A masterpiece lives

I was surprised (again!) today by the power of social networking tools, in this case Facebook.

Some months ago, for the 10th June, Portugal’s Day, Beta Technologies sponsored an event in Second Life for the Museum of the Presidency of Portuguese Republic.

This event was the recriation of an exhibit that the Museum was opening in Lisbon, called “Portugal 12-21 – Identidade” (Identity) – the idea was to feature 10 major pieces, each characterizing each century, from a volume of songs in the ancient Galician-Portuguese language to a Euro coin.

Beta Technologies offered to make the modellation of one piece for the exhibit. The dramatic quality of this led me to pick it:

Cristo Monte Iras - See more photos

Cristo Monte Iras - Click the image to see more photos

This piece is a 14th c. Crucified Christ, called the Cristo de Monte Irás, belonging to S. João da Ribeira Church in Santarém . It is actually a composite piece, the 14th century statue being mounted on a 18th century cross. It is a very wonderful Gothic piece, with all the emotional intensity that the style was able to express. The finality of the Dead Christ is so expertly rendered in the long, dropping arm and hand, and the ivory has been exquisitely carved and painted to depict bones, muscles, wounds. It is a very excellent and unique work or art, and I am very proud that Beta Technologies was able to sponsor it.

I want to thank again Damien Fate (the creator of the famous Loco Pocos avatars, plus many other incredible things!)  who used his amazing technique, which can only be called true artistic technique, for producing such a dramatic piece.

But… these were old news. This piece was made in June, after all, and I thought it would have been forgotten already in the big dynamism of Second Life. But today it was seen again, through Facebook! Thanks to Rui Lourenço, who organized the whole SL project, for posting about it, and making it known to his many hundreds of followers all over the world! :))

Unfortunately, I don’t have permission to reproduce the photos of the original in this blog, so you could see how Damien’s work is true! This piece – and the amazing exhibit – can still be seen in Second Life: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Alma/118/108/34

Choosing to play

What an interesting idea!

When planning urban spaces such as an underground station, two major questions are always present: route planning and turning a no-space into a space.

Route planning is the study of the routes people take/should take in a space (think about an exhibition gallery as a sort of a classical case, though actually route planning should go to such detail as routing inside a house, or a kitchen). An underground station is a paramount problem: you have thousands of people circuiting there everyday. They need to be able to orient themselves (sense of orientation drops amazingly below ground); they need to be able to go quickly inside the station; they need – very importantly – to be able to escape even more quickly in case of accident or fire. In this last case, security measures may force electrical devices such as elevators, escalators, etc, to shut down – this can cause confusion and delay if people try to use them to escape. So something that trains people into preferring stairs to electric devices as their usual route can be very positive.

As for the no-space thingy, well, we all know what it is. It is that uncomfy feeling everyone gets at many public spaces: a place which, belonging to everyone, belongs to nobody simultaneously. Too large, too unreferenced, too confusing… also, sadly so oftenly: too shabby, too uncared  for, too full of grafitti! Interventions like this can help turn a no-space into a space, since people can appropriate the intervention for a bit, make it theirs.

I suddenly thought that a lot of SL spaces are no-spaces. Interesting, why should that be?

Some necessary explanations

I was fiddling here with my blog backoffice, trying to get things right – I must explain that I am generally a bit blog-adverse, so this is a new tech of sorts to me – things don’t just come easy, and I’ll apologize straightaway for some instability on the appearance of the blog, as I conclude that widget X is useful and that I need more categories… I am sure everyone must have passed through the same!

At least I know a basic rule: always have the backoffice in one tab and the blog in another, so that you can see what is happening on with the final result.

And as I was checking the final result, I felt that people may be a bit staggered by the blog… What’s this?! Doesn’t this woman work in Second Life?! Where is the stuff about SL?!

… well, the stuff about SL will no doubt get in here in its own time. But working in SL doesn’t necessarily mean that you breathe SL.

The work that I do in SL is architecture, grossly speaking. Architecture is an art, which means that it is a speculum mundi:  it holds a mirror to life. So this means that a good deal of my day is spent … looking at life, wherever it is. Researching. Reading, because reading is a gateway to the thoughts of other people. Seeing scores and scores of images. Thinking about what I meet, relating, making connections. Because that is what architecture really is: the greatest of arts, the art that connects all the others, and creates space for people in an amazing web of knowledge, experience, living. All that I see will no doubt resurface at some point in my work.

So… this very confused blog is a window on my work, indeed. It just isn’t all about prims and textures, same way as being a chef isn’t all about knowing how to turn on the oven. It is also not just a window on past or present work: it’s a magic window that lets you see the future.

A mystery solved

I am a big fan of Queen Victoria, and I read everything I can about her reign. She will appear frequently in this blog, I think.

