20 July 2014

LEA Announces Artist in Residence Grants

Today, the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) announced the recipients of Round 7 of its Artist in Residence (AiR) grants, which will provide twenty full sims to artists for a period of five months, from August through December: Ais Aeon, BabypeaVonPhoenix Bikergrrl, Betty Tureaud, Ellie Brewster, FirleFanz Roxley, Frankx Lefavre, Giovanna Cerise, KatanaBlender Resident, Kimika Ying, Lor Pevensey, Mac Kanashimi, Mandel Solano, MarioZecca Resident, Neeks Karu, Octagons Yazimoto, Peli Dieterle, Pixels Sideways, Sarby, Sowa Mai and Uan Ceriaptrix.

Awardees have considerable time to prepare their respective sims for display, although one — Mac Kanashimi — actually managed to have his Round 6 sim open to the public on the very first day of the grant period. This also serves as a reminder that the Round 6 exhibitions will close at the end of the July, and a list of those can be found here, with the exception of Invasion by Sniper Siemens, who replaced her build with the recently opened Second Life History.

16 July 2014

Second Life History

Now open at LEA23 and running for two weeks, until July 30, is Second Life History by Sniper Siemens, a delightful visual trek that begins in 2001 with images from LindenWorld and ends in a staircase that ascends toward SL 2.0 in 2015. Using images, written text and objects, we witness through this history year by year, moving along a path that winds through the sim.

I won't spoil the fun by going into too many details, but you'll see things such as the December 2003 introduction of the Linden Dollar, new prim shapes in 2004, the banking shutdown in 2007, the establishment of the adult-oriented Zindra continent in 2009, and the advent of Project Shining and pathfinding in 2012.

It's engaging and lively, and even if you're a new resident or haven't been around for more than a couple years, it's a treat to explore. (Sniper has created a milestone marking the creation of her first avatar, Sniper Archer, in 2005 — I'm sure you'll easily find your own entry point.)

15 July 2014

Deadpool 2.0

Last fall, the beautiful and macabre sim Deadpool opened its doors — a carnival at which everything had gone wrong — the design of Megan Prumier and Kunt WyxBattitude (a.k.a. xJETx Chrome), about which I blogged here. It eventually closed its doors. But now, says Kunt, so many residents have appealed for a rebuild of the sim that their wishes have been granted: Deadpool Version 2.0. If you visited the first incarnation of Deadpool, the new build will look immediately familiar, with its same circus environment crowned by a tilting Ferris wheels and a dangerously dilapidated roller coaster, the sign for which flickers in the dark night.

And what has been going on here? "In 1972, a traveling circus arrived to the town of Deadpool, welcoming boys and girls of all ages," explain the designers. "But tragedy soon struck when small children and even newborns went missing. The townspeople quickly turned their gaze on the circus clowns, forgetting the nearby asylum. Their macabre acts now discovered, their deaths a tragedy, as zombies arose there was no escape — no longer were they thought of as happy clowns entertaining kids with funny faces and goofy antics, but the very stuff of nightmares. They'd been using the dead kids' corpses and incorporating them into sick and twisted marionettes for their acts, shipping them thru the horrible asylum, and trying to escape through the underwater tunnels of death. Will you make it out through the maze? It's been said that to this day, you can still hear the victims screams emanating from the abandoned carnival grounds."

And you might indeed meet a zombie or two, although the sim isn't damage-enabled, so you're safe to wander about. (You can join the group to rez poses or items, and to shoot zombies.) Aside from the immediate amusement park areas, which are highly visible and include creepy looking rides and games, there are a few other destinations to discover. One is the asylum, reached by a climb up some steep steps, (image below), a place of untold and no doubt horrifying stories. Another is an underground boat ride — you know, one of those tunnel of love style rides on a swan — that might well have you gripping your lover out of fright (lowest image, skeletal hands reaching from a wall).

Deadpool is dense and dark, so it's easy to miss all the opportunities. Many of the small games are interactive — at a zombie shooting booth, for example, click to get a gun — and the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round offer rides. Walking along the path of the broken roller coaster provides an interesting experience in balance and navigation! If you'd like to make a contribution to support Deadpool, there are tip jars located here and there throughout the sim.

