29 May 2015

The Extraordinary Adventures of Kikas & Marmaduke

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 30 at 2 pm slt, in LEA9 at Pimper Puppets, Kikas Babenco and Marmaduke Arado present another in their occasional series of performances, The Extraordinary Adventures of Kikas & Marmaduke, this time entitled Plan D for Danger. If you've never seen one of these all-too-infrequently staged events, they're not to be missed. (Although these images may impart some of the flavor of what's to come, they were taken back in January, 2014, at a previous installment of their ongoing saga.)

As one can observe in these images, the performance manifests almost like a pop-up event, with a narration that's told through through a series of vignettes, each of which has a few lines of written text, often placing Kikas and Marmaduke in absurd situations. After a few moments, the scene transforms into the next box — and occasionally elements spill outside the box, as shown below.

Filled with humor and absurdity, The Extraordinary Adventures are simply a delight to watch, and one marvels at the playful complexity of the scenes, poses, rapid costume changes, and all around silliness. Images of the duo's work were recently selected for a real life exhibition at the Galeria Projeto/República das Artes in Vila Nova de Cerveira, Portugal, courtesy of curator Silvestre Pestana.

26 May 2015

The End of the World as We Know It

Drenched by rain, lashed by spray, deafened by thunder, and blustered by wind, we arrive at The End of the World as We Know It tossed in a raw display of the power of nature, positioned on a boardwalk that's buckling under the waves. The storm is such that at times we can't even see, as if the ocean plans to swallow us whole. But at the end of the boardwalk we spy a life preserver (one might need to zoom quite close to actually click on it), and we somehow manage to get to the shore, our heads barely above the crest of the violent surf.

But if the waves don't get us, the fire and brimstone will: the city before us is engulfed in flames, with gas pipelines exploding as fire billows from the earth. While wrecked cars and trucks lie abandoned on a collapsed bridge, a jetliner has crashed into an apartment building, and fireballs hurtle through the skies. Simply put, it's a hell of a calamity. (Click on any image to zoom in.) Created by Sera Bellic of Lick sim designs, The End of the World as We Know It will remain on display until sometime in July, when a new design will take its place.

25 May 2015

Pandora Box of Dreams

One of the most striking places on the grid, Pandora Box of Dreams currently hosts the third iteration in an ongoing series of builds, this time entitled Dream 003: The River Dream. Creator Lokhe Angel Verlack (Jackson Verlack) tells me that "the setting changes every two to three months, depending on my inspiration. River Dream is mostly inspired by the creator {anc} and his really unique items. It used to be my photo sim, but I decided to open it to the public so everyone can take photos and relax."

And indeed, anyone interested in photography will be immediately drawn to this space. Set amid inky darkness and blackened water (be sure to use the default windlight settings), items created primarily by aki69, the talent behind the {anc} brand, are distributed in an almost dream-like state, wrapped by boulders and infused with trees. Throughout the entire build are many options for poses and relaxation, and the music stream melds beautifully with the environment. "I believe it will be set up until the end of June," Lokhe told me, "but I don't really have a date, because dreams, creativity and inspiration can't be predicted."

24 May 2015

Crestwick Island

Opening today, Sunday, May 24, at 12 pm slt, is a beautiful new sim created by noted photographers Isa Messioptra and Cipher (Ciphertazi Wandin), Crestwick Island. Central to the island is the town of Crestwick, built mostly along Broad Street, featuring Crestwick Community Bank, Broad Street Medical, the Crestwick Chronicle, a record shop (Vinyl Explosion), Saffronia's Used Books, a dance and yoga studio, a gas station, The Best Little Hair House in Crestwick, the offices of certified public accountant Joseph M. Rosenberg, the charming Rosewater Cafe, and other locations. The scrappy town seems to have seen better days, but it still has some life to it, and the old Te-Amo cigar shop is being renovated. One of the most interesting spots in town is surely the church — but I'll leave it to readers to discover what awaits in its crazy interior.

Overlooking the town, perched on a high rock, is an observatory, complete with an alien under examination. And wrapping about the town and island are a multitude of picturesque spots, many with single or couple poses, including a charming marsh that looks out over the waters. (And be sure to find the camping site nestled under the observatory — descend via the rope.) "It's like a big photoset," Isa explained to me as we walked about. "People are welcome to roleplay, though." She and Cipher created many of the objects and textures throughout Crestwick, and the sim is also home to a gallery for Isa's photography, which is not to be missed. If you enjoy your visit, please consider leaving a contribution for the island's support.

23 May 2015

Obedience

Now open at LEA1 is Obedience by Bryn Oh and Jo Ellsmere, the immersive virtual counterpart to an exhibition of the same name now on display at the Jüdisches Museum Berlin (Jewish Museum) created by Saskia Boddeke (Rose Borchovski in Second Life) and Peter Greenaway that continues through September 13. As Bryn notes on her blog, "It's a high profile use of Second Life as an artistic medium." Museum-goers are able to visit the virtual installation via computers on site, and may explore the build using two avatars, isaak001 and ishmael001. (If you see these avatars walking about the space, they're being controlled by someone in the Jewish Museum in Berlin.) Machinima created by Bryn is here; a video created by Iono Allen is here.

Obedience explores the Biblical story of the Binding of Isaac, in which God tests Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah, only to withdraw that instruction at the last moment. Bryn spells the story out in substantially more detail at the landing point, and in the installation we witness a more contemporary version of the tale largely constructed by Bryn: we first see Abraham watching television (through which, apparently, God speaks), Isaac playing with a toy ram (which in the Bible is sacrificed in Issac's stead), and Mount Moriah as an apartment building. "The story in the Bible is fairly abstract: we don't associate with the characters really," Bryn explained to me. "So the idea was to put Abraham with his son as a baby spending time together, showing the bond...then to show the moments after God stops Abraham, when God is satisfied and fades away to look elsewhere, and Abraham is left with his son to walk home, to continue."

Visitors to the exhibition are asked to configure some settings in their viewers to optimize the experience, and it's all fairly easy to do. The result is a world in which the only illumination one sees is that which emanates from local lights in the installation itself, giving the artist a very controlled environment that's similar to that used in her 2014 work The Singularity of Kumiko "For this, the light is more static in some ways, so I designed the scenes differently," Bryn said. "They are more like paintings. The lamp shade was a new idea though — shooting light through the lampshade hole to have it project on one the walls and objects as it turned." (Visitors should also enable local sounds.)

Midway through the installation, we encounter the Throne of God, surrounded, as described in Revelations, by four living beings or creatures. Bryn remarked, "They are all covered from the inside and out with eyes, which I changed to cameras." Nearby is Jo's amazing contribution to Obedience — the 24 elders, also mentioned in Revelations, dressed in white with gold crowns, who sit in two rows against a wall — some restless, some reading, but always with movement (third image). Occasionally one rises, walks to the throne, bows before God (fourth image) and returns. (There are also two "colubrum" avatars, or serpents, who seem to have special roles.) The movements and attitudes of Jo's avatars are absolutely mesmerizing, and represent the best of time-based media art in Second Life. Obedience is an installation not to be missed.

22 May 2015

The Vineyard at Checkmate

The Vineyard at Checkmate, designed by Amae (Amelia) Moriarty, is, simply put, one of the most beautifully designed sims on the grid — visually striking and engaging with great vistas, lots of areas to explore, and plenty spots for relaxation. It's a "rambling vineyard enveloped by a hazy sky," as she describes it, inviting guests to "wander through the grapes as they soak up the sun, producing the best vintage of pixel wine on the grid."

Visitors arrive high up on a tall outcrop of rock on the southeast corner of the sim, and from there can catch a glimpse of lands below and the other stone formations that encircle most of the island. From the landing point, one can ascend slightly higher to an enclosed stone gazebo, or instead descend a twisting path along the rock face to the valley floor. And there, true to the sim's name, is an extensive vineyard, its mature grape vines growing north to south, supported by trellises stretching in long rows. Nearby, a winery awaits with oak casks and bottles, and some tastings would appear to be available (image below).

But there's much more to see, and The Vineyard at Checkmate the sort of place that seems larger than a single sim: as one explores, something crops up around every corner, whether a place to relax, a gorgeous view, a building to explore, a strip of land leading out toward a lighthouse, or yet another path beckoning visitors to a further location. (Don't miss the hot tub and floating lanterns high on the rocks on northeast corner.) The sim's default windlight setting, shown in most of these images, is a hazy sepia that evokes a beautifully nostalgic feel. (With thanks to Bitacora Viajera, where I initially spotted images of The Vineyard at Checkmate.)

