Farewell (again), Furillen

farewell furillen B

Having re-opened in October, Furillen has been back on the grid for four months … and I think it’s time to put the sim back into mothballs. To be honest, I hadn’t expected to keep it open for so long, but seeing it full of visitors during the weeks the after re-opening persuaded me to keep it open at least into the new year.

Since October, the sim has featured some excellent exhibitions of Furillen pictures – by Pixelbeing, nekonuko Nakamori, and Melusina Parkin. It also saw the revival of the rather wonderful bar cafe Fabriken, which was put together with Micky Siamendes.

Furillen is quite an unusual sim with its own history and stories – and, most importantly for me, its own unique buildings. I have always liked the minimalist vibe of the sim design, and the opportunity it allows for a huge range of SL photography – and within its built spaces (such as the concrete bunker, shipping warehouse and hotel), for showing interesting art.

While Furillen is around, it feels to many of us like a fixture – as if it “should” be on the grid, always. So I am sure that one or two visitors will be disappointed to see it go again. However, the grind of the weekly tier is stopping me from working on other projects – which, frankly, is where all of my enjoyment of SL comes from. Besides Furillen, I have opened two further sims since October – Lairig Leacach and the summer version of Khodovarikha – and I have other projects planned. So Furillen will close its doors once again in the next day or so – move fast if you want to make a ‘final’ picture or visit.

To those who like to think of Furillen as their second home, please be assured that it will doubtless return again one day, possibly even later this year, and perhaps in summer clothes, just to make a change. But for now, huge thanks to everyone who came by, left nice comments, donated generously, took great pictures, and generally made the sim feel alive.

Serene Footman 🙏

С возвращением, Слава

 

So … welcome back, Slava.

slava pic

This so-called ‘most cut off man on earth’ lives on Khodovarikha – in Russian: Ходовариха – a weather station located on the freezing Barents Sea.

map

Khodovarikha, together with its only resident – whose full name is Vyacheslav Korotki – were the subjects of a Second Life sim in 2017. You can read the full story here.

Back then the sim was set in winter: it was often dark … and appropriately gloomy. I came across the place by reading various articles and blogs that were inspired by the series of twelve photographs taken of Khodovarikha by Evgenia Arbugaeva. These stunning images made this remote spot in northern Russia famous, at least for a while.

slava boat

For those who read about Slava and his remote location, it was fascinating to imagine how life must be for a man living in such isolation, with just one yearly visit by a supply ship and a shortwave radio to rely on for direct human contact.

radio

Besides Aebugaeva’s pictures, more could be learned about Slava by watching the documentary – “Arctic Limbo” – that was made about life in Khodovarikha …

The film portrays Slava as an enigmatic figure. He is very self-contained, finds plenty to do in Khodovarikha (he says he never gets bored), and we get hints of a personal history that includes serious illness, a failed marriage and an estranged son.

slava gaze

Arctic Limbo also features Ustin, a young conscript who (together with his wife) spends a year with Slava at Khodovarikha. Ustin seems to dislike the place, longing for the ship to arrive while desperately hoping that his posting will end. He also appears somewhat ambivalent towards Slava, laughingly describing him as a ‘troll’ and a ‘lunatic’.

slava and ustin

Unlike Aebugaeva’s pictures, the video is set in summer, when Khodovarikha thaws out and is transformed into a chaotic maze of sand dunes and grass. The place is a real mess: the windswept sand is littered with barrels and crates, as well as miscellaneous bits of rusty salvage. I have often wondered about those barrels – why are there so many of them, and why are they left lying around, quite literally, everywhere …

garage

koko dunes

I have wanted to design a summer version of Khodovarikha ever since closing the sim in December 2017. The seasonal change has given me more freedom to bring life to the place – a variety of birds, grasses, and so on. While I have taken one or two liberties – in SL we can only work with what is at hand, or what we (or others) can make – I hope that all of the birds you will encounter at the sim are related in some way to the birds of northern Russia, and particularly the Arctic Circle in summer. What I wanted to show is a place that comes to life each summer. Slava might be cut off, but he is not alone during these months.

