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Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Bridge and the Bird

On y danse, tous en rond.
August is the cruelest month, scratchy and strange. The small talk at arty parties reaches its most miniscule, little misunderstandings balloon, and before you can say Qarl Linden, almost every able bodied and uninstitutionalized person mumbles stuff about pulling the plug on SL for good. And then there's the SLCC ... But wait! There are places like SL Avignon! Built by  Albatroz Hird, this fantastic sim is based on the magnificent medieval French town, most famous for its Papal Palace (voted Best Alternative Christian Venue, 1309-1378).

In RL, Avignon hosts two summer festivals - the 'In', a highbrow theater event, now in its 64th year, centred on the courtyard of the Papal Palace, and the 'Off', a much more populist event held at the same time in which performance artists of all types and all levels of ability put on shows in clubs, theatres, squares and even supermarkets, all over the city. The 'Off' festival, brainchild of  Andre de Benedetto, finally gained official status in 2006. Now 'Off' is moving into virtual worlds. Thanks to GP Ohl and his webZine Journal Transversal du Off we have our own Avignon here in Second Life. Just as with the RL festival, the process of growing the sim has been gradual,the original build involved multiple creators and a range of styles. Several months ago, Albatroz, whose RL job involves remodelling old houses, put together his version of the famous South Tower. Though far from a slavish copy in every detail of the RL stronghold, it's a very precise piece of work; Alb is a perfectionist, and visited the city several times as well as studying pictures closely. 
Albatroz Hird: I have a strong love for old stone, and I wanted to make a place that a tourist can recognize, but my idea is also a spiritual one. In RL I am also a musician, I play the bass, it's an instrument that keeps your feet on the ground, but lets your mind fly free. My totem has always been a bird: an albatros I think sums my way of thinking perfectly. The idea of a vertical union between the practical and the ethereal, the sea and the land, it very important for me. This is a mishmash of dreams and reality. People from Avignon have told me they feel very at home here - that's a huge compliment, and it's been included in a Portuguese RL/SL crossover festival, the Bienal de Cerveira.
It is a very masculine build. Like the city in RL, it is full of squares and right angles, continuity and cohesion in color and form; unlike the real thing, Albatroz has textured the palace facade with a painting by his favorite artist, French painter and sculptor Ieko Catnap, and raised the whole building to make room for another gallery. His original contribution, the South Tower, has an avie-friendly lift rather than central stairs. From the roof, you get a rich sense of place, and an idea of the 'bug' that inspires his building style - big panoramas in which textures and perspective come together to make a sort of 'sound' to his ears.
Below the South Tower is the  rue des Teinturiers, one of Avignon's most picturesque streets, complete with the medieval dyer's water wheels. A walk down the street will bring you to the virtual version of the  Theatre du Chene Noir, with its beautiful Rose window 'restored' by Alb. The sim is intended to foster the arts, and has at least 10 artists on exhibition at any one time.
When Alb got involved in the project, the sim was a mixture of different styles by different builders; now it's entirely his own creation in which he's attempted to respect the numerology of the period.
Albatroz Hird: The numbers that were considered the most powerful by the Templars, the patrons of the great cathedrals and palaces of the Middle Ages, were 3, 4, 7 and 8. Religious buildings were constructed with a deep symbolism and these numbers and proportions can be found in the city, and I have brought them into my version of Avignon.
The sim is just getting off the ground with entertainment in the Great Courtyard, where nuriah Laville, licio Follett and Mickeala Praga were performing the other evening - fantastic live Italian music. The plan is to have regular monthly concerts, so keep it in mind as a venue!
It's worth dropping by even if you're not in time for a concert - in the same space you can also see the machines of Leonardo da Vinci, by noted builder Sextan Shepherd, most famous for his Nemo sim.
Like the ancient city, virtual Avignon has its mysteries and treasures. On the broken bridge, Alb has recreated the chapel of St. Nicholas; inside it are some frescoes he 'borrowed' and digitally restored from the Templar chapel of Cressac. Keep looking, and you will find an allegory on Hamlet in the dungeon.
Despite the scratchiness of August, here is bliss. From Templars to Shakespeare to modern art, Avignon continues to build bridges across time and realities, and that's worth dancing about.
LA STUPENDA CITTA d' Avignone è ora visitabile anche in Second Life, grazie all'intervento di CG Ohl  (all'anagrafe Jean-Pascal Girou, direttore della webzine Journal Transversal du Off un sito dedicato al Festival  'Off', a sua volta il festival artistico di RL che coinvolge tutto il centro storico durante il mese di luglio, una sorta di risposta poplare al più raffinato Festival 'In' che occupa il palazzo dei Papi con spettacoli e concerti.
 La versione virtuale della città è stato realizzato da Albatroz Hird, svizzero, amante della pietra antica e l'architettura esoterica; perfezionista, Alb ha messo più di un anno  nella costruzione della land, cominciando con la famosa Torre Sud - eccoci sul tetto. 

Dentro la torre, da non perdere, le tele della brava Ieko Catnap. Le tele sono diventate parte delle strutture virtuali, creando un ponte artistico tra l'archittettura medievale e l'arte del ventunesimo secolo.
Scegliere le textures poco convenzionali non toglie assolutamente dal look  antico ed armonioso della land; a distanza tutto sembra fatta della stessa stoffa. Dalla torre sud, si vede lo splendido cortile reale,che in RL diventa teatro per spettacoli quale il Re Riccardo II di Shakespeare sotto la regia del grande Jean-Baptiste Sastre. In SL, invece, l'altra sera si sono esibiti nuriah Lavillelicio Follett and Mickeala Praga e si spera di fare ogni mese un concerto diverso. 
La via dei tintori, con le sue ruote idrauliche, porta al Theatre du Chene Noir da ammirare il bellissimo rosone, reinventato in questa versione  dell'antico e famoso teatro, e anche allo strano fungo moderno che sovrasta la land. 
Da non perdere le macchine di Leonardo, nel cortile reale, e sul ponte, la cappella di san Nicola, con gli affreschi 'prestati' dalla capella templare di Cressac e digitalmente restaurati da Albatroz. Sotto la capella una sobria allegoria basato su Hamlet...e le pirahna. Non è facilissima trovarla ma ne vale la pena
Avignone virtuale crea un ponte tra passato e presente, tra la musica e il teatro, l'arte tradizionale e quella moderna. Come nella vecchia canzone, un ponte sulla quale tutti noi possiamo ... ballare, perché no, tutti insieme.

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