One thing I always was puzzled about was the bad reception Prince Albert had in the United Kingdom at the time of their marriage.  Granted, he was a foreigner… but the German nobility was so large at the time that it would be extremely difficult, I think, to find a suitable candidate who didn’t have  German ancestry. Queen Victoria herself was genetically German, up to all her great-great-grandparents, and for four generations, the British throne had been held by a German-origined dinasty.

There was a popular mocking rhyme at the time:

He comes the bridegroom of Victoria’s choice

The nominee of Lehzen’s voice; (1)

He comes to take ‘for better or for worse’

England’s fat Queen and England’s fatter purse. (2)

A bit mean,  right?! The power of this bad opinion about Prince Albert’s financial matters was so great that Parliament refused to grant him the same £50.000/year that had been granted to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (3), who had married Charlotte (4), Princess of Wales, some 20 years before. Albert only got £30.000, which aggravated him extremely.

But after finding this picture… some light begins to dawn!

Schloss_Rosenau_1900_small

This is Schloss Rosenau, the seat of Albert’s family, in Thuringia, Germany. He was born here in 1819 (this picture was taken in 1900). Now, calling this a schloss is very eulogizing, because this is really quite a biggish cottage. Look in Wikicommons for images of schlosses and you will see fairy-tale buildings, on top of imposing hills… not a modest house in the middle of a pretty garden.  Compare this also to Britain’s nobility’s great seats… it’s quite possible he may have been perceived as a minor princeling intent on a financially advantageous marriage.

But actually this is interesting, because it may explain why Prince Albert had such a distaste for the large palaces in England where he had to live. He hated Buckingham Palace, which had been Victoria’s favourite palace before her marriage. He preferred Windsor Castle, but he insisted in building the more secluded Osborne House, in the Isle of Wight,  and Balmoral Castle,  in Scotland. These two were also rather smallish residences compared to the former, and their attendants used to moan about the inconvenience of these houses: far away from London, small, cold, and the general opinion at their building was also that they were hideous (though this opinion tends to disappear as the Victorian taste grows stronger as the century progresses).

Victoria herself was enchanted when visiting Rosenau for the first time. Quite curiously, she wrote: ‘If I was not who I am, this would have been my real home, but I shall always consider it my second one.’ (2)

So the need for seclusion, for the living of a private life, which is one of the  new domestic paradigms brought by the Victorian Age,  maybe was born too here in this Schloss Rosenau.

——–

(1) Baroness Lehzen had been the governess of Victoria, and enjoyed her outmost trust, being at the time one of the most important persons in the Household. She too was a polemical figure due to her percepted influence on the Queen.

(2) Quoted in Hibbert, Christopher, Queen Victoria – A Personal History, Harper Collins,  2001, ISBN 0-00-638843-4. A very good book!

(3) Leopold was later Leopold I, King of the Belgians. He was an uncle to both Victoria and Albert.

(4) Charlotte had been an heir-presumptive to the crown, so Leopold could have been Prince Consort if she had lived. She died very tragically in labour, and this event led to ultimately Victoria becoming Queen.

A beach full of mushrooms…

Now, this is a sight to see!

Scheveningen Beach, Netherlands, around 1900

Scheveningen Beach, Netherlands, around 1900

The  odd organic forms are… beach seats! They’re made in wicker, and they do lend a very curious look to the beach. Of course, people in shawls, etc, are also curious, but maybe we must remember that this is on the North Sea.

It does have a very alive feel, doesn’t it? Makes you wonder if the beach pods would move of nights, gathering around, with a social life of their own…

General Disclaimer!

Hello, welcome to the Armchair Traveller. This is my blog, so expect some level of chaos. Don’t expect intelligent opinions or witty repartee. Chaos is what you’ll get.

I am Moon Adamant, and I am the Creative Officer and one of the partner founders of Beta Technologies, a Second Life Gold Developer company. We do tons of work, and some of it may end up here as well! For the moment being, check our links on the sidebar.

I met this expression ‘Armchair Traveller’ just the other day, as I was looking for interesting stuff on the web. I chanced upon something called Photocroms, which are a mix of b&w photos and a litographic process to lend them colour. The result of this technique is often very interesting, with lovely pastel shades. They were used to make albums (amongst other things), and these albums were a common feature in well-to-do homes in the turn of the 20th century. This way, people could travel without leaving their homes – they were Armchair Travellers.

It struck me that maybe I have always been one myself.

The way I see it, armchair travelling has a main advantage towards real travelling: one is not subject to time. If I go to any real place now, I’ll always land in the present – even though it may be a quite different present. But when I armchair-travel, I can go anywhere, anytime, past, present, future. I also don’t lose my luggage.

So this is what you may expect: a lot of globetrotting. Sometimes I’ll talk about Second Life, sometimes I’ll talk about … anything else, really.

Another thing that I am thinking as I am writing is something I learned to do in art school and univ (for those who don’t know, my training is in architecture and fine-arts): when you get to a place, draw sketches to capture the impression of the place. And this is, I am thinking now, maybe the objective of this blog? So this will not be a text blog, nor a photo blog, nor an art blog – let’s call it a blog of impressions.