As flooded landscapes seem to be getting a new momentum in Second Life, I decided to pay a visit to an already classic location fitting that category on SL’s grid: Ocho Tango Place. As the name suggests, the parcel, which shares a region with sculptor Mistero Hifeng’s store, is described as a venue dedicated to tango music and dance. Yet, it goes beyond that, and what motivated this visit, in particular, was the recollection of how Ocho Tango Place has changed and converted from a visual reference to Argentina’s imagery into a more surreal, dream-like environment, dominated by water.
Years ago, Ocho Tango used to be described as a club in the middle of the Argentine Pampas. It has moved from one region to another, maybe twice or three times. And then, from at least five years now, maybe more, those Pampas became flooded.
Together with that transformation, the place has also incorporated some more unexpected features. Probably, the most evident one is the collection of living origami flamingos, including some flying ones – but there are also other surprises, such as an elephant hidden in a train car. It is clear that these items create an oneiric landscape and that water is integrated in it.
Water carries a variety of meanings. It can be seen as an essential element, from which life has grown and on which living beings depend. In narratives such as the Genesis, it is fundamental, for it was there since the very beginning of creation, but it also has to be contained, and the process of creating things is, to a great extent, the one of separating waters and making them recede, giving place to dry ground. Later, water is what destroys almost everything, in the Bible’s flood narrative – and flood is actually a very destructive force, causing so much damage and being so feared today. Nonetheless, some predictable and regular floods can also guarantee fertility to soils where they occur, being considered, then, a desirable phenomenon. Water washes us and can represent cleanliness and health, but it can also be a vehicle for disease and death.
Because of those many meanings, I don’t intend here to overinterpret the use of water in places such as Ocho Tango. Still, I would like to notice that it often appears as a main feature in dream-like parcels and regions in SL (and this blog has a few examples of that). This is not trivial. In Second Life, dreamy landscapes could easily be based on flying islands, for instance. Yet, even if they do exist, it’s also noticeable that oneiric spaces built on ground level and dominated by water are not rare at all.
In a very loose employment of some Aristotelian ideas, probably most landscapes in real life can be seen as part of the opsis, of the spectacle, or, in other words, as the scenery where the poetics of our personal, social or political lives will be enacted. There are some, though, that we elect as places for being admired – for instance, portions of the Grand Canyon or the ruins of Ayutthaya as visited by tourists. In them, only very rarely the drama of everyday life takes place. Mostly, those landscapes can be seen as self-sufficient units, as sceneries for no play.
In SL, of course, landscapes can be considered part of the opsis, too, as in role-playing sims. Still, there is a widespread tendency to see regions and parcels working as a somewhat self-sufficient creation, where no relevant action has to take place: they are put together mostly to be admired and photographed. And here I depart from the Aristotelian characterization of the opsis as a lesser element, at least under a certain perspective, in the whole poetics universe: it is clear that some sceneries, both in real life and in SL, can evoke or produce the overwhelming sentiment of the sublime.
It is in that key that I tend to see flooding water as part of dream-like landscapes in SL: it is there to help building an immersive dreamy atmosphere, as an element of overflowing, as something that expands and reaches every corner, mixing with the ocean that surrounds private regions in SL, creating continuity and adding to infinity.
It is interesting to notice, though, that Ocho Tango‘s landscape is self-sufficient only under a certain perspective – for instance, when visitors like me go there at a random moment in order to observe the place. Yet, the parcel is intended to be a tango club – so, actually, its scenery is meant to insert music and dance sessions in the atmosphere that it creates. There, tango becomes, then, an oneiric activity and production, related with desire and passion – words that, themselves, are part of the greater mythology of tango, which has often been described as both dramatic and sensual.