The ‘signature’ feature of Khodovarikha is the massive wooden lighthouse, built in 1933, with its distinctive octagonal structure.

lighthouse

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The version of this building I have installed at the sim was custom-made by KT Syakumi, who is also responsible for several of the Furillen buildings. In the first iteration of the sim, the lighthouse was still working. But in fact, it has not been operational since 1996; indeed in the Arctic Limbo movie we see Slava cannibalising the structure for firewood.

koko wood

This is how you will find the lighthouse this time around – no longer working, and being slowly gutted to keep Slava warm during those endless winter nights …

slava office

While researching this summer iteration of the sim, I found a fascinating description of life at Khodovarikha twenty-five years ago, submitted to a Russian forum by Ekaterina Fateeva. Ekaterina lived at Khodovarikha during the early 1990s when it was still a functioning village and the lighthouse was operational. She writes almost wistfully of launching ‘airplanes and improvised parachutes’ from the top of the building, and of a ‘sports hall’ beneath the lighthouse at ground level …

[I] lived on Khodovarikha for two years as a child. 1994 and 1995. My grandmother was the director of the lighthouse, my grandfather was the chief mechanic, and my mother was just an employee. I remember this time with great warmth and dream of going there again. On the ground floor of the lighthouse, we had a sports hall with rings, ropes and other things. From the top, we launched airplanes and improvised parachutes) swam in the Solzhatsky lake, in the sea and on the bay. Caught fish, gathered mushrooms, berries, set traps for arctic foxes in winter, hunted geese. Now it’s all forbidden, I guess. With me, one winter, a polar bear came right to us by the window, ate dog food and left).

It is partly in this spirit that I added the rope slide extending from the top of the lighthouse down to the ground – offering visitors some reward for climbing all those ladders. Of course, it’s hard to picture Slava using such a slide, at least not without a few extra shots of home-made vodka. But I think I can imagine him building it …

bird

As the passage from Ekaterina Fateeva suggests, Khodovarikha was once a small village, whose scattered buildings – situated close to Slava’s house – have largely fallen into disrepair and ruin, although some do remain. I have reproduced these on the new sim.

Besides Slava’s scruffy red house and dilapidated storage garage, several other buildings on the sim have been designed as replicas of what I believe would be found at the real Khodovarikha. The first, which I also used for the first iteration of the sim, consists of the doppler radar building, with its distinctive red and white dome. This slightly weird structure features in the video as well as the Aebugaeva photographs …

kolteniy

A second replica building is new to this sim, and was generously meshed by Harry Cover (whose SL name is Impossibleisnotfrench, you can visit his inworld store here). Harry recently built the small bothy for Lairig Leacach, which I opened for two weeks in December. For Khodovarikha, he has made the wrecked and rusty abandoned house that sits near to the lighthouse, as can be seen in these pictures …

In the movie, we see the house full of sand and rubble: completely uninhabitable, and well-nigh unusable. This is how it is in the Second Life version. As you’ll see when you visit the sim, Harry has done a great job on this, and I am very grateful to him for his time and generosity.

Harry is also responsible for the distinctive ‘A frame’ structure that sits next to the green wooden house that Ustin and his wife were living in. It can be seen on the far right in this screenshot …

a frame

This odd structure seems to house something like a well – or maybe it’s just a water trough. Either way, Ustin’s wife is filmed drawing water from inside it with a rusty old bucket. By the way, I have also introduced a replica of Ustin’s green house, which can also be seen in the picture above, next to the A frame.  It’s more or less as I imagine he would have left it – it seems rather unlikely that Slava would have cleared the place up. Also, note the small wooden house on the left of the picture above, just in front of the weather station: in my version of this place, this is where Slava distils (and drinks) his own vodka … Khodovarikha special brew.

Finally, there is an odd structure next to the shore. I have no idea what it could be, so I have turned it into some kind of lookout …

koko lookout

In addition to these buildings and hundreds of barrels, I have populated the sim with various other bits of rusty salvage, some of which can be spied in the documentary film. These include parts of an old boat, and the fuselage of a crashed plane – ostensibly ‘reclaimed’ by Slava … who it seems is nothing if not a bricoleur. I have also included some structures that reflect Khodovarikha’s main function: a weather station, communication masts, and an old Soviet radar.

As with Lairig Leacach, I have put this sim together mainly for my own amusement, and as a sort of gift to the travelling photographers of Second Life, without whom sim design would be much less rewarding than it is. For bloggers and photographers alike, you have rez rights with a sixty minute auto return. For all visitors, please think about leaving a message in the guestbook. And of course, any donation would be hugely appreciated.

