Monday, October 11, 2010

Revisiting The Inspiration Behind The Chelsea Hotel in Second Life

He was building it for the second time in Second Life.

A gorgeous replica of the historic Hotel Chelsea in New York was being built by my close friend Mykal Skall and I was invited for weeks to come and sit with him, watching him move prims into place and try out different textures.

We'd sit and have conversations about his visits to the Hotel Chelsea in real life.  Mykal has been a lifelong musician and passionate artist (he paints and writes poetry as well) but the Chelsea was something that both inspired and haunted him.  One time when he was building the replica of the famous Chelsea staircase he commented that many people had thrown themselves down that staircase in real life.  I mused that Mykal himself was a reincarnated artist from the Chelsea.

A couple of drinks later he kind of dug that idea.

Nearing the end of his build he began to ask  "what next?"  The build itself was breathtaking and meaningful particularly to Mykal but it had the kind of magic that only something built with passion can posses.  You could feel the magic of it.

No sooner was it created than Mykal discovered the historical Chelsea in New York was in the process of being gutted for condominiums having changed hands in ownership.  While the exterior of the building would remain the same the creative tenants and the entire culture of the site was being destroyed and evicted to make room.

He was heartbroken.  Angry and incensed and began to correspond with residents of the Hotel Chelsea to find out what was happening.  Mykal joined the protest to "Bring Back the Bards" and preserve the rich history and culture of the national treasure and heritage site.

He became determined to preserve the spirit of The Hotel Chelsea in Second Life indefinitely and considered how to make it a self-sustaining venue that would continue to foster creativity and provide a home for people to collaborate and support each other as an artistic enclave.

"Build community" I said to him.  "If you really want the Chelsea to live in Second Life... build community around it".

There is no shortage of poetry venues in Second Life.  It seems like a new one opens every day promising to be the "best on the grid".  Both Mykal and I agreed that the concept of creatives "competing" was complete and utter bullshit.  All creative expression has value.  Stifling creativity in any way is a crime to anyone who has an artistic soul.

The 'competitive artist' is an oxymoronic term.

He built "Living with Legends Lounge" (even though the actual Chelsea features a spanish restaurant called El Quixote in that location) with the intention of showcasing Second Life musicians and I helped him design the place.  I'm totally going to take credit for the beat up couches, rugs and the awesome carved wood bar (which were gifts from me).  By the time we were done collaborating on the space it had a wicked vibe of understated cool.  Enola and other friends absolutely loved it and we began to get excited about hosting spoken word events there also.

In a bizarre coincidence while corresponding with a historian of the original Hotel Chelsea Mykal discovered that the Hotel had featured a performance venue in that exact spot.  Incredible serendipity! The venue space had been known as "The Lyceum Lounge" and Mykal promptly changed the name.

I was home the day he got the call from Saki Knafo of The New York Times.

"Sky. New York Times is coming in two hours.  I need a poetry event organized" he stated.
"Yeah you are funny Mykal" I replied sarcastically.
"No.  Dead serious.  Please?" he responded calmly.
"Oh my God... the New York Times?" I restated in disbelief.
"Yeah.  It's pretty cool" he said calmly.  "Now get your ass in gear."

The rest is the kind of history that makes Second Life look good.  We hosted the New York Times and journalist Saki Knafo and treated him to a spoken word event featuring some of the most amazing literary talents on the grid.   Beat poetry was read by Pooky Amsterdam, Serene Bechir, Rosedrop Rust, Sabreman Carter, Alethia Jacobus and many other talented writers.

Poetry Unleashed at The Hotel Chelsea from Russell Boyd on Vimeo.

The article which appeared in the New York times did much to highlight the protest against the destruction of the Hotel Chelsea.  It also validated the creative community of Second Life.

To read the article that appeared in the New York Times click here.

I hired Pooky Multimedia to film a machinima of the event as a gift.  The inscription to my creative mentor and friend at the end of the machinima simply states:

"We live in a world where dreams are possible.  

Photograph One By Chestnut Rau
Machinima By Pooky Multimedia

No comments: