“When life gives you apples… Run!” at LEA6 (Rated: Moderate) – Please click on the image for the original.
Such is the title of Rebeca Bashly’s new installation at LEA6, the final installment for this round of the Linden Endowment for the Arts’ Full Sim Arts series. As Rebeca writes in the introductory notecard:
Looking at various myths, legends and fairy tales, apple seems to be pretty misfortunate for a woman. When an apple appears in a story, you know that something will go bad. From Eve, through Greek mythology to Snow White there was always a catch with an apple. It is beautiful, delicious, tempting, seductive. A perfect disguise for all bad that can come. I use it as a symbol for the monstrosities that women too often don’t recognise as such in its early stages. This installation is about domestic violence and eating disorders, on first sight two very different things, but violence against someone and violence against oneself are the same thing, a violence.
Giovanna Cerise is one of the many great Italian artists active in Second Life, and one I particularly admire. Last Wednesday, February 18th, she opened her new installation at LEA6, with the rather surprising title Speculum – I’m sure several people will end up visiting my blog expecting to see something else (ahem), and I’m sure they’ll be rather disappointed.
The notecard accompanying her invitation described the build as:
The mirror, as multiplicity and continuous playback. The mirror, where the invisible overlaps the original and the hidden appears suddenly. The mirror, as an illusion of which you can not do without. The mirror as a projection in an unreal dimension. The mirror that opens the door to ….
Having already covered the double exhibit Arithmos and …Give the Numbers!back in 2013, I know Giovanna tends to offer extremely intricate builds. Speculum is no exception; the main part of the exhibit is a corridor of lenses shrouded in a black shadow, propped-up by a system of extremely complex and seemingly chaotic wooden frames. Similar frames can be found in other parts of the exhibit. Surrounding this corridor, to which you can teleport by clicking on the mirror cog raised on a pole next to the landing point, are huge cogs representing mirrors, and figures with cog-like heads holding up mirrors with cog-like frames.
Giovanna is well-known for exploiting the interplay between space, geometric shapes, light and shadow to bring her builds to life and offer different ways of experiencing them. She has followed this practice in Speculum as well; to fully enjoy it, she recommends two different windlight settings: Verdigris and Sunset. I used the former for the photos accompanying this post.
Last week, celebrated SL and RL artist Bryn Oh notified us members of her Immersiva in-world group about an academic / historic exhibit titled The Bread and Roses Strike at LEA13. The exhibit started out as an exercise for Dr. Sharon Collingwood’s Women’s Studies 110 distance class at The Ohio State University in the winter of 2013, spawned by the centennial of the Bread and Roses Strike which took place in January 1912 in Lawrence, Massachussets, USA.
The exercise itself grew over successive courses, and continues to grow and evolve even now. It is now available to the public, hosted at LEA13, one of the regions provided by the Linden Endowment for the Arts. As is admitted in the informational notecard provided by the exhibit’s team, the exhibit is not complete. It will continue to evolve while it is on display at LEA13, and the students involved will continue adding their projects in the meantime, hopefully providing further historical depth and more perspectives.
The exhibit, which will run until December 31st, 2014, does not aim to analyse the strike in detail, but rather examine a point in history. Students and other visitors are asked to think about the similarities between 1912 and or own time, and to think about the conflicts of gender, class, race and culture that arise in this and any historical period.
To achieve this, the exhibit recreates the atmosphere of Lawrence as it was in 1912, and juxtaposes the workers’ tenements with those of the higher classes, as well as with the texture mill owned the American Woolen Company. It also makes extensive use of Second Life’s interactive and immersive capabilities, by providing the visitors with four types of avatars they can wear in order to “fit in” with their role in the era’s social and political context, and also by assigning them with tasks that need to be done during their visit. Furthermore, almost ghost-like black & white cutout figures provide insights into the opinions that were expressed back then by various members of the society of Lawrence.
While the exhibit may seem “old school”, to compare it with the professionally-made houses and pieces of décor provided by various content creators would be unfair; it is an educational project, which touches upon issues of income and gender inequality, workers’ rights, child labour. All of these issues have reared their ugly heads again in recent years thanks to our complacency and – silent or vocal – acceptance of ideas like Murray Rothbard’s “free baby market”.
In all, it is a very thought-provoking, important and politically challenging exhibit, which should remind us of a landmark in the history of the worldwide labour movement, and of the inconvenient fact that these rights we now take for granted (and which are being taken away day by day) have been won through hard, bloody struggles by unionised workers and not through the non-existent “trickle-down” effect.