14 July 2014

The Boardwalk @ Downstairs

Need to get to the beach but don't have the gas money? If the Jersey Shore is what you have in mind, head over to The Boardwalk, created by Isa Messioptra, Cipher Wandin and Cate Footman at Downstairs, owned by Cate Footman and Mollie MacBeth. It's a delightful sunny stroll above the crashing surf, with a Ferris wheel, a fortune teller, a kissing booth, an arcade, Skee-ball, Zoltar the fortune teller (a mechanized one this time), dart games, face painting, ice cream and other refreshments. Even though it's an adult sim, the whole set-up is very PG. I mentioned to Isa that it reminded me of Cape May, and she agreed, but suggested it might be more "in the mold of Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights and Wildwood."

You can't directly teleport to The Boardwalk — it's really part of Downstairs, which is, paradoxically, located overhead, and that's where the "adult" theme comes more into focus. Originally created as an offshoot from The Chamber, but no longer affiliated, it's a casual place for sexual encounters and roleplay (photo below). When you arrive, head downstairs and then outside, and when you spot the driver's side door on the truck (it's that sort of place), that's your teleport. And you'll need to join the Downstairs group (L$150 — I'm sure it keeps out the riffraff) to reach The Boardwalk, but that's a small cost to pay for supporting a delightful location. Cate tells me she hopes to keep The Boardwalk around for a long time.

13 July 2014

El Laberinto Perdido

Now open at MetaLES is El Laberinto Perdido, a full sim installation by Romy Nayar, with sounds and scripts by Ux Hax. It's an arresting view right at the outset: in a dark, mysterious world, what appears to be a castle rises up on a massive rock that climbs out of the black waters. (I should say here that you have to have your draw distance up to at least about 200 meters to really see the structure, and the region windlight settings are a must. Photographs don't easily convey the view — click on these to enlarge.) Even as we approach its entrance, we notice a few things, including what appears to be a dead body, floating in the moat-like waters, and then a notice greets us: "If you decide to delve into the Lost Labyrinth, your deepest fears and defects will take your control. You will live them again and again and again and...again...No one has gotten out..."

As you enter the structure after clicking on the door, which rises to greet you, the first of many rooms or spaces appears. The way through them, as you'll quickly discover, is by finding the hidden doorways that lead you to others areas. It's not quite linear, and you may need to backtrack — after falling at one point I found myself in an area from which there wasn't any apparent exit, although there was something there to see. It's certainly a world filled with dream-like, nightmarish imagery. Romy typically doesn't color our experiences with artistic statements, but when I mentioned to her my perceptions, she replied, "That's it!! Your nightmares and your dark fears."

It's easy to lose one's orientation and to be uncertain one has seen everything. Be sure to have local sounds turned up as you roam, because many of the elements you'll encounter either generate sounds on their own or as you interact with them. And there is one interactive piece that will give you something: as you wander and explore, keep an eye out for a sculpture with four masks, although I won't reveal the outcome. El Laberinto Perdido will remain on display until the end of August.

12 July 2014

Garlic Breath at Melee Island

High above the narrow shorelines of Melee Island, and reachable only by a steep path that winds its way upward along a sheer rock cliff, stands the picturesque town of Garlic Breath, created by Pamela22 Igaly and 83457point1. Each of its whitewashed cubical houses, evocative of the architecture of Santorini or other Greek islands, enjoys a tremendous vista, looking out across the waters to high mountains that surround the entire sim. Here are there throughout the town are places to sit after your long climb. "I like garlic, and it made me think of garlic and olive oil," Pamela good-naturedly says regarding the name, "but I also wanted a name that sounded a bit funny, since we're goofs."

And there's more to see after your visit to Garlic Breath proper: relax on a sailbed on the waters (watch out for Steve the shark, though!), or head westward across the bay to discover a vinyard and a cozy area surrounding a small pond, over which a windmill lazily turns. (Portions of the island outside the town are still under construction, so your experiences might differ a little.) There's also a broader stretch of beach, too, and, to the south, a lighthouse perched on a rocky outcrop.

While you're enjoying the scenic beauty that Melee Island has to offer, be sure to visit the sim's two resident shops, which operate in partnership: Bokeh, owned by Pamela and managed by 83457point1, and even.flow, owned yingythingy Resident with designs by Pamela. If you'd like to make a contribution to help support Garlic Breath and Melee Island, you can do so at the town's landing point.

