Khodovarikha news

Our new sim, Khodovarikha, has been open for two weeks now and it’s been busy, with around 300 visitors every day and a Flickr group that has already passed 100 members posting more than 350 pictures. A few visitors have left comments in the guestbook, and we’d be grateful for more. The book can be found upstairs in Slava’s house …

Outside

We’ve been impressed by how many people have taken the trouble to look into the background of the sim – Slava has proved to be a figure of some fascination and intrigue. I did some more digging, and found this interview with Evgenia Arbugaeva, the photographer responsible for that wonderful series of pictures of Khodovarikha that I featured on this blog when opening the sim.

Evgenia explains that Slava had worked on Khodovarikha for 15 years when she met him …

and before that he worked at other remote stations. He was born on a ship. His mum was a cook and his dad was an engineer. He spent all his childhood there. The reason he likes to live on this peninsula is that it reminds him of the ship because, wherever he goes, he can see the sea. So from the beginning of his life, he was used to the water, to nature, loneliness, solitude.

Apparently Slava went missing for a while quite recently, and – bizarrely – Russian officials contacted Evgenia to ask whether she had any idea what might have happened to him. She explains …

They said that he had left the station and hadn’t come back. He’d been lost for some time and it was very cold, around -40C. He left on his snowmobile and no one had seen him since. And I said: “I’m in London. I have no idea where he is.” I hadn’t communicated with him because there is no way to. He eventually arrived at a nearby town with frostbite. His snowmobile had broken and he had walked and stayed in some shack. He didn’t have GPS and he had to navigate through empty tundra. He’s very special in that sense. He feels the land and he can read the stars and understand the wind. I think we understood each other very well.

Slava saw and liked Evgenia’s photographs of Khodovarikha, particularly those she took of the landscape and the aurora borealis. “But he didn’t really care about his own image. He didn’t comment on that at all.”

Visitors to the Second Life version of Khodovarikha have taken some wonderful photographs, and it’s been fascinating to see how different photographers have handled the combination of dynamic light and the constantly falling snow. Some make a virtue of it and come up with stunning images of colour and light …

H o l o c e n e

" How rare and beautiful it is to even exist. "

Hypnotic

Khodovarikha

… while others choose a more muted feel that captures the sense of desolation the sim conveys …

Arctic landscape

His freedom is not your loneliness

Khodovarikha

Sirens

There have also been some great shots that capture some of the sim’s finer details …

. that a person can be kind .

Ходовариха 12 - Too much Vodka

… some great examples of fine texturing …

Sous le ciel de Khodovarikha

xодовариха

… as well as of romance and poignancy amidst these desolate arctic wastes …

Intertwined.

Waiting For Tristan

"Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius." — Pietro Aretino

All is known in the sacredness of silence.

The range and quality on display here – and, indeed, throughout the Flickr group – is enormously impressive.

So … what of Khodovarikha’s older sister, Furillen? Some of you will have seen that the sim has closed for refurbishment. As ever, we don’t exactly know what we’ll do until we go ahead and do it … but we’ve been trying out some sim designs that might work rather well as a seasonal antidote to Second Life’s customary Christmas cuteness. My lips are sealed.

Meanwhile, as Slava might say …

Мне пора, до скорого!

Khodovarikha

koko

Khodovarikha – in Russian: Ходовариха – is a weather station located on the coast of the freezing Barents Sea. It consists of a landspit projecting eastwards (Latitude: 68° 57′ Longitude: 53° 45′).

map

This is as remote a place as one could imagine. The population of Khodovarikha consists of one man, whose name is Slava …

slava pic

Besides Slava – his full name is Vyacheslav Korotki – nobody lives permanently in Khodovarikha. No roads lead here. The only visitors are the crew of a research and survey vessel – the Mikhail Somov – that passes by once a year to drop supplies.