19 May 2015

Molly Bloom's Art Gallery

Fans of Molly Bloom's artwork will probably know of her gallery — simply entitled Molly Bloom's Art Gallery — but if you haven't visited it's more than worth the time. I've written about Molly's beautiful images more than once in these pages, and although she describes her own work as surrealistic and erotic there's much more to it, including a healthy dose of humor. Among the dozens of artworks in her gallery are quite a few of her creative trompe-l'œil assemblages (as above, with the television and popcorn literally out of the picture frame).

Each of the fanciful images is itself a carefully composed work that suggests a narrative, with subjects ranging from the Biblical to rock and roll. (But be forewarned: if nudity or dark humor easily offends you, then it might be best to arrive with an open mind.) The gallery, which was designed by Kaishun Oleander, supports the artworks elegantly. All items are for sale, but even if you're not planning to make a purchase you'll likely enjoy the exhibition itself.

18 May 2015

It all starts with a smile

Last month, Kaelyn Alecto and Maxxster Resident re-opened their lovely sim, It all starts with a smile (about which I've previously written here and here), and it's certainly the best iteration yet of their occasionally transformed home. Explorers are welcomed by an adorable seaside resort (image above), its rocky coastline home to various small shops that no doubt beckon to summer visitors — a bookstore, a bakery, a coffee shop, a newsstand, a tailor, and so on. On the northwest corner, overlooking both town and sea, a lighthouse stands guard, signaling to passing ships.

As the beaches wrap around the outer edge of the island, sandy spots appear that offer fun relaxation — poses abound here and indeed throughout the region. (Below, we're jumping off the edge of a boat anchored just off the shore.) The interior of the island is a pastoral scene with winding paths that lead to myriad destinations, all charmingly appointed, so that the space feels larger than a single sim. (Be sure to find the hidden tunnel.) It's all exceptionally picturesque, and a delightful place to explore. Please consider leaving a contribution if you enjoy your visit.

15 May 2015

Barefoot Wanders

On LEA9, artist Rosie Renfew has created Barefoot Wanders, a space that invites explorers — and especially photographers — to contribute to the artwork itself. This half-sim build includes several pastoral environments in enclosed spaces, located well into the sky, a couple of which are depicted here. Visitors are encouraged to use the spaces for their own photography, and to subsequently upload images that will either be displayed inworld, as shown in the third image here (hard to see, but I'm watching a television that's showing a loop of contributed textures), or to a flickr group. Each landscape has a corresponding "screening room" area.

Even though we're invited to display our images inworld on the screens as shown below — an attempt, certainly, to engage visitors — we can't actually see who took them, and for that flickr remains the sole option for high resolution images that are tagged to show their creators. I love photography in picturesque rural settings, but the lack of direct sun in a skybox environment substantially limits the windlight options, and so I found myself wondering what this really presented over outdoor alternatives. All the same, you might enjoy seeing what you can create, and it's interesting attempt to provide the photographer with a way of participating.

14 May 2015

The Eternal Suspense

Opening tomorrow, Friday, May 15 at 1:30 pm slt is The Eternal Suspense, a sim-wide installation by Giovanna Cerise, presented as part of the LEA Artist in Residence program. It's a substantial creation that stretches not only across the sim but also 400 meters into the air, unfolding over several horizontal layers as it ascends, displaying Giovanna's typically fascinating mathematical complexity.

Whenever I talk with Giovanna about her works, her explanations seamlessly weave together the humanities with mathematics. Here, she focuses on the classic Greek dichotomy of Apollo and Dionysus, two gods often contrasted as opposites, as illuminated in the 1871 work by Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy. As she explains in the notecard, "This concept linked to the interpretation of art can be extended to our daily lives. The man is poised between two or more emotions, he is always in a delicate step, in a hazardous environment. Its location is never easy, he is a tightrope imprisoned in constant tension between his Dionysian side and the Apollonian one. But you have really to choose? Or you have really to find a balance?"

Beginning at the base, we observe figures possibly emerging from the sea (or someplace below, first image above), then ascending on a lattice-like structure (second image) through a giant orb, until they encounter a white figure at the very top, who is either repelling or attracting them (third image). Ethereal columns, only partially visible, float in the space at the build's heights (fourth image). One has the option of flying up (there's an opening on the top platform — turn on the illumination of transparent prims if at first you don't spot it), or you can "teleport with the spinners." Giovanna suggests a simple Sunset windlight setting for the experience, but the linearity of her builds simply invite experimentation, and I often find that Places Wiccan is my all-around preference. The Eternal Suspense will remain on display through the month of June.