As said earlier, the exhibit is of an educational nature. It was designed mostly for university classes that will complete assignments there, and the informative notecard provided not only helps the visitor get their bearings around SL and the exhibit, but also offers a number of questions as a test; further questions are provided by the blue buttons placed on various walls of the exhibit’s buildings.
Although the workers won their fight, it is noted in the Wikipedia article that they “lost nearly all of the gains they had won in the next few years. The IWW disdained written contracts, holding that such contracts encouraged workers to abandon the daily class struggle. The mill owners proved more persistent, slowly chiseling away at the improvements in wages and working conditions, while firing union activists and installing labor spies to keep an eye on workers. A depression in the industry, followed by another speedup, led to further layoffs.”
A private classroom for school groups is also available, and can be booked by contacting Ellie Brewster in-world.
On Saturday, September 13th and at 14:00 SLT, the first episode of Virtually News with AvaJean Westland will premiere at the LEA Theater, as well as on YouTube, SLartist, and Vimeo.
Virtually News with AvaJean Westland is a mock/spoof news machinima created by actress/writer Gameela Wright (AvaJean Westland in Second Life). Its style follows that of The Onion News Network and SNL’s Weekend Update, and is described as an irreverent take on current events and pop culture, which pushes the boundaries while using animation as the filter.
Gameela Wright is a New York-based actress and writer, with over 15 years of experience in theatre, commercials, television, voice overs and film. She has appeared in several highly successful TV series, such as Blue Bloods, Law & Order (all three series, including Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit), and Orange Is The New Black; other TV series she has appeared in include The Blacklist and Members Only.
As AvaJean Westland in Second Life, she performs live theater with the Avatar Repertory Theater Company (ART), and she has also worked as a voice actor and avatar puppeteer for the highly-acclaimed film noir machinima series The Blackened Mirror, where she played the role of Martha Pearse and controlled the avatars of several characters whose voice actors could not be in-world for the filming.
AvaJean Westland, Gameela Wright’s Second Life avatar.
She is also the founder and driving force behind Virtual Girl Productions and has collaborated with Suzy Yue of Running Lady Studios on machinima projects such as The Twilight Sim and Name That Schmuck! Furthermore, she has she has worked with Chantal Harvey, Island Rain Studios, and Alfonso Kohn, and has created machinima for the Project Homeless campaign (The Quiet Dark Wind) and SciFi Film Festival (Centuries Past) in conjunction with Screen My Shorts and The University of Western Australia (UWA). Centuries Past won two awards.
Ms. Wright hopes to use machinima as way to bridge real and second life and to help cement machinima as a form of animation that appeals to all.
As said in the beginning of this piece, Virtually News with AvaJean Westland will premiere this Saturday (9/13/2014) at 14:00 SLT at the LEA Theater. Dress is upscale casual or formal, and attendees are requested to keep their script count and the complexity of their attire low. Also, you are encouraged to arrive at the venue early to secure a seat and give textures and objects enough time to rez.
I have to admit I’ve always been a hesitant traveller in Second Life, not least because I’ve never had a really decent computer that would enable me to enjoy SL’s full potential; in fact, even merely moving around has been a chore for me when exploring richly-decorated and/or crowded regions. I think you can easily guess that trying to take snapshots that could hold a candle to those gorgeous in-world photographs from various well-known in-world travelogue blogs (like Ziki Questi’s, or Honour McMillan’s, or Quan Lavender’s, or Inara Pey’s, or Loverdag’s) was completely out of my reach. It was only fairly recently (two years ago, actually) that I started exploring more of SL – and, by exploring, I don’t mean the typical, cookie-cutter club/mall fare.
Even so, few in-world builds have managed to keep me interested in them. Of the places I’ve visited, only a few have I bothered to visit again, and even fewer are my “regular haunts”. Now, while The Sea of Cubic Dreams certainly can’t become a “regular haunt” for me, because it will only be here for a few months, it’s a magnificent installation. In fact, I’ve liked it so much that, over the course of a single week, I’ve visited it three times already.
The Sea of Cubic Dreams. Please click on the picture for larger version.
Also, for someone with my tastes, it’s a shutterbug’s heaven. The colour scheme, the region windlight, the texturing, the arrangements of the cubes all across the region, they all conspired to make me want to come back, fool around with the cubes, and take more photographs each time. There have been only a few times so far that I’ve enjoyed snapping away so much.