01 December 2015

The Gathering

Opening today, Tuesday, December 1, at Immersiva, is a new installation by Bryn Oh entitled The Gathering. Assembled loosely around a series of vignettes based on pen and ink drawings, The Gathering showcases the artist's interest in experimentation with light and shadow, materials, experiences (that is, a set of avatar interactions by scripted object), transference of artistic materials between physical and virtual spaces, and the creation of a truly immersive realm, often presented with a playful touch of humor. It's "kind of a great big sketch," she explained.

Before one ventures into the exhibition space, there are several recommended steps or pieces of information to know that will enhance the experience. First, it's best to run one's viewer using advanced lighting model, with shadows enabled, set to sun/moon and projectors. Second, visitors are asked to enable a land-scope "experience," giving temporary and limited control over their avatars — specifically, the experience setting allows rolling balls to teleport you back to the landing point on contact. And third, once in while one might spot a curious orb — a wall walker — and clicking on one of these (or sitting on it) provides the power to walk up vertical surfaces and even on ceilings. In this way — and it can be a little disorienting at first — one can scale the walls to the top of the build, and will find some extra delights, such as an upside down room and a flying chair that provides a spectacular view of the build below.

Setting out from the landing point, the first things visitors will encounter are the aforementioned rolling balls (curiously named after angels, top photo) that plummet down from a high hillside and aren't easy to avoid. They vary from small to enormous, and can be evaded by running (toggled on and off with command-R on a Mac or control-R on Windows), climbing the hillsides, or otherwise using an obstacle for protection — and protection is needed because contact with a ball will teleport you back to the landing point, provided you've enabled the experience. (Hopefully these rolling balls, with their teleportation powers — possibly off-putting to some individuals — won't dissuade visitors from venturing past them to enjoy the full exhibition.) High on the hillside from which the great balls roll, one will spot a cave where a scissor moth (pictured above) greets visitors at the entrance — "A chapel of sorts," Bryn explained, "with a religious sculpture of a ball. These balls are their world here, they appeared and run through their town destroying all along that ravine. So now they worship them."

Before reaching the pen and ink drawing section of the installation — and you'll know when you reach that point — you will also pass through works in which Bryn experiments with materials — with edges and forms that glisten and shine, such as in the second image of Parasol and the octobot — and scripted prims that move to form a house around you (climb to the second floor to get out the back door). And there's a projector room in which there is a special invitation to those who are comfortable with bodily exhibition: one sets the environment to a non-light settings such as Phototools - No Light, removes clothing, and poses in rays of projected light that form works of art, in essence bathing the nude form in whatever is being projected (photo above). "It's an interesting almost psychological experience in a way," Bryn said, "how we identify...becoming nude in a public place and then the projectors also follow the body like a caress too." The sign providing instructions playfully says, "Look to see if anyone is watching. Then take off your clothes," without giving hint as to whether one should have an audience or not.

As is typical with much of Bryn's overall output, the pen and ink portion of The Gathering has an underpinning in the physical world. Commissioned to create a series of illustrations for a coffee table book based on her paintings, Bryn, who had little previous experience working in the medium of pen and ink, had to essentially start from scratch to learn the discipline, studying both technique and the creations of past masters such as George Cruikshank and Edward Gorey. Having completed a curious story of nine scenes in pen and ink, she then set about bringing her images into a virtual space, but chose not to present them simply as flat textures but rather as three-dimensional works that are exploded versions constructed of overlapping layers of prims. The story told by the scenes is a playful one with perhaps a touch of Edward Lear, concerning a private party crashed by a rather curious guest, with wall text providing narrative in poetic form (example above). At the culmination of the story, visitors are treated to a display of the original pen and ink drawings (lowest image).

Much could be said about the way in which Bryn thinks about presenting her work. It would have been simple enough to install the nine vignettes that comprise The Gathering in a traditional gallery space, with the objects simply lined up in a row, presenting a narrative. (And in fact, you can do just that if you collect the scenes on your own — more about that below.) But instead, she created an striking virtually immersive experience, requiring the observer to explore the vast space at the same time, and the environment stands very much on its own as an art object.

At the landing point, visitors will find a gacha machine, which might make more sense placed at the culmination of the exhibition, as what it provides are copies of the scenes and objects exhibit-goers will encounter. One can certainly help contribute to Immersiva's support through purchasing these delightful items, but a contribution kiosk also stands nearby for those who prefer to give directly. A teaser video for The Gathering may be viewed here, and additional information can be found on Bryn's blog here.