MIKHAIL_SOMOV

I first heard about Khodovarikha in 2015, when I read an article in a UK newspaper. Accompanying this was a stunning series of pictures. By coincidence, I had just opened Furillen – itself renowned for being remote and, in winter, dark and bleak. But it was clear that Khodovarikha was an altogether more extreme, more brutal and more desolate place. The title of one of these pieces – “The most cut-off man on Earth” – says it all.

slava boat

This seemed to be the perfect subject for a Second Life sim, and Khodovarikha finally opens today.

For a while, all there was to go on for information about Khodovarikha were those articles – beautiful pictures, but no real sense of how the buildings were organized. I imagined a typical Arctic landscape – white and pristine, with this rugged old Russian guy wandering about under a beautiful Aurora sky, measuring weather patterns …

weather station

Then I saw a documentary about Khodovarikha – and Slava – on an English-language Russian media channel, RTD, called “Arctic Limbo” …

So much for the pristine white landscape … Khodovarikha is a barren, arid and neglected place, littered with rusting scrap metal, discarded fuel barrels, broken machinery and countless abandoned or half-finished projects. There is beauty here, for sure, but this is not the picture-postcard Arctic cliche one might imagine. Khodovarikha is a rubbish heap, a kind of hell on earth: bitterly cold all year round, dirty, and unkempt.

In the documentary, Slava has an assistant, Ustin, who was posted to Khodovarikha for a year, accompanied by his wife, Rita. We see a bored Ustin playing video games, arguing with Rita, looking through old papers in the one of the derelict buildings while wishing he was somewhere else.

ustin

He talks about missing his family, and looks ahead excitedly to the visit of the ship and its supplies, wondering whether he will be replaced or left on Khodovarikha for another year. It’s a prospect he seems to find unthinkable, although by the end of the film, as he boards the Somov with Rita, he seems bereft as he looks back to Khodovarikha, and we learn that he subsequently goes back …

ustin 1

Slava himself emerges as a thoroughly enigmatic figure: he is obviously tough and resourceful, but what little we learn about his past – a wife he lost touch with but expects to be reconciled with one day, a son he has never even seen – suggests a man who came to Khodovarikha in order to escape …

bird

He describes his relationship to time in some extraordinary ways. One might expect the days, weeks and months to crawl past in such an empty, isolated place, but Slava has a very different perspective. The clock runs fast here, he says, I am never bored, there is always something to do … those who live in cities are the bored ones, where the same thing happens every day, and where everything is hurried and pointless. We see him fishing and hunting, but mostly watching … gazing at the immensity of the time and space he finds himself in.

slava gazeSlava avoids thinking about the visit of the ship. Because as soon as he does so, time drags. Ustin describes Slava’s reputation in the Russian administration as a ‘lunatic’ and a ‘troll’. We see a relationship between them that is perfunctory and cool. Perhaps this is the only way they can co-exist.

slava and ustin

The documentary is set in the summer months, although Ustin tells us that it is always cold in Khodovarikha. The sand is dirty, littered with old barrels and crates nestled in scattered tufts of dried out grass. This is a lunar landscape of craters and small uneven dunes, whipped into shape by the constant wind …

dunes

We chose to depict Khodovarikha as we imagine it must be in winter – dark and freezing, with the ground covered by snow and packed ice. This is a landscape of contrasts: between white snow and blackened wood; between immense space and suffocation; and above all, between the ugliness of the ground and the infinite beauty of the Arctic sky. The windlight setting for the sim is not fixed but on a cycle – although given that this is an Arctic winter, don’t expect a bright midday sun …

eggs

Khodovarikha was once a village, of sorts, and there are a number of buildings scattered around on the sim. The most striking is the lighthouse, built in 1933 and decommissioned in 1996 – ours is still working, however. This is an octagonal structure, exceptionally tall and angled sharply upwards.

lighthouse

It is made of timber, which Slava is cannibalising for firewood, and sits high up on a raised section of the land. Behind it there is a building, which we have set back and down the hill: an old workshop, surrounded with broken equipment, trash and abandoned tools … and the ever-present Khodovarikha barrels.

garage

Across from the lighthouse is a small cluster of buildings: a communications mast, and the house where Slava lives, which we have decorated as close the photographs as possible …

slava office

radio

matchstick house

There is also a small hut in which he distills some kind of alcoholic potion for warmth and those long, dark winter nights of reflection … and a half-built house, which seems unlikely ever to be finished.

