The End Of Second Life's Iconic Cyberpunk City

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The End Of Second Life's Iconic Cyberpunk City
July 12, 2019

Hangars Liquides, a cyberpunk city created in Second Life by an elusive 3D artist known only to the SL community at large by her avatar name, “Djehan Kidd”, is among the virtual world’s greatest works -- shadowy, moody, awesome.

Unveiled into the metaverse in June 2007, it has surely attracted hundreds of thousands if not millions of visits over its 12 year history. As its reputation spread through the virtual world, numerous cyberpunk roleplay groups flocked to it, adopted it as their oven, turning it into their staging ground for ongoing stories they created on the fly.  Over the years, they have uploaded thousands and thousands of HL screenshots and videos, documenting their adventures (many of them inevitably Adult-rated). They even started renting apartments from Djehan Kidd, so that they could have a permanent (albeit virtual) home address in Hangars Liquides.

During that time, as this reputation grew, the outside world took notice: It was featured by the UK Guardian in 2014 (see above); cyberpunk godfather William Gibson mentioned it on his Twitter feed; Oprah Winfrey herself once posed in front of a giant poster depicting the city.

 

At the end of this month, however, Hangars Liquides is destined to be deleted from Second Life, at least as it exists in its current form -- so click here to visit it in Second Life while you still can.

 

As with countless other beloved sims that have left Second Life, Hangars’ fate was sealed by Linden Lab policies, chief among them the high cost of monthly tier. And that is even though Hangars is owned by a non-profit French media organization of the same name, and qualifies for Linden Lab’s nonprofit discount.

 

“As a cultural nonprofit organization,” Djehan explains, “Second Life has become unsustainable for me. Several months ago, I was told that the new Terms of Service for nonprofits did not permit us to offer rentals anymore; as a result, the city couldn't pay for itself any more.” 

As Hangars became unsustainable, the real person behind Djehan Kidd (at right) was increasingly swamped by the demands of a project based in another floating, magical city -- but more on that down the way.  

 

Linden Lab has been in contact with Djehan in recent months, and there’s talk about the company making an exception to the “no rentals” rule, since that’s how she subsidizes HL’s operation. There’s also discussion of Linden Lab itself taking over Hangars, to preserve it -- but that may only consign the city to becoming a ghost of its former self. (When the Lindens acquired Svarga, a fully operational ecosystem, some of its scripting went awry, breaking its simulated cycle of life that made it an early masterpiece of SL.)

 

In any case, Linden Lab has not announced anything to Djehan Kidd as of yesterday, and so the city as it stands has only a few weeks more to remain.

 

“So I am going to have to send a ticket asking to close everything down on July 31st,” Djehan explains, “and tell [the Linden rep] who submits the regions for preservation to tell me if they preserve Hangars Liquides or not, so I can move on.”

 

But again, even if the Lindens intercede at the very last moment, Hangars will likely no longer exist now as it has since 2007. But before it went away, Djehan Kidd told me the story of the city, how it came to be, its thriving culture over the last 12 years -- and the surprise opportunity that came from it.

The Meaning of Hangars Liquides’ Name

“It could translate properly as « liquefied hangars »… the name comes from [the firm’s] founder La Peste (the plague). It is that moment when you are temporarily occupying a hangar or another huge industrial building made to host machines, and you experience the psychedelic liquefaction of all your direct audiovisual surroundings, through the exacerbation of your senses getting triggered by the most extreme audiovisual stimuli. For the artists at Hangars Liquides, it can be an artistic approach to universal chaos.”

Joining Hangars Liquides the Multimedia Organization -- and Founding Hangars Liquides the Second Life City

“I was lucky to know I wanted to become an artist very early, so I started taking academic courses of still life and figure drawing at my hometown’s « Beaux-Art » (fine art) school when I was 11… [Later I learned] all the major software and techniques used for online and offline content creation, including 3D [while] still training in classical art...

 

“I joined Hangars Liquides a week before 9/11. At that time the music industry was at the peak of its crisis due to P2P tech… Major [labels] counted on marketing budgets while the underground had to count on the unification of the artists’ workforce, from all disciplines…  the only promotion we really value is when the work can promote itself alone, for it has been worked on so much that it promotes itself just by existing…

“In 2006 a musician friend told me he saw a new online platform in the news, that online world where people could deploy and sell their own content was called Second Life, so I logged in and with the experience I already had with software I had no problem to learn it very fast and see its potential.

 

“In 2007, I met with a lot of elected delegates for culture and technologies, to tell them about Second Life. Then the French ministry of culture gave Hangars Liquides a grant, and we could start our nonprofit cultural organization work in various fields, including Second Life.”

 

Creating Hangars Liquides -- While Roleplay Groups Created Communities Around It

“I often saw the virtual city as an art gallery on a virtual street, like any real life one we’d visit in any given street -- you know these places are often very calm and not very crowded. Being in Second Life offered me a rather good spot on a rather cool boulevard for an art gallery...

 

“I think I stumbled upon a dozen indie roleplay groups, but it was never my initiative to organize any RP. I built and said, OK, any roleplayers can come do their thing, but I am building. Some Dark Elves community, the Shadowrun RPers... HL always had RP going on like any big virtual city gets, I guess, without being centralized around roleplay.”

 

How She Went from Hangars Liquides in SL, to Working on a Project for the Venice Biennale in 2021

“I met my Venetian curator at Hangars Liquides! Second Life is a place where people like that go, it can get very serious, even though almost everyone seems to mock SL -- you know, avant garde was always mocked, always « it is bullshit, it is ugly » this and that. Reading art history, this is a constant. When the impressionists came up, they were mocked.

 

“With him I applied for the Biennale in 2013, for an Augmented Reality artwork, and we were officially selected by the curator in chief and the director. We had the chief urbanist of Venice backing us too and UNESCO -- but the mayor of the city who is now in jail because he is a corrupt politician said it was too dystopian for the city..." 

 

[Pictured at right: Djehan with her curator and staff at the museum la Punta de la Dogana in Venice]

 

“But now the Biennale is more advanced for high tech and they have a special VR section ready, which will be easier than AR. 

 

“And I will probably use Sansar! Because it has such a beautiful engine.

“Venice is so beautiful. Hopefully I grow old and in dozens of years I will present my last project too, there, hopefully. [It] will be AR, if tech doesn’t come up with even more magical things.”

 

Above: Djehan IRL: “I am wearing the real life outfit from SL designer Joy Laperriere, who owns the SL brand .shi. She first released them in polygons then IRL and I bought one.”

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