25 February 2012

Invisible Cities

The brilliant Italian novelist Italo Calvino has long been one of my favorite authors. Always pushing the boundaries of literature, he wrote with an amazing flair to vividly conjure up imaginary places and situations. Among his most famous works is Invisible Cities (Le città invisibili), published in 1972 (although personally I have always most loved the book that immediately followed in 1979, If on a winter's night a traveler (Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore)).

So when NicoleX Moonwall told me about a week ago that a collaboration was about to open at LEA15 called Invisible Cities I was excited to see what it would be, knowing also the names of the artists involved. Thirteen prominent Second Life creators participated: Cherry Manga, Marcus Inkpen, Fuschia Nightfire, Romy Nayar, Ux Hax, Hypatia Pickens, Lanjran Choche, NicoleX Moonwall, Rebeca Bashly, Spiral SilverStar, Leona80 Mhia and Nadiemekiere Adamczyk. (And it opened today, on my 4th rezday, so I decided to consider it a gift haha.)

In the book Invisible Cities, the explorer Marco Polo tells the aging emperor Kublai Khan of the cities he has visited, each city being a short vingnette. By the end of the book we are not quite sure they are all real, or even if they are different cities. For the Second Life installation, the artists selected four of these cities: Eudoxia, Armilla, Isaura and Emeralda.

As you arrive at Invisible Cities, you'll find yourself in a gateway area with doors to all the cities (photo at top—click to zoom in). This "ground floor" was developed by Cherry Manga. The doorways to the cities are all imaginative transport vehicles, and an additional place, Calvino's desk, is reached via a bubble set apart a bit from the other teleports.

The first city is Eudoxia (Floor 1, image above) by Marcus Inkpen, whose work I adore. It's the most "traditional" of the cities, suggestive of an old European space, but there's a surreal, dreamlike quality to it. Perhaps in a Kafkaesque way, all paths that lead off the main square seem to go nowhere, and are all nearly but not quite identical.

The second city, Armilla (Floor 2), by Romy Nayar and Ux Hax, is an alien world of railings, winding circular staircases, bathtubs (some of which you ride in), and slowly ascending lamps. There's lots of activity here, as if something is purposefully happening or going on, but what that purpose is is hidden from us. Overhead a large female shape gazes down, perhaps controlling or just observing.

The city of Isaura (Floor 3), by Lanjran Choche and Morlita Quan, is a city of words and phrases. Fragments of sentences stream by, surrounded by pipes and tubing. Here near the center and toward the bottom you can obtain a bubble transport—it can be a little hard to find, and the original entrance can be too—it's at 68/72.

The final city, Emeralda (Floor 5), by Rebeca Bashly, really is somewhat invisible—its buildings are partially transparent, and although we can see the insides we cannot enter. This is a water city, with gondolas (you can get your own at the landing point).

And there's one more destination: Calvino's Desk. You can reach this by teleporting from a bubble at the Ground Floor, and here you will find the passages from Calvino's book on each of the four cities, although you might find them easier to read on the installation's website (which curiously speaks of Calvino in the present tense, although he passed away in 1985).

Speaking of websites, the machinima created for this project is every bit as important as the physical installation. Invisible Cities has its own YouTube channel here, with five videos to view. Enjoy, and thanks to all the artists who brought this work together—I'd like to think that Calvino would have been delighted.

P.S. I'll be posting images on my flickr stream.

18 February 2012

The End of the Susa Bubble Story

It's all over for the Susas. Today Rose Borchovski announced that the Susa Bubble Story installation, about which I've previously written here, will close this month. It's a fantastic artwork, and it's not a fixed installation—I found today many things had changed since I last visited not long ago—so drop by to visit before it disappears. There's more overhead, too.

And no, Hamlet Au, you can't add this to your silly "sim death watch" list, because Rose will be creating something new to replace the Susa Bubble Story. She's been working on it for several months and is eager to put it on display. And the Susas won't quite completely disappear—somewhere they'll continue (site to be determined) in a reduced way.

12 February 2012

Field of View Opens at LEA26

Opening today at LEA26 is a new artwork, Field of View, created by Sowa Mai and Banrion Constantine, known collaboratively as Aequitas. (More about their past projects here on their blog.)

Surrounded by decaying objects along the edge of the sim (a ferris wheel, abandoned and dilapidated structures) is a watery field of floating cubes (or in some cases submerged). The top surface of each cube features constantly changing textures, and that's where visitors get to interact, as you're invited to add your own images to a cube or two (or more)—they'll become part of the ongoing stream of visual material.

As the creators say, "We hope you will participate by placing a gently used texture in one of the boxes in the center of the sim. Your texture will de displayed with others in an ever changing kaleidoscope of Second Life. Go ahead and add a couple if you wish. A picture of you, your avatar, your home, your workspace, pets, statements, prayers, testimonials. Enjoy the shift in perception that takes place upon seeing our creative output in relation to others." Through this gesture, the artists hope that residents will contribute to an ever changing and unpredictable mosaic.

09 February 2012


Opening today is a lovely new sim called Hazardous. Imagined and created by Wendy Xeno, the designer of HuMaNoiD, Hazardous was commissioned by Dirk Talamasca and is owned by Mandingo Quan, who has also been involved in the design process. Mandingo (pictured just below with Wendy—as always, click to zoom in on photos) has very kindly agreed to keep the sim open to the general public, and he may eventually include a store overhead.

Visitors will immediately recognize elements Wendy Xeno's beautiful style and handiwork, but this isn't a carbon copy of HuMaNoiD—though no doubt it will become just as much a favorite for photography and quiet reflection. At the landing point are some very fun balloons you can grab (they're easy to miss) to take a flying tour around the sim—control them with arrow keys and page up/down keys. They're by Harleywan Haggwood, whose shop, Never You Mind, sells all sorts of eclectic things.

I've already spent quite a few hours at Hazardous, pestering Wendy ("Is it done yet?" "That's a cool script, can I have a copy?") and soaking in the feel of the region. (There we are, above—I'm not sure which one of us is wearing scantier clothes!) She's extraordinarily masterful at finding ways to combine existing objects into new things—while some of the items at Hazardous are her own creations, many are designed by others, presented here (as at HuMaNoiD) in ways that create striking new environments.

There's a tip jar near the entrance, so please consider giving something to Dingo to help with the cost of this significant new landmark. Enjoy!

P.S. I'll be posting more images of Hazardous on my flickr stream in the coming days.

08 February 2012

New Home

Sorry for my prolonged silence, but I've been busy! About a week ago I decided my economical little quarter-homestead plot of land was simply not making the cut—I was always bumping up against my prim allowance—and so I bought a half-homestead. (I've got some other land elsewhere, but not nearly as nice.) My new home in the same estate as my old one—Reach Isles, owned and managed by Reacher Rau, and I'd highly recommend their excellent services to anyone. So I've been busy, as you might imagine, with landscaping and settling in. It's always refreshing to go through a healthy transition like this, and I'm feeling happy and content.

Most of the landscaping is from Green and Wild Design. I have a little inlet where i rezzed a boat by AM Radio, and shamelessly copied some ideas from my friend Wendy Xeno (creator of HuMaNoiD), who is busy working on a new sim that will open in just a few days—more on that in the near future. (Plus Wendy gave me some cool scripts to work with.) In the process I've discovered some fun new stores, too, like Never You Mind, Zacca and Alices Garden.

Back to blogging soon!