11 July 2014

Matoluta Sanctuary

Opening tomorrow, Saturday, July 12 at 10 am slt, is a new sim designed by Mz Marville, Matoluta Sanctuary, a place where you're probably more likely to encounter equine rather than human avatars. The entrance to the build, seen above, greets visitors with a striking, water-filled canyon, but lush fields of grasses and wildflowers await on the opposite end, with waterfalls feeding the stream in the distance. The region's pre-set windlight settings, shown in the third image, somehow evoke an unblemished, long-vanished American landscape of hundreds of years ago. It's a delightful environment for exploration and photography — and, no doubt, for being a horse.

"The goal of Matoluta Sanctuary," explains the Sanctuary team, "is to raise awareness for the Spanish colonial horse. Originally bred by the Spanish approximately 400 years ago, these horses are now facing extinction. They no longer live in Spain, as they were bred by the conquistadors. Later, they became the original horses of the Native Americans. In the 1700s they were the most popular horse on the continent. The sanctuary hopes to educate visitors about the importance of conserving the homeland of these beautiful horses in present day Oklahoma." If you're curious about roleplaying as a Spanish colonial horse, I'd suggest tracking down Manatou, a friendly stallion who is one of the sim owners and also the Herd Leader — and this is a herd of about 300. (And I had no idea how complex animal roleplay could be until talking for a while with Manatou, who patiently attempted to explain protocol.)

Initially, access to Matoluta Sanctuary will be free, but, within a week or so of its opening, it will become group access only, with a L$250 fee to join (or L$500 if you would like to have rez rights). (The Sanctuary will make exemptions on a case-by-case basis for those new to Second Life with equestrian knowledge, and for established photographers and bloggers.) But Saturdays, at least for the start, will be open access for everyone. The sim will operate from 10 am to 8 pm daily. To stay abreast of upcoming events, visit the sim's website, where you can also learn about a kick-off photography contest to celebrate the opening. If you enjoy your visit, do consider making a contribution to help support Matoluta Sanctuary.

10 July 2014

AM Radio Profile by Wagner Au in Polygon

Yesterday, Polygon published a extended feature on artist AM Radio, written by Wagner James Au: AM Radio: the Banksy of Second Life. It's an enlightening read, providing not only an overview of AM's work, but also his reflections — or more properly put, his personal, real life reflections as Jeff Berg — on his career in the virtual art world. It's been in development for several months, and it's nice to finally see it in print.

I was delighted to receive a visit to The Far Away (AM's only remaining build) yesterday evening by Ebbe Linden, who stopped by after reading the article, and I caught up with him after he teleported to my gallery, which is overhead. Joined eventually by Jessica Belmer and a few other friends, we had a lively talk about AM, the next generation virtual world and other stuff, and Ebbe even chipped in with a contribution to support The Far Away (thanks!).

09 July 2014

City Windows

Opening today, Wednesday, July 9, at 2 pm slt, is an exhibition of photography by Walt Ireton (Jay Evers in real life) entitled City Windows: Real Life Photos from a Virtual Reality, hosted at Plusia Ars Island. I don't generally cover exhibitions of real life images in Second Life, but this is different: first, the exhibition space, constructed by Walt, is exquisite; and second, the images, taken over the last several months in Enschede and Amsterdam, were taken in shop windows, and often the subjects — or at least the focal points — are mannequins, which are in a way anonymous avatars. Indeed, when I arrived and glanced at the first image, Oranje Deeme, it took me a split second to realize it wasn't a virtual avatar but a figure in a store window, and many of the photos suggest a similar duality. The images are being given their premiere showing in Second Life, and Walt notes that images will be added and deleted as he continues to enlarge the series.

La Notte

Opening today, Wednesday, July 9 at 2 pm slt, is La Notte, a collaborative installation by Giovanna Cerise and Kicca Igaly, celebrating four years of the Galerie Artemis. As curator Duna Gant says, "One theme, two artist's visions...Giovanna Cerise and Kicca Igaly give their very personal interpretations of the universal topic...What is in fact a night? A fantasy or a reality? A time to live or a time to dream?" Their approaches are indeed quite different: Kicca's work, confined the ground and situated near the landing point, depicts a night scene in a park: a homeless individual lies on a park bench, and another stands at a lamp post, perhaps waiting for someone. You'll spot a bottle floating in the river between the two figures — click on it to receive Kicca's notes. Then venture up the stairs into Giovanna's area. subtitled The event horizon (notecard available near the landing point), where translucent textures in fields of black, white, gray and brown create a dreamlike world in which views of archways, walls, doorways and windows emerge and disappear (including sometimes our view of ourselves).