26 November 2015


If you're in the mood for wintery weather and striking expanses, don your coat and head to Furillen, a new creation by Serene Footman based on the real world island by the same name, situated off the coast of Sweden, on which deserted limestone factory and military installations have been oddly converted into a hotel and tourist destination. That curious dichotomy is plainly evident in the virtual space — probably more an evocative than literal interpretation — to gorgeous effect.

"I saw pictures of Furillen two years ago and wanted to do a version in Second Life," Serene explained. "I love the contrast between the luxury hotel and the wasteland — it just took me two years to get around to doing this ... One person visited here who knows Furillen in real life, and he seems to like what I did." Serene plans to keep the sim going as long as visitor interest continues — he has additional ideas he'd like to develop as well — and adds that some elements in the build are continually changing, such as the furniture and decor inside the hotel.

Explorers will find plenty to discover as they venture through the surreal landscape, ranging from the curious hotel area itself to forgotten industrial areas, a garage, a docked boat named Queen of Denial, a forlorn tree and chair perched high overhead, a trailer (photo below — "the Airstream is a signature of the real Furillen," says Serene), and a long pier lined with colored chairs, mirroring a quirky real world sight. (If the snow gets to be too much for you or your browser, you can toggle it on and off by hiding or showing alphas using shift-option-command-2 (Mac) or shift-alt-control-2 (Windows)). Please consider leaving a contribution toward the sim's support if you enjoy Furillen.

25 November 2015


Now open at Berg by Nordan Art, owned and curated by Kate Bergdorf, is Memories, an installation by Giovanna Cerise that was inspired by the poem "Non recidere, forbice, quel volto" (or "Do not chop away, shears, that face") from the 1939 collection Le Occasioni by Italian Nobel Prize winning poet Eugenio Montale. In this work, faces on semi-transparent cubes emerge, merge, and recess away, much as memories do, and symbols of time — the gears of a clock — rotate around a faceless form. The evocative elements are bathed in the fading light of evening.

The installation will continue through the end of the year, as will a concurrent exhibition of three surreal, moody and striking images by Sina Souza, collectively entitled Passively, in the small gallery space overhead. An additional venue, available via teleport, displays a series of works by Kate.

24 November 2015


ARNICAR India, creator of past sims such as Moon [Imagination] (read here), Winter [Imagination] (read here), [Imagination] (read here), and Just Visiting (read here), has just opened her newest creation, Everlong, at which she invites each visitor to "celebrate (the moments of your) life." Consistent with the style of its forerunners, Everlong is a water sim with remarkable vistas and enchanting landscaping.

Visitors arrive at a little stage area, where a family of rabbits seems ready to enjoy some sort of performance. From there, one ventures out onto a narrow V-shaped path, anchored by a giant winter tree, along which one discovers little spots that include a photo booth (good for some silly moments), a pair of horses quietly enjoying one another's company, and Bryn Oh's Milkdrop character befriending another colony of rabbits, with carrots at the ready, hidden under the bench.

The sim's default windlight setting, Torley's Sunset - Warmer, is shown here, imparting a golden, ethereal feel to the trees and landscape, but others work admirably well. Contributions to support Everlong may be made at the landing point.

15 November 2015

Escenas — Decisiones

Now open at MetaLES is the second scene — entitled Decisiones — in the ongoing installation Escenas or Scenes by Ux Hax and Romy Nayar, at which a new scene appears every two weeks over a two month period. (Read here about the concept and the initial scene, El Tiempo, which has now closed.) Once again visitors are presented with a splendid and skillfully wrought installation on a massive scale — the image above depicts the entire sim, with human figures towering high into the air, so that a high draw distance is vital to the experience.

Here, a crow perched on a windowsill observes the interactions: a woman tows a cart laden with scales (justice) while beckoning toward a figure in the distance, a man who hangs upside down from a lettered circle suspended in the sky. Meanwhile, a devilish figure rises from the ocean and either reaches or gestures toward the woman. It was my partner, Kinn, who first realized the immediate connection to tarot cards: the hanged man, the wheel of fortune, justice, the devil, and from the first scene the hermit. Decisiones will remain on display for two weeks, and will be replaced a third scene. Contributions to support MetaLES may be made at the landing point.

12 November 2015

It's a New Dawn

One's experience at It's a New Dawn, created by silvermoon Fairey, begins modesty, with an intimate beach scene and a climb up a slowly sloping hill toward a pastoral equine setting with a small shack and pond. But from there, looking north, a beautiful view unfolds, with a quaint village nestled in a valley, a windhill high atop one of the rocky protuberances silhouetted against the orange sky.

As flying is not allowed, this is a sim designed for exploration on foot, so patience is required. Each of the dwellings can be entered, and evidence of agriculture and animal husbandry are abundant, with horses, sheep, and cows dotting the landscape. Around the edges of the sim, away from the town, are situated some charming beach scenes and lovely vistas.

