Friday, June 5, 2015

One Amazing Event that Will Never Happen Again

Image Description: Shot of a wall covered in layers of German newsprint and art; partial view of a woman's side and arm is visible on the left edge of the image.

For only twenty-four hours, non-humans could visit 1920's Berlin. The invitation came with a caveat - it applied to everyone, residents and non - but it was a rare chance for me to check out a sim I've been hearing about for years, and into which only the CEO of Second Life could venture without appropriate attire. I had occasionally played with the idea of setting up a 1920's alt, Volstead has wearable demos which are free and both Bliensen + MaiTai and Eclectica offer accessories at a reasonable price, but never got around to it. When I heard I could go in wings and all, though, I kitted myself out in an old fashioned hobble skirt and cloche hat before winging my way over for a look and some pictures.

The 1920's were a rare moment in European and US history, a brief window of cacophonous freedom before the 1929 Stock Market crash. Women were building on the gain made by suffragettes over the previous decades, and the young took their new independence and ran with it. You can think of the style of this period as a recoil from the voluminous gowns and hour glass shape of the Victorian and Gibson women. Jo Yardley attempts to recreate the Weimar Republic in all of its conflicted glory, from the demands placed on women on the street to cover up - at risk of drawing police attention! - to the wild parties in the speakeasies and the subversive Cabaret. It was central to the German Expressionist movement which embraced the unrealistic and highly emotional. Even now their tropes are the foundation for modern horror and film noir, dark and dramatic genres which could only be intensified by the horrors soon to follow. The portrayal of humans as a source largely for malevolence, where even the honorable are stained, seems reasonable in this context.

Image Description: Image from above the right shoulder of a woman in a blue hobble dress with Art Deco detailing. SHe is standing on a street overlooking a music station in a basement level.

By the time I arrived it was late night and Berlin was deserted - a maze of streets and courtyards which defied light. A few stores sold clothing and accessories in the distinctive style of the era. Women's fashion tended toward the boyish, the freedom-seeking New Women of the previous decades embodied by the young seeking independence and enjoyment. Women's dress revisited the square silhouette in rebellion against the hourglass of previous decades, this time with a dropped waist and the removal of the corset altogether. Hemlines rose - but not too much; the mini-skirt was still fifty years in the future, and knees remained more hinted at than brazenly shown. Bobbed hairstyles became prevalent, sometimes with fingerwaves, other times with elaborate curls that followed the contours of the skull. Inside one of the buildings in 1920's Berlin was a maze of barber's chairs, the hairstyles of the era covering the walls. The highly decorated, broad brimmed hats of the past gave way to narrower, tighter styles like the distinctive cloche or newsboy caps. Cosmetics tended to be high contrast - bright or dark reds and oranges against pale skin. Men were still decked out in suits, but might be more likely to incorporate bright colors or patterns into their ensemble, and within the night clubs and cabarets even more boundaries than color might be crossed.

The German Kabarett was a darker riff on a French confection - song, dance, and costume combining with razor social critique and gallows humor. The aesthetic was cynical and detached, and while the lessening of governmental controls allowed for greater communication, the defenses of sarcasm and irony remained intact. Demands for change and critique of the contemporary order were combined with wild partying, and when people wanted to dismiss calls for sexual and racial equality, it was the partying they highlighted. Black entertainers from the United States fled to Europe where discrimination was less woven into the warp and weft of society, bringing with them their music, dance, and dress and those seeds found fertile ground to inspire the next wave of creativity across Europe. Jazz was brought to Berlin by artists like Josephine Baker in her tour across Europe. Dances like the Charleston supplanted the waltz of previous decades. The Charleston's roots are in the Juba dancing inspired by West African culture and was performed by slaves on Plantations, and the systemic practice of black dance becoming gradually more mainstream and less identified with the people who began it continues to this day with twerking, a move found in the mapouka dance of West Africa. Sadly, racism was still present in Berlin; while black entertainers may have done well, black residents were described by the local racist elements as being tolls for the equally hated Jews, sent to destroy Europe via miscegenation.

Image Description: Woman standing on a wide street with a cable car coming up behind her.

In Second Life's 1920's Berlin, Frau Yardley attempts to capture in amber a contradictory and tumultuous time in history, the moment when so many competing forces were coalescing in a shining moment of light and sound before war descended again. Within Second Life, a requirement for verisimilitude, for faithfulness to a vanished past, can be realized again. I have mixed feelings about demanding historical fidelity - my own forays into the virtual are much less tied to mortal flesh and I have reservations about attempting to replicate the offline world without reflecting on who and what is left out. Second Life is an overwhelmingly white place within it's humanity, and the exclusion even of the fantastical things white people can dream up seems like a further symptom of this narrowing in the name of immersion or authenticity. For an hour, though, a fae walked the streets of Berlin, pausing in it's alleys and snapping images of it's painted chairs, and for now that will have to satisfy my desires for transgression.

Image Description: Paint splattered chair on a brick floor.

As you may be able to tell by the title, I've been thinking a lot about Canary Beck's writing on SEO - and the opportunity for one of her signature titles was too strong to resist. This is highly likely to be a one time event as well; the style of title may be evocative and good SEO, but I can only engage with it ironically.

( More pictures here. )


Skin: Izzie's, Irene
Hair: Eclectica, Solaria Cloche Hat
Ears: .:Soul:., High Elf
Eyes: .:Soul:., RooMee
Eyelashes 1: SLink, Mesh Lashes
Eyelashes 2: Flugeln Brise, 05-A
Wings: Deviance, Sidhe

Jewelry: Eclectica, Manhattan
Hands & Feet: SLink, Hands & Feet
Nails: A:S:S, Gold Thread
Outfit:Volstead, Society

Shoes: Bliensen + MaiTai, Shimmy

Poses: Grafica

Location: 1920's Berlin
Light Settings: Sim Default
Water Settings: Sim Default

Photographed by Deoridhe Quandry
Post processing: Cropping

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