put in you"). As the stones prepare to climb into the sky, their physics state changes, and it's possible to bump into the them and knock them about or over (or even take a ride on one). Bury your fears – bury your dreams will continue on display through August 8; the MetaLES 7th Anniversary exhibition, featuring photography by Anita Witt (read here) continues overhead.