Then there is the weather station, with its row of specialist equipment – a Stevenson Screen, wind monitors, a radiation screen, ranging sensor and so forth.

weather station mess

To one side of this is an observation hut, and to the other side a half-finished Rawin Dome – used to track weather balloons – surrounded by scaffolding. This was inspired by a picture I saw of the South Pole station taken during the winter of 1955-6 …

rawin1

In “Arctic Limbo”, we see Slava travelling by boat to an island where he seems to stay, perhaps when he wants to be away from Ustin and Rita. It’s never made clear where this location is, but it contains this very striking building …

kolteniy

According to the caption for this picture, it is Kotelniy Island, but if this is an alternative spelling for Kotelny Island it isn’t clear how Slava could get to such a place, because it is several thousand miles away from Khodovarikha …

map

While we are not exactly sure where this building is located, we are fairly certain that the dome above it is a Doppler radar, which uses the Doppler effect to produce velocity data about objects at a distance. It’s possible that this would be used to examine the motion of rain, as described here – but whatever this particular one was used for, we are confident that it is no longer in use. Instead, the building – together with the others here – acts as a kind of refuge for Slava – a place to hang out and wash his socks, watch the sky, lay down and drink …

The sim opens in a few hours …

Furillen catch-up

furillen in snow large poster 01

We are staging the latest group exhibition of Furillen pictures next week, with the opening of “Furillen in Snow” at Midday SLT on Tuesday 12 September. There are sixteen pictures in this exhibition, and to select them we searched right back to the earliest few weeks of the sim’s life, in late 2015.

Choosing from such a large pool was as fascinating as it was difficult. Please do not be offended if your picture has not been chosen – these group shows are not competitive in any way: it is simply a selection of pictures that we think work together quite well. Many of the pictures included in this show are from 2015-16, because we felt it would be interesting to look back on some ‘classics’.

We are also very pleased to include a picture taken at the sim by the late lamented Amona Savira. Amona took some very beautiful and striking pictures at Furillen, and although I barely knew her, I am surely not the only person who misses her distinctive and subtle photography.

In other news, the weather at Furillen is somewhat changeable as we move into September and Autumn – or Höst, in Swedish. While visitors may well encounter both rain and snow, the ‘default’ setting at the sim has been switched back to summer/spring – hence the emergence of more wildlife and some new trees, and the re-appearance of the swimming pool behind the hotel. Long-time visitors to the sim will know that the weather and windlight settings – and ground textures – switch around quite a bit, so arrive prepared for anything.

Finally … I mentioned a new sister sim a couple of weeks ago. This is progressing quite well, and will open reasonably soon.

Cкоро, as Russians say …

News from Furillen

fabriken-furillen

As the real Hotel Fabriken – as pictured above: a pretty good imitation of our Second Life version [sic] – closes its doors in anticipation of another grim winter in Gotland, I’m returning from my own summer break in the Italian Dolomites with a fresh mind and aching legs. It’s time, then, to make a couple of announcements …

First, as promised some time ago, we’ll be mounting another group exhibition, this time of pictures taken while Furillen has been at its bleakest, in sleet and snow. This was the sim’s original state, and we’ll be reaching right back into the 10,600 or so Furillen pictures that have been posted on Flickr during the last two years. If one of your images is selected, you’ll be hearing from us in the next few days, with a request to exhibit your work. The show should start around the beginning of September, and will replace the terrific exhibition of Furillen pictures by Imani Nayer that has been in place since early July.

