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Tuesday, May 22, 2012


The eye, or rather the mind, 
is never long delighted with 
that which it surveys without effort
Humphry Repton, Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening
The LEA is like a raw onion: sure, it's juicy and multi-layered, but prolonged contact makes some people emit hot air, or tears, or both.
Open a window, escape from poseurs and schoolyard politics, and jump into the magical world of June Clavenham and Luke Vemo.
They live far apart. Luke is in England, June in Uruguay. They met on a rooftop sandbox, years ago. He made popcorn appear.

June Clavenham: He played the flute and I danced, we had a nice talk and since then we've been friends.
 A friendship based on building and inquiring minds. Their first build together was on sim Chakra; among their tandem creations from those early days was a Tree of Life, and an Path of Smiles. You get the idea.
Repton coined the term Landscape Gardening in the early 1800's. Gardens as installations go back, of course, to the Babylonians, as expressions of power and fecundity. The Romans did mostly the same; Emperor Adrian's villa at Tivoli  expands on the expression of power by re-creating bits of places he'd been to- a little Greece, a little Egypt. Otherness - a way of showing off one's education, souvenirs from trips abroad, and the chasm between the worker's kitchen garden and the thinker's locus amoenus - informed the entire Renaissance period and beyond. Yet, after centuries of pushing back the natural, local landscape, the Age of Enlightenment saw its resurgence as a fashionable addition to a discerning patron's home.
Every fashion comes with its fashionistas, just as every art form comes with its curators and sundry hangers-on. You can't simply 'have' the countryside; it has to be managed, every tree, meadow and body of water positioned so it will present visually to its maximum ppotential, and talking up the 'Capabilities' of a country estate (and talking himself into a job) was how Lancelot 'Capability' Brown got his nickname.
High art, and 'one that can only be advanced and perfected by the united powers of the landscape painter and the practical gardener', as Repton puts it in his opening premise to the Art of Landscape Gardening. By the time this work was released, the the fad for massive  terraforming was on the wane. Repton stressed the importance of craft over manpower and embellishment over complete makeover. Thoughtful design is everything.
 And so it is on sim Rainbows, a poetic memorial to a trip to Wales made by Luke and June. To know the welsh countryside is to love it. Inspired to build what Luke terms 'a rainbow of places we visited', the couple have added notecards explaining what each ensemble represents, whether a shoreline, a row of cottages, or a Gothic church. It's all very photogenic and romantic, but is it art?
June Clavenham: We express ourselves here building, so yes, in that way we are artists. When we build, we do for fun but also for people to enjoy.
Luke Vemo: We tried to create a little bit of realism. We are artists, not really builders, but more placers of objects.
The Rainbows sim tells of a journey, while its sister sim Moments in Love, is more of a lyric to woodland harmony in general. Harmony, but intensity too.
Luke Vemo: We build sims in like 24 hours very quick - this was done in a day. My the last one was around only for a few days. It was good, too, all underground. We get a rush of inspiration and energy.  We have an eye for detail we tend to rush then tweak like get it down fast then adjust. To be creative and complete you need the prims. This is like 3750 prims, and we use them fast. It's never boring, if you're inspired, it flows.
June Clavenham: It's because we know what we want before we start I guess. We don't talk with each other while we build, but somehow at the end it looks complete. I like terraforming, and also little details. Luke is better for the general vision of the place, and magic touches. The basic place is done in one day or two then we like to take care of textures, perspective, no objects flying, or holes, or add interest, like information in the case of the other sim. It's great to have two sims, because you can control lag and you have so many prims, but it's expensive to maintain. When a build is finished I feel lost in SL. I don't know what else to do. That is another side that is great about it, things seem to just come.
Building with a view to other's enjoyment, not adulation. it's a fine line to walk sometimes. Is an audience, or rather a visiting public, important to the pair?
Luke Vemo: Not us, not important to me; I don't like crowds or to much attention.
June Clavenham: No, not important at all. We are happy while building, and happy if people enjoy it, and that's it. It's very nice when someone comes and send an IM saying something nice, it makes you smile inside. Not in a vain way, its just - nice.

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