Imogen and the Pigeons in Second Life

Imogen 31_001

I initially began in Second Life to see if I might want to start a music club. I found out that would cost upwards of $400 a month for the “land” (bandwidth), and that would mean raising money and then that would mean looking for advertisers and then … it would become a JOB!

So, other than playing in some dance clubs, I haven’t gotten too involved with Second Life, but one thing I’ve found which is pretty neat. Second Life is pretty good at advertising unusual “sims” (usually an island).  I’ve checked out a couple of these sims and found them kind of interesting, but none really affected me until I came across “Imogen and the Pigeons.” The sim was created by Bryn Oh, and she is the author of the poems, as well.

Imogen and the Pigeons is an amazing multi-discipline art/poetry exhibit in Second Life. It’s also a fun little maze and game to find all the poems in the sim. The poems and images are both very powerful and sad. I came to realise of what kind of art could be possible in an interactive platform like Second Life.

When I first showed up at Imogen and the Pigeons, I wasn’t sure how it worked or was supposed to work. You arrive on a beach with a lot of old junk lying around — old mattresses, washing machines, etc. I wandered around and found a statue that played a sad little tune if you clicked on it. No clues about what Imogen and the Pigeons were about.

Imogen 1_001

After a while, I found a flying chair. I kind of flew around in circles for a bit, but still didn’t come any closer to discovering the secret of Imogen and the Pigeons.

A very helpful person then told me to fly the chair up higher, as high as I could. So I took their advice and did it, and sure enough that’s when I saw, curling around a couple of cooling towers, some stairway up into the sky.

I thanked the person for their help, but I wanted to do the sim without cheating. So, I headed up the stairs. This was HARD. I must have fallen and gone “Splat!” a half dozen times. I felt like Lara Croft. (In Second Life, you can fall from a 1,000 feet and go “splat!” but then your avatar simply dusts herself off and is fine. Still, it sucked to keep falling. Also, in Second Life, you can usually “fly,” but in the Imogen and the Pigeons sim, flying had been disabled. No cheating allowed.)

Imogen 5_001

I finally figured out the way up the stairs is by using the arrow keys on your keyboard, rather than the movements arrows within the Second Life screen. By using my keyboard arrows, I was finally to get up the monstrous stairs without falling. You finally come to a bright red platform high above the beach … hundreds of feet up.

The red platform at the top of the stairs

The red platform at the top of the stairs

You go through a portal at the red platform and enter a receptionist’s office. Here is your first poem, posted on a wall of the office:

The receptionist looked up

        her eyes rezzed so blue,

        do you have an appointment?

        to which you replied yes I do

Being met by the receptionist

Simple enough poem. But, the poems quickly become darker and more sad. Sad, oftentimes broken characters inhabit each room. Always alone, always seemingly isolated from the rest of the world in their dark rooms.

In the next room, you find a man pinning insects to a board. A lot of Oh’s poems are about insects. On the wall is this poem:

Inside the room

        lay a mind’s haute couture

        with a butterfly board

        and pins to cure

        

        He was the type of man

        who felt he saw much clearer

        from the darkened side

        of a one-way mirror

       

        His patients were pieces

        within a game

        which when molded correctly

        would bring him acclaim.

The man and his insects

After this first room, you enter a creepy hallway with a series of doors . The next room was my favourite.  A young boy is drawing a chalk drawing on the floor. As you step nearer, the chalk drawing suddenly comes to life. This poem:

Chalk fingers sat

        for hours engrossed

        his fingertips tracing

        things he longed for most

       

        he would stay with each

        but for a day

        then at night

        wash them away

       

The little boy and his chalk drawing

        so they’d not fasten

        to his heart

        because so many things

        do depart

       

        and all his lies

        were really dreams

        come apart

        at the seams

In the next room, a figure is huddled under her blankets. You never get to see her. There is nothing else in the room but a television playing static:

Under a blanket

        with holes throughout

        nobody sees in

        but Juniper looks out

 

The girl under the blanket

         she whispers

         come under with me

        and together we’ll hide

        hold me in the darkness

        there’ll be no outside

       

        where people are cruel

        and winters are cold

        where I don’t fit in

        and everything’s sold

       

        climb inside

        we’re two hands in a glove

        fingers entwined

        because you are my love

See? These are not happy poems. The next room is a sad little girl again lying on a bed (there are beds in all the rooms). In the middle of the room is a boat sailing on the floor:

The little girl and the boat

I wish I were

        a paper boat

        far out to sea

        I would float

       

        To breathe the wind

        and feel the spray

        while my body

        slowly decayed

       

        absorbing the chaos

        body asunder

        closing my eyes

        to descend down under

       

        Into the dark

        and swaying peace

        my tears diffused

        upon release

 

The next room has another poem about insects:

Elliot was shy

        and very soft spoken

        he loved moths

        because they fly like they’re broken.