As ever, this won’t be open for long – so do enjoy it while it lasts. 🙏

 

Furillen Impressions – by Melusina Parkin

Melusina Parkin - Furillen Impressions - poster

On Wednesday 5 February we will have the opening of ‘Furillen Impressions’, by Melusina Parkin. This will be the third exhibition of pictures at Furillen since it re-opened – following on from ‘Furillen in Motion’ by Pixelbeing, and ‘Composition of Furillen’ by nekonuko Nakamori – given by artists who have strong associations with the sim. As previously, the exhibition will consist of a set of fifteen images of Furillen. Selected from some 200 pictures that Melusina has taken at the sim over the years, this is a collection of old and new, with one or two of the images recalling features of the sim that I had long forgotten.

Melusina is a distinctive Second Life photographer whose pictures are unmistakeable. She has a sharp eye for detail, and on Flickr, often posts entire series of minimalist images that draw attention to specific themes and features of the sims she visits on her travels around the grid. Recently such themes have included ‘Magnificent Loneliness’, ‘Machinery’, and ‘Barriers’. I find this way of approaching photography in Second Life refreshing and unique, establishing strong and sometimes surprising visual connections between disparate sims. Thus although this particular collection of images have all been taken at Furillen, any one of them might be incorporated within a bigger series that brings it into visual connection with other places on the grid.

Always, Melusina’s pictures are characterized by a strong emphasis on form. She has a fine eye for geometry and composition. Many of her images are monochrome, re-affirming the sense of thematic unity between them. Thus when she does use colour, it is all the more striking, such as in this image …

Windows 5

… and this one …

Windows 4

… wherein the flash of blue unifies the two images.

Given Melusina’s liking for abstractness, her pictures are well suited to Furillen, with its minimalist flavour and largely monochrome palette. At the same time, her pictures invite us to look again at some features of the sim, because typically, she draws out details that are often passed by and overlooked.

Melusina has been active in Second Life since 2008. Over time she has been a fashion manager, a journalist, a furniture creator, a builder, a decorator and a photographer. At this moment, she owns an Art Deco furniture shop called Melu Deco. About her approach to photography, she says …

Many of my photos tend towards minimalism, that’s my main inclination: catching a simple detail from daily life or usual landscapes, enhancing it, making it protagonist of mostly empty scenes. This reveals its meaning or can push the observer to give it her/his own. Minimalism stresses void, space, geometries: you can be confused by that, but you can also been led to meditate about what things are when they are out of the crowd. Some of my pictures go towards a surreal mood. It’s another way to look at the world by an unusual gaze: there’s no need to see winged horses or green sunsets to trespass the real: you can feel puzzled even by a line of streetlights in the mist or by a piano set on a streets crossing.

Melusina has been taking pictures of Furillen ever since it first opened in 2015. To my eye, her images capture much of the spirit in which the sim was designed. This is how she describes her relationship with Furillen …

When I discovered Furillen, a few days after its opening, I thought I would be at home there. The place did seem to me like the realization of all my best wishes: it recreated a real place in a very precise way, its landscape was the triumph of the minimalism, it mixed up signs of human activities – the industrial landscapes are one of my passions -, it matched even my bias for solitude and for calm and meditative moments.

The stunning landscape made me feel a part of the lonely nature that, with its fog, with its cold sky and sea, with its scattered trees,  dominated the few buildings, once abandoned and now turned to comfortable and pleasant meeting places.

So, I started taking photos and I didn’t stop doing that for years. When I got the honor to be invited to exhibit some pictures, I got worried: how could I select a dozen of photos, when my “Furillen” folder was full with hundreds images of the place? Moreover, I couldn’t resist to the temptation of taking even more pictures, trying to catch new details, new points of view, new atmospheres… The selection needed a very long time, every day I changed it and every day I added some pics to the series.

Then, when you’ll look at a photograph of this exhibit, consider that there are many others behind it, and that it’s just a fragment of the huge collection of corners, details and landscapes that I love of Furillen.

This is a terrific collection of pictures that show both the sim and its photographer at their very best. As with the two previous exhibitions, it’s great to be seeing these pictures laid out within the sim itself: in context, surrounded by what Walter Benjamin used to call the ‘aura’ of the place in which they were originally created. The exhibition opens on Wednesday 5 February at 1300 SLT – that’s 2200 CET. We won’t be throwing a party, but if you want to come along while Melusina herself is around to say hello, that’s when she can be found!