Second, we have something new on the horizon … another sister sim for Furillen. Just as we opened La Digue du Braek for a few months last year, this new sim will be for a limited time only. I’ve been researching this place on and off for almost two years. I don’t want to say too much about it now, other than that it corresponds to a real location somewhere in Russia. It’s on YouTube, but not Street View. So that narrows it down a bit for you …

“My Furillen” – by Imani Nayar

imani my furillen poster large

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we have a new exhibition coming up at Furillen: next Tuesday, in fact. This will be a series of sixteen pictures taken of (and at) the sim by Imani Nayar.

I’ve been following Imani’s work for quite a while. If you reach back into her stream, you’ll see a talent for empty landscapes in images like this or this or this. She also has a striking ability to capture people who are, as it were, in the act of intense and silent contemplation: as in the poster for this show, or this, this and this. The atmosphere in these pictures – other worldly, uneasy, temporally displaced – is extraordinary and intense. She’s the perfect Furillen photographer, in other words, and this collection is stunning.

The exhibition will be hosted in the gallery – the old shipyard building – on the NW corner of the sim. I like this building a lot, and it’s nice to see it back where it was when the sim first opened in October 2015. We have held quite a few exhibitions there, and the space and light provide exactly the right backdrop for Imani’s pictures.

See you next Tuesday.

Redux

redux

Furillen started life as a bleak, snow-bound place, and most visitors who know and love the sim enjoy seeing it return to this form from time to time. So as the grid seethes with summer, come to Furillen and think of winter … shiver and freeze, and wallow in the imagined misery of northern Europe’s darkest months.

As you do so, remember to take some pictures. Our next ‘group’ exhibition – starting in August – will be “Furillen in snow”, and we’ll be reaching right back into the 10,200 pictures of the Furillen Flickr group for some deep cuts.

Before that, we have another exhibition planned, and I’ll be making an announcement about this in the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, do stop by and wallow …

What a Feeling …

Wednesday’s party in the Iceberg Lounge was a big success – lots of people there, and a really good set from Jero. The setting was perfect.

Next up, on Tuesday, we’ll be holding a party to celebrate one of the greatest movies of all time (or of April 1983, at least!) …

flash

… so get your leotards and leggings out of the closet and get ready for some of this …

Partly for the occasion, and also because we like it, we have installed a new venue, right next to Chinatown where the boxing hall and pizzeria used to be. We called it The Dork Knight …

dork knight_002

… and it’s loud and bright – inside, at least. This is the second new building from Nomad that has been installed at the sim during the past week, the other being the beautiful Stockholm-inspired Mjölnir Kompaniet, which fits perfectly on the ground and seems true to the Swedish origins of the sim …

new building at furillen

And just in case you missed it, we are also planning a mega-event, dedicated to The Beatles in general, and specifically to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This will be held during June, and although we’ve hardly even started the planning, it’s likely to be on a similar scale to the previous events devoted to Bowie, Radiohead and Pink Floyd. It will therefore involve transforming the ground part of the sim, so expect a few days of closure during late May.

Meanwhile, to celebrate our new building – and to show we don’t take this Batman stuff too seriously – I leave you with this …

Arkham Asylum

arkham asylum

For a city with so much villainy, one might be forgiven for wondering why there is no prison in Gotham. But given that the criminal justice system in Gotham usually deems criminals to be ‘mentally unfit’, this role tends to be played by the city’s hospital, the Williams Medical Center … while those who are regarded as especially dangerous end up in the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. All the great Gotham villains have been incarcerated here – the Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, Harley Quinn, Clayface, Mad Hatter, Killer Croc, Mr Freeze, and of course Scarecrow. And at some time or another, most of them have escaped …

The asylum – which made its first appearance (albeit only as Arkham Hospital) in Batman #258 (published in October 1974) – was founded by Amadeus Arkham. Elizabeth, after whom the asylum is named, was his mother. She suffered from mental illness and was alleged to have committed suicide, although it later emerged that she was euthanized by her son.  The Arkham name itself comes from H. P. Lovercraft, who should be well-known to SLers through the brilliant and long-standing Innsmouth sim.