       

        He dreamed of amber

        housing ants suspended

        in sienna coffins

        tarsus extended.

       

This is Elliott

        He would sit on a step

        in the middle of the stair

        where none would stop

        a place neither here nor there.

The next room is another person lying on a bed. This time Imogen, and she is hooked up to IVs. She is ill. Is she dying, I wondered? You can hear pigeons cooing outside a window. This begins a series of poems about Imogen and the maze gets a little tougher.

Imogen sat

        quiet on her bed

        the books on her mattress

        one hundred times read.

       

        Eyes to her friends

        huddled out on the wire

        cooing softly

        it was her one desire

       

This is sick Imogen, dreaming of being a pigeon

        to join with them

        out past her bars

        where no one could test her

        with Monarchs in jars.

       

        She rose from her bed

        tube fallen aside

        and determined to join

        her pigeons outside.

 

        But will they fly

        off to the skies

        unless I wear

        a clever disguise?

       

        I must approach

        like a whisper in moonlight

        so they’ll not startle

        so they’ll not fright.

       

        And we’ll make a family

        warm shoulder to wing

        they’ll coo softly

        and I’ll learn to sing.

Here, the sim gets tricky. There’s a couple of little clues about needing to pick up a pigeon’s feather to continue on. I picked one up and discovered that while holding a feather, you can walk up the walls. I walked up the wall to a window high above the floor, then I had to walk sideways along a curled path (sort of like a roller coaster). The first time I tried this, I dropped the feather and then I plunged 1,000 feet and went “Splat!” on the beach down below and was forced to start over from the beginning back up the stairs to the sky (Grrrr…!). I figured out not to drop the feather until I was sure I no longer needed it.

This is me walking straight up. It took me a while to get the hang of this.

Eventually, you enter a room full of mannequins and Imogen sitting in a corner sewing.

Imogen arrived

        upon a scene

        of mannequins

        and sewing machine

       

        the lights revealed

        fabric pigeon grey

        dusty and torn

        its edges frayed

       

        and from there she sewed

        her pigeon dress

        that enveloped her body

in a gentle caress.

Here, you enter a tough part of the maze. You have to walk along a ledge and you find Imogen down at the end of the ledge.

Imogen on the ledge

She stepped through a window

        and onto the ledge

        the wind in her hair

        and pigeons on edge.

       

        She found on the stones

        a loose feather

        then gathered up more

        and sewed them together

       

        to fashion some wings

        for her disguise

        to join her flock

        within the skies.

After you find Imogen, you can drop down to a lower ledge. There is a rope to another ledge on the other side of an alley. I tiptoed across the rope (it looked hard, but you actually have an inch or so of leeway on each side of the rope.). And if you are successful, you are rewarded with a little Bryn Oh doll. I carried the doll with me through the rest of the sim.

Me and my Bryn Oh doll

The next room is a creepy hair salon with a curved roof.

Imogen mused

        that she was more pigeon than swan

        as she climbed down the walls

        to the Beauty Salon

       

        She entered a room

        surrounded by chairs

        lowered the curlers

        and singed feather to hair

       

        Her disguise now complete

        she walked to the ceiling

        and saw a vision emerge

        in her dream revealing

       

        a future suppressed

        like fading notes to a song

        that we desperately grasp

        yet can not prolong.

You have to pick up another feather and walk up the curved wall to the ceiling, through a hole in a ceiling and into another room.

She climbed up the pole

        that rose like a spire

        and attempted to join

        her pigeons on wire

       

The beauty salon. See my doll?

        but startled they flew

        so Imogen leapt

        spreading her wings

        and silently wept

       

        missing her dreams

        by seconds and feet

        she soared for a moment

        then fell to the street

Through a blindingly white room you find another poem.

Static emerged

        like cracks in a road

        and her minds construct collapsed

        which housed her binary code

        that was preserved for the day

        when it could be rewired

        into our human cells

        once we were expired

       

        but her memories were a virus

        that corrupted the core

        of her archived life

        preserved at the Rebirth Store

 

One of the rooms where you have to "take the plunge"

Sure enough, here the maze gets bloody impossible. I think you are supposed to hop down a series of ledges, but I was never able to do it and plunged, “Splat!” 1,000 feet back down to the beach (I felt like Imogen failing to join the pigeons). Here, on the beach where you started your journey through Imogen’s world, there is one final poem:

Zeroes and ones

        created a two

        in the form of a child

        from memories accrued

       

        through her books and dreams

        realities and fever

        reborn for Imogen

        never again to leave her

       

        and the computer slowed

        as the sand did rise

        but eternity waited

        within her child’s eyes.

Imogen and the whale

Just past this poem is an image of Imogen reaching up to a giant blue whale hovering in midair. That is the end of Imogen and the Pigeons.

 

 

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