As is the case with most well-designed sims, ambient sounds here are plentiful, and it's hard to find a spot where one doesn't hear the call of birds, the bleating of farm animals or a distant waterfall. Images here show the scene bathed in the default environmental settings, but no doubt others would work admirably. Contributions may be made near the landing point.

10 November 2015

Radio Days

On Saturday, November 21, from 1 to 3 pm slt, the Second Life community is cordially invited to a celebration, Radio Days, at The Far Away, the seminal build by the artist AM Radio that has stood at Dreamworld North since mid-2007. Attire is 1930s optional, and my partner Kinn and I will host the event, with Gabrielle Riel (of Radio Riel) providing period music. (AM hopes to join the party, but may be traveling.)

Since taking on care of The Far Away in 2013, I've been gratified by the many people who have contributed toward its support (especially Gardakan Mortlock and Boojum (libtc65)). Donations are very welcome at Radio Days on the 21st but not required. We hope you'll visit, enjoy the space, open your ears to the music, and see new and old friends. To receive news and notices about future Radio Days events — because we hope this month's celebration will be the first of more to come — please join the land group, The Far Away by AM Radio, which also gives you the option to set the wheat fields as your Second Life home.

06 November 2015


Grab an umbrella before heading to Sorrow, created by Voshie Paine and friends, a region so deluged by rain that it's often hard to see where one's headed, and where entry into a dwelling can provide measured relief from the drenching experience. It's a region with a story — no doubt brought forward in anticipation of Halloween in early October when the sim opened, although the Sorrow doesn't seem dependent on Halloween to be enjoyed — about the Annesley family and their tragic fate.

We learn that after generations of prosperity and elite social status, the Annesley family — George, Lillian, and little daughter Rose — individually met sad ends, bringing their aristocracy to a moribund conclusion. (More details emerge in the notecard available at the landing point.) The family's manor home, situated on the southeastern edge of the sim, has now fallen into ruin and disrepair (middle images), the rope from which George hung himself in the attic still dangling from the ceiling. The family's presence seems to haunt the house, with ghostly apparitions, framed photographs that rearrange themselves, and a piano that repeatedly plays a disturbing melody.

The estate is now in the hands of the caretakers who once served the Annesleys, and they reside on the more tranquil island upon which one enters the sim, complete with a warm and cozy home guarded by greyhounds (below), a barn, a windmill, an apiary, and dense woods. A tiny third island rests to the immediate south, the site of a rather soggy camping venture. Contributions to support Sorrow can be made near the landing point.

04 November 2015

St. Pete City

"I wanted to create something very realistic," Neva Crystall told me of St. Pete City as we strolled around before its opening back in mid-September. And that she has, with contributions from a few friends — it's a beautifully detailed town, with streets, shops, alleyways and decor laid out with exquisite precision. The island sim is anchored on the south by a lighthouse that overlooks the rocky shore.

Visitors who stroll about will encounter a coffee shop, a bookstore, a hotel, and a bicycle shop (which appears to be doing great business, given the number of bikes around town). Further afield one discovers a warehouse, a playground, apartments, and an art gallery featuring some of Loverdag's exceptional works. Along the edges of town, abutting the ocean, are a few rustic spots that feature more sand and seagulls than bricks and signs.

Inspired in part by Neva's home town of St. Petersburg, "it is also inspired by Amsterdam, where I spent my summer holidays," she added. "I also was inspired by Harry Potter movies — those houses with hedges are from Harry Potter. Bikes from Amsterdam. And a warm feeling from my own city." In addition to the sim's default environmental settings (not shown here), others work admirably well, and photographers will no doubt enjoy this picturesque location. (Thanks to my partner Kinn for helping with this post (and many others as well).)

03 November 2015

Rosewood Isle

Opening tomorrow, Wednesday, November 4, and open to the public only until Saturday, November 7, is Rosewood Isle, owned and managed by Britain Leigh Kennedy, and landscaped by Nic Bour (nicbor) with decorating by Britain. After Saturday, the sim will close to become a private and rentable venue for weddings.

Consistent with its wedding theme, the sim is silvery, with a muted but ethereal palette of whites, grays and browns, and the result is enchanting and almost gem-like. It's a low-lying region, with slowly undulating water wrapping around its small islands, trees and rocks.

Visitors arrive on the western edge of the sim, travel east across a wooden bridge to a welcoming area, and from there can continue either right to the wedding island or to the left, a mirror island designed for receptions, the two intimate spaces being connected by footbridges held aloft by six giant balloons. Additional information about the sim's professional services is available at the landing point.