|Alizarin Goldflake Hugging her Pink Seahorse|
"Maybe you noticed - or maybe you didn't - that I haven't had much of a presence in SL lately."
That was the opening line to a note card I'd received when I'd logged into Second Life recently. I read through it when it had finally rezzed and afterward thought, “Of course we'd noticed Ali". The notecard then went on to explain her absence from Second Life as, "The reason is that Jeri Rahja lent me a SIM to develop in InWorldz". She concluded with an offer for a "sneak preview" and so I took her up on it. We exchanged messages and set a date and time to meet at the site of her InWorldz build.
"Ali" is of course Alizarin Goldflake (aka Martha Jane Bradford), a professional artist for most of her life she has had her work shown in prominent galleries and included in many museums, corporate, and private collections. And that is the non-virtual world side. The list of virtual world exhibits is long, as she has been hosted at many of the major art venues in Second Life including; Ars Simulacra, Art Gallery Diabolus, Pirats, Caerleon and UWA. Oh, and lest I forget, her own studio, Atelier Alizarin where she has delighted us with her art and intricate builds.
I'd forgotten where I'd left the virtual me when I'd last logged out of InWorldz, but it didn't matter much because as soon as I had rezzed, Ali did as well. We exchanged instant messages and she sent me a teleport request. As I arrived the scene immediate scene looked familiar, dark and foreboding and I recalled from her notecard that, "Requiem for Fukushima Daiichi was extracted from the environment at this landing spot". I had visited the build in Second Life.
A message came up on my screen to tell me that ‘Alizarin Goldflake has entered chat range (1.3m)’ and I turned the virtual me in her direction.
“We don’t look quite like ourselves.” She said with a laugh and then added, “Shopping is still primitive in InWorldz.”
“True.” I said in response to her first statement and then added, “I think this is a freebie skin and hair, but this is the Nazz shape … same as in Second Life, Craftworld and Open Grid … I paid for a custom shape.”
“You copied the numbers over from Second Life … I did to, but they don’t create quite the same look, you have to tinker a bit.” She said and then continued, “Caren McCaw did me a custom Ali skin.”
Her avatar had fully rezzed for me now and I noted that she appeared very much like the Ali I had met nearly two years ago in Second Life. I complimented her on her appearance and she thanked me.
“So this SIM is my Acquarella fable from the machinima, laid out in four rooms or quadrants. Set your environment to midnight and max particle count. Also make sure you have local sounds on.” She said as I first did as she recommended, set the environment and particle count and sound before I spun my camera view around to take in the scale and scope of the area where our virtual selves stood. As I did so she added, “This quadrant was the source for the Fukushima Daiichi build in Second Life.”
“When did you start the build here?” I asked and with the camera focused I snapped a few pictures.
“Around Valentine's Day I think.” She responded.
“So you been at it a while then ... this is the first full SIM you've done, isn't it?”
“Yes, my first SIM sized build … quite a growing experience, an opportunity to really expand my vision. Jeri Rahja is just a patron saint to support virtual art this way.” She replied
“You've moved toward more immersive work of late.” I commented.
“Actually I have been doing environments for several years, but on a smaller scale in Second Life. This quadrant represents a post-apocalyptic future … humans have destroyed the world through greed and war and pollution.” She said in response.
“That is a different theme for you.”
“No it was in the Chantal Harvey Acquarella Machinima that went to the world's fair in Shanghai last fall … This is an expansion on that machinima”. She said and then passed a link over to me.
Well you’re certainly on a roll here Nazz with those last two comments, I said to myself as I copied the link she’d provided to a note file for later viewing. I listened for a few moments to the sounds that came from the build. They seemed to fit the theme of this area well and so I asked. “Did you do the sounds as well?”
“The sounds are downloads from the net that I mod a bit in audacity, a few I have recorded myself but mostly they are freebies.” She replied and then added, “So this is part one of four. This is where the fable starts with what's left after the destruction. Then the goddess Acquarella sets about repopulating the ocean … that’s the second room, so save time for all four parts.”
“What’s the source for the goddess ... western mythology?”
“Nope … I made her up. An acquarella is a small body of water in Italian, and I used to have an aquarium as a child … so the goddess Acquarella starts repopulating by establishing aquarium outposts.”
“So rebuilding the planet after the apocalypse?” I asked.
“Exactly, starting in the ocean where conditions are not as severe.“ She said.
“I recall from prior conversations that you've drawn inspiration from the sea ... some of your work was inspired by what you'd seen on the sea shore in Maine.”
“Yes very much so, all the seaweed drawings are based on actual Maine seaweed. I did digital drawings with Corel painter software and then imported them as textures.”
“What do you think would be the key features visitors should be drawn to when they arrive?” I asked.
“The point is the overall atmosphere and the psychic effect it has on you.” She replied.
“I get a sense of earth at a primal time.” I commented.
“I hope people look at the details … the textures and lighting and particles. I think of it as scorched earth, except it is underwater.” She replied with a laugh.
“All the textures are ones you created?”
“Yes these are all my drawings. This dappled shadow texture comes from a landscape called Corner Garden … fire in the lake is an I Ching hexagram.” She replied.
“Have you crafted a background story to go with the build?”
“Yes, I am kind of spinning it out now but I have it written in a notecard to … only in VR can you have fire in the lake.”
“Have you thought of doing a book ... the self-publishing route?”
“The machinima is my book equivalent.” She said and then asked, “So want to see the next quadrant?”
“I'm ready if you are.” I replied and with the arrow keys followed her through and past the fires until we approached the next quadrant. As I was about to enter, I saw what appeared to be a large snake blocking our way.
“I hope you are not afraid of snakes … a mother sea serpent guarding her eggs.” She commented and I made my way past the serpent carefully, so as not to disturb the eggs.
“Acquarella thinks that she can keep disaster from happening again by having everything very pure … peaceful white fish minding their own business, no competition, no vanity, no greed. The whiteness symbolizes that spiritual purity … cam in on these jellyfish. They have a great texture and a neat scripted motion.” She explained.
“It reminds me of Glyph (Graves)”. I said and then moved my camera view around the space. The jellyfish she had mentioned along with the swimming fish, the lace like seaweed floating in an invisible current. There was so much to see that I found it difficult to focus in on any one thing. I spotted her sitting on a branch of seaweed and I added; “This is extraordinarily detailed … very nicely done Ali … congrats!”
“There’s a throne over here to sit and survey the situation … oh, don’t miss the snail family.” She said
“Does mouse view work?” I asked.
“Yes, that is a good idea. Park your av and examine things. I find that seat very calming.”
I did as she suggested and pointed, clicked and sat on the perch she had vacated. I slipped into mouse view and let the animation take me around. She had mentioned that I should check out the snail family and so I sought them out. They were easy to pick out as they inched their way across the sea floor. After the circuit was completed, I stood and followed her toward one of the walls where she pointed out to me a set of shells that appeared to be a set of stairs.
“So these are limpets stuck to the wall. It is a navigational obstacle course. It’s very hard to climb all the way to the top without falling, but there is a pavilion at the end up there where you can survey the whole SIM.” She said as we made our way toward the passage that led to the third quadrant.
“So the upshot of Acquarella trying to have everything pure is that she strangles the life out of things … that is the third room.” She commented.
I had preceded her into the passageway and stopped when I saw that a multi-legged, multi-eyed creature blocked the way. “Now that’s scary.”
“It’s funny what eight snake eyes can do … they look down and up. If you cam under they still look at you. It is a rotiferous tentacled fungus.” She said with a laugh before she continued, “So ... please continue on. So here we are in the middle of everything being dead, the opposite of purity. This is all decay … all the fish are black and belly up accompanied by thunder sounds and moans.”
I gingerly made my way toward the creature and as it had the passage completely blocked I sort of walked right through it. There was indeed a distinct lack of life in here as opposed to the prior quadrant as I cammed around the lifeless forms of fish and other creatures floated past me. As I closed in on to where she had stopped, I asked. “So the goddess in her experiment has extinguished life?”
“She strangled it by trying to be too pure … so she tries again. And this time she allows individuality and competition and self-interest, represented by color in the next room. This way …“
I followed her once again toward the passageway to the last quadrant and noted the colors which were easily distinguishable as they poured out through the passage way. Near the entryway now, she paused and I did as I stood right next to her. I commented with a smile. “Signs of life and color.”
“Yes, more signs of life. You are at midnight … cause this last room doesn’t work at midday”
It was breathtaking and I simply exclaimed, “Oh wow! …” as I took it all in. I spun my camera view around and through this last quadrant, the sea full of life and rich with a diversity of color and creatures. “This is gorgeous Ali.”
“The orange fish eggs represent fertility, sex … and there is color everywhere. But there is a downside even here … such is life. Come this way to see downside number one.” With arrow key pressed I followed her further into the room and we made our way toward a structure. When we arrived she continued. “The sushi pavilion … buy the sushi for 0 and wear. Wear both the sushi of your choice and the soy sauce bowl. So the downside is the big fish now eat the little fish … no more purity and peace … but yummy sushi … I got hungry and ordered more sushi when I was making this.”
“So when do you think you'll open?” I asked.
“I’m not sure.” She replied and before I could press her for more information she said. “Come look at my blender triumph … these sea horses, aren’t they adorable and they’re ride able.”
“You did them in blender and yes they are.” I commented as she clicked on one to sit.
“I used blender and prims and textures … the pose looks like snuggling” She said and I tried to snap a picture of her as she rode around in a circle. I did but so did she and passed it along to me. It was a much better picture then what I had taken and I decided right there to use it in my post.
“Okay, what do you suppose that search beam is doing?” She asked as she drew my attention to the beam that emanated from the ceiling. She then added, “Follow it up to the source.”
“Scanning for danger?” I asked and I then I saw the snake eyes watching I added, “We’re being watched.
“Yes … all is not safe in paradise.” She replied and then stood up from the sea horse. She started to move her avatar but paused long enough to say, “Follow me.”
I stood up from the seahorse and followed her as she moved her virtual self to my left. As I neared where she stood, I noted that we’d gone nearly full circle around the build. Ahead was the area in which we’d begun. I still had my sounds turned up and I caught the faint sound of something familiar. I was about to ask her about the sound I was hearing when she sent out a line of chat.
“So what happens next?” She asked
Before I could answer, the sound I had been hearing triggered a memory and I blurted out in chat, “Carny sounds … it sounds like a carousel to me.”
Judging from her laughter (ROFL), I figured I’d missed the mark, but I stood by my assessment. She then said in answer to her own question. “The cycle repeats itself …. Yep like a carousel … a merry go round. In other words, repetition … around and around and guess what? You never get the gold ring … only the other guy … but you keep trying.” She said and then added after several moments. “Hmm… I didn’t realize i was making a Buddhist build till just now. Nazz you do bring things out! You pay attention and that is a rare quality.”
I meekly commented, “A curious mind…”
“So there you have it … the last 5 months of my virtual life … it has been so much fun!”
The tour over, we stood and chatted for several minutes longer before she excused herself for dinner. I took one or two more pictures and I was about to hit quit … but decided to give the carousel sound one last listen before I logged out.