The asylum’s best-known staff member is surely Dr Harleen Quinzel, who was seduced by the Joker while trying to treat him, and subsequently became Harley Quinn. Psychology is of course a big deal in the Batman series. Another famous villain, Scarecrow, started out as Dr Jonathan Crane, a psychology professor with a gift for producing mind-bending chemical agents.

As dark as it is, Arkham Asylum has been treated to some beautiful artistic representations, most notably by Dave McKean in the highly-acclaimed Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, which features images like this …

arkham mckean

arkham mckean 2

arkham mckean 3

arkham mckean 4

Arkham’s biggest role in movies comes in Batman Begins, where Crane/Scarecrow is depicted as a high-ranking staff member, and is brilliantly played by Cillian Murphy

All of which is simply an excuse for letting you know that we’ve installed a new Arkham Asylum on the sim – it’s bigger, darker, and altogether more Gothamesque.

“Furillen City Is …”

exhibition 2

Furillen City has been open since the beginning of April, and as ever, the Flickr stream has been busy, with some excellent pictures taken by some very talented visitors. We decided to mark the first month with an exhibition of our favourites, which will open in the massive Trident Intercontinental Shipping Hangar – quite radically modified as an exhibition space – next Tuesday, 2nd May.

We will be holding similar shows for pictures of the ground part of the sim  – and will be re-opening the gallery on that level specifically for the purpose when the time comes – in the near future. Look out for notices about this, and if you are a photographer yourself, an invitation to participate.

For geeks, the title of this particular show is a reference to the very first page of the very first volume of one of the most successful recent ‘resets’ of the Batman series, and one of my own personal favourites, The New 52. Here it is …

gotham is

Joker’s Funland

funland 01_001

I rather like the fact that every Batman villain has his or her own origin story – sometimes several – which explains (but rarely completely justifies) how they turned villainous. The Joker is a case in point. His backstory is brilliantly told by Alan Moore in The Killing Joke.

killing joke

Originally a lab assistant and then a failing (and therefore poor) stand-up comic, he agrees to help out in a heist to steal a million dollars. On the day of the robbery his wife dies in a freak accident along with his unborn child, but a distraught Joker is forced by the mobsters to continue. The job goes wrong, with our fledgling villain tumbling into a vat full of chemicals, which disfigure him forever. At the end of the story, The Joker says to Batman …

There is no difference between me and everyone else! All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.

The Joker’s point is that Batman, too, had a bad day himself once – well, we all know that he did, when Joe Chill killed his parents –

… and it drove you as crazy as everyone else – only you won’t admit it.

Predctably, Batman does not agree –

… maybe ordinary people don’t always crack – maybe there isn’t any need to crawl under a rock with all the other slimey things when trouble hits.

This is one of several origin stories for The Joker. As he himself says of his past:

Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another … if I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!

The Killing Joke ends – appropriately – with a joke, told to Batman, who listens in ominous silence …

killing joke last

The Joker’s main base throughout the Batman series tends to be Funland, which is a massive amusement park surrounded by flashing lights and full of weird, scary rides – such as the ghost train, on which his victims are tortured or executed.

ghost train

Our scaled-down version of Funland – which I have just finished tweaking a bit – is a chaotic, ramshackle affair, stuffed full with broken rides (although the ferris wheel, bungee jump and drop tower work just fine), dry weeds and an irritating clown who tells terrible jokes. You’ll find it on the ‘Hipsterville’ corner of the sim, just behind the boxing hall.

funland 01_002

Incidentally, for visitors who don’t enjoy walking, we installed 28 teleport points around the city. So, if you prefer, you can take the weight off your pixel legs on your next visit.