Year Two Second Life: Inchydoney

We are beginning a new year with DIT on Second Life.  We are again meeting every Wednesday, but this time are joined by the members of first year who are studying in Dublin.  Unfortunately, I am late to the party and missed the first few sessions.

Last year we focused on discussions of Utopia, Dystopia, and Herotopia.  These themes were the governing ideas of our art at Sherkin Island. Likewise we are building all of our modules this semester around “Self and the Landscape”.  I am finding it equally as interesting, and the visual discourse around this topic has provided excellent research.

In Second Life, it has a slight twist in that the landscape is virtual.  So, in turn the questions and dialogue are focused on how the self is represented in a virtual landscape, what impact the virtual world has on our idea of our own self, others, and on how we impact the world both virtually and typically with our virtual identities.




Tonight we had the exhibition of our group projects on SL.  It was really lovely, with a DJ, a beautiful gallery and guests from Able Island.  Lots of our classmates changed outfits to fit the red-carpet.

Our group project was planned on Friday of last week, where we each chose what we wanted representing our themes.  I wanted the colour orange and shackles to represent dystopia.  Saturday we had a guest artist on the Island who influenced our plan a good deal, and unfortunately my leg prevented me from joining in Sunday, when the final painting was created.  I was able to communicate through a variety of tech platforms (what’s app, Facebook, email and cell phone) but it doesn’t replace being there.

The experience of living virtually has been bitter for me as I worry so much about what my life will be like when I am wheel chair bound.  That anxiety, thinking this will be all I have, a house bound, virtual community, hasn’t given me solace or hope, but in truth has exemplified my despair.  I am sure, however, that this reaction says more about me than it does about Sl.

On a funny note, one guest at the show privately messaged me to comment on my outfit.  He said it looked like I had thrown a bunch of clothes together that didn’t match.  Ironically, the outfit came as a set from SL, but I found it most amusing as it is the kind of comment I am prone to get in First Life and sure, everyone’s a critic!  Ha, Ha



Group Painting:

For our group project on SL, we were given a collaborative painting brief.  We were to depict Utopia, Dystopia and Heterotopia.  Friday we were told to plan out what we wanted to create.  Our group decided on splitting up the three areas and each choosing a landscape from FL, one from SL and an object that represented our chosen subject.  I choose dystopia, of course.

Some of the images that I wanted to paint can be seen below.  The object I decided upon was shackles.  The FL landscape, the second world war concentration camp and the SL landscape of a women’s prison….why there is a women’s prison, in SL,  I honestly don’t want to know, I can imagine it is sexually fuelled, but I didn’t investigate too heavily, as it is disturbing to me.

As Utopia would be a place which embodies freedom;


I chose images that restrict freedom to represent Dystopia.


Gallery show

Virtual Opening

This week we had a viewing and critique of our Foucault inspired paintings.  My fellow classmates work is simply amazing.  It is always a unique experience to see one another’s pieces, since it is like a viewing into each other’s mind.  What captures their attention, their colour choices… composition…why that particular choice… it seems to tell so much about a person, and it requires a vulnerability to share it with one another.  Each time we do it, I think I am closer to every person, and know more about who they are.

Fayebubba, who helped me, helped many of us put the pictures into correct format and she uploaded many of the paintings into SL.  She is young and capable and a great artist.  I am viewing her painting of the Sherkin Abbey below. It was very kind of her to help so many of us!  That is how our group is though, co-operative, supportive and kind.  Fortunately for me, she is on my small team as well.

I am greatly looking forward to being back on the island with everyone as my dramas (divorce, deportation, dislocation) continue to effect my focus.  When we are on Sherkin, it is impossible to let these distractions plague.



The Weakest Link

sl galleryAs part of our assessment, we have the group exhibition.  I am so out of contact now, that I don’t have a clue what to do.  This is completely down to letting my personal problems interfere with this module.

I feel terribly for letting my team down, and am trying to get in contact via Facebook and What’s App, but at the moment, am not having much success.

I have never worked well collaboratively, but this is perhaps the first time I have been the weak link.  I hope not to repeat the experience.

UPDATE: One hour later…

I am so fortunate to have great people on my small team and in the larger group.  Both my team members have reached out and are helping me…Thank you Faye and Dee!!

Ah Faye, Thank you!!!!


Group Project

It is at this time that my first life has began taking on one of the most stressful, and significant periods of my life.  I possibly face permanent deportation from Ireland and will never be able to return… this prospect of a forever ban is absolutely overwhelming, and there are days where I am finding normal life difficult to deal with.

I was served with the notice on Friday as I was preparing to go to the island.  Because of this I was I was unable to attend that weekend, (legal counsel was immediately required, as well as constant reassurance to my son)  but reached out to my fellow classmates in my distraught fear.

Though we have only known one another for a year, they were supportive, loving and willing to do whatever they could to help.  I think the experience of being on the island for 3 days at a time, 12 times,  often in one room for the majority of it, as well as sleeping in the same accommodations or travelling together in cars for several hours at a time, has bonded us in a way most students are not. In fact, in a way many families are not.

Within this one year, individuals have stepped up to leadership roles, while others, who are having personal issues have been taken care of with compassion and generosity.

I imagine that our group project will reflect these roles, as some do more and compensate for those who have limited capacities for leadership right now.  I imagine also, as discussed, that this won’t be a stagnant formation, but that roles will be fluid and multi-faceted as personal and artistic choices change.


“First there are the utopias. Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society. They present society itself in a perfected form, or else society turned upside down, but in any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal spaces.    There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places—places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society— which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are
outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias. I believe that between utopias and these quite other sites, these heterotopias, there might be a sort of mixed, joint experience, which would be the mirror. The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror. But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy. From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am. The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there. ” (  Foucault Michel, Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias, Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité  October, 1984; (“Des Espace Autres,” March 1967 Translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec) 

I would argue that a heterotopian place in Irish culture, that mirrors ourselves as we could be in a utopian place, yet remains a “real” place is a pub session. Here, in locals where the same people gather at the same time either weekly or more often is a society formed among friends, who leave the outside world, their stresses and commitments for a limited time.  There is a requirement of age to enter, as well as membership to whatever small group/table the participants have made.  Generally, there is equally a requirement of conversation and  socio-political familiarity.  Without these familiarities, one is usually not permitted either by refusal of a seat or just by non-verbal shunning.

Alcohol, or other mind altering substances, have been a fundamental part of all cultures in all times of history.  Music, an integral part of a local pub session, is equally important to create the mirror of what we would be like in a Utopian setting.

It is with all three of these attributes, community, (limited) alcohol, music and conversation, that bring us to our best, our happiest, our most generous and our most comfortable selves.

In Second Life, there is a popular Irish Pub as well as many other dance venues. But it is the Irish pub in real life that reflects what we most want…connection to one another.

Is One Life Enough?

Alternatively,  is a second life possible?  Tonight a part of one of the many discussions in our Second Life classroom, was an assertion that in Second Life a person can be whatever they want to be.  First, I think there are restrictions to what someone can be both ethically and physically in the virtual world of Second Life ( for example, can someone be old or a sex addict?) but more importantly, using the verb to be, seems blatantly untrue, and frankly, absurd.

I can  make my avatar look mixed race, but I will gain no true understanding of what it is like to be mixed race, to live a life of a mixed raced person, by moving a mixed race avatar across my screen.  I don’t know what it is like to grow up mixed race, what it is like to suffer from daily racism, or worse to watch my children suffer from it.  And most importantly, I am always aware that if I feel too uncomfortable with my avatar I can change it.  Just as many in our group have already done when faced with any criticism.  If for that reason alone, none of us in Second Life have the slightest idea what it is like to be another race, another species, another sex, disabled, etc.  No female avatar controlled by a man, has the slightest idea what it feels like to be physically threatened and even if they did feel mentally threatened, there is no option in life to fly away or push “Log Out” in a real life.  No abled body controller with a disabled avatar has any idea what it feels like to know that the disability is permanent or what that physically means in any way.

I cannot understand the value of saying that we can.  It seems to me to trivialize real lives by pretending that Second Life is another one in any meaningful way.

Second Life is a fun way to play dress up.  It is a fun chat room with costumes.  It isn’t a life. Costumes come off.


Last Wednesday our class visited Virtual Ability Island in SL .  We were hosted by Gentle Heron and some regular members/visitors of the island.  The island is a sanctuary for those who have physical and mental disabilities and offers a variety of support for them, including lectures, discussion and virtual community.

Since I have a progressive physical disability, I found the discussion both interesting objectively and subjectively. On the one hand, having an avatar which has no physical struggle to represent oneself is appealing.  On the other hand, it isn’t true.

I asked Gentle Heron if she thought SL had an impact on the FL.  She said that she believed it did build the confidence of the members allowing them to have a better life in their daily existence. This is certainly important, but what I meant was did it have an impact on the rest of the world….perhaps I was thinking of the way AA has had an impact on everyone’s understanding of alcoholism even though the members meet privately… or perhaps I was thinking about the Noble lecture of Utopian Art influencing the political environment.  I was definitely conscious of Marx’s claim about islands of Utopia being insufficient for real change in the world.

I spent three years bed ridden and in part was able to exercise my brain through an online political discussion group.  I looked forward to the debates sometimes daily, then sometimes weekly, taking a break, depending on my health.  At the moment; however,  I have a full life again with an FL community whom I meet regularly, who come to the house and who have real commitment to myself and son.  The thought of going back to an online world fills me with fear and loathing in a way that I almost cannot bear to imagine.  I suppose ultimately that is all I can add to the discussion. As it is all I was truly conscious of during the visit.


I’ve been struggling to get photos downloaded to my computer from Snapshot, but think I am finally able to post some of what I see in my second life. This is the deck of our virtual classroom and my lovely avatar, Inchy, gazing out…more to come.Snapshot_004