Alia Baroque, the creator and owner of Fallen Gods Inc., is also the sponsor and world builder of the Faireland of Opet. He talks about the region’s inspiration and build process, his collaboration with Garvie Garzo, who sculpted all the statues of Opet, and his long history as a world builder and a part of the Faire.
Tell us of Opet. What sparked its birth, what is its inspiration? Does it have lore, secrets, stories?
The balance of light and dark is one of the pillars of visual communication and storytelling in any culture, but it also comes with a lot of symbology, bias, perception and meaning. With Opet I tried to bring back the neutrality and ambivalence of both sides through the metaphor of birth and life. Darkness as the main pyramid is shown as a smooth soothing womb full of life, with its Oasis birthing new traveling souls in the form of colorful boats and the walls sheltering and protecting us yet sitll leaving space to feel and breathe the outside. Darkness becomes a safe space where we exist in the limbo of eternity before we are launched into the friction of external life with its sun, sounds, windy deserts that cuts our skin and eventually leads us to become one with the light and everything.
The meaning I put in my Worlds is never essential to its experience and exploration, but it is essential to me in the process of creating it. Imbuing details, architecture solution, negative space, perspective, complexity, is never essential to the perception of the World itself which is something that should come as an individual take, and this is how I want it. I can lead, with small details, with a daily hunt that picks specific ancient Egyptian Gods and Festivals to steer the metaphor and meaning to my original concept and direction, but it is ultimately a personal experience.
The layering with more mainstream symbology is an additional element, old religions and mythos that are not connected to Faith in the modern day are easier to explore and evolve into a philosophical and theological adventure, where cultures long gone have tried to look for meaning and morals through wild stories of imaginary animal deities with a Lannister complex.
My relationship with all of my builds ends the moment the region is laid down on the Fairelands and open to visit to anyone else, in that moment I let it go and it becomes a World for everyone else with its own stories to tell, meanings and emotions to convey. When the Faire opens is where I mourn the loss of a child going out in the world to be seen, understood and accepted by everyone else and hope for its best, knowing I did my own best to grow it into what it was supposed to be in my mind and heart.
Opet was a vision, an evolution of the Golden Delta region from 2016 that started with my first store back in autumn of 2007 and evolved through almost 15 years of SL, skill, potential, but also friendship.
The Golden Delta is a sensation, a set of scents, memories from my childhood, imagination and fantasies. It is a set of perceptions from media, from knowledge, from novels, from real life travel, from dreams. This year was the first time I returned to a theme with the intention of bringing back the atmosphere, the “feel” of such world, but still make it something new, something evolved, not only through time but also with my ability to communicate through world building.
The theme and style itself called for a more minimalistic approach, almost conceptual, something I rarely do as I prefer to create realistic environments that feel suspended into an oneiric familiar state, real but with something off that makes you realise you might be actually dreaming.
Building simple was hard. Making textures that feel simply plain and smooth and weathered while still at the same time layered, detailed and composed in a shaded grid; creating the scale of great temples and giant architecture while still trying to convey it is something truly colossal and not just a badly resized build; getting almost completely rid of any nature landscaping and focus on the Oasis, while adding a third of a region as an off-sim desert that feels natural, organic; constantly taking away elements and details just knowing that for Opet, less is more. All of this made the building process something new and interesting to me, an essential element that makes me return each year and find new challenges.
Ultimately my first goal and where I start the building process is knowing what the main purpose of a Faireland World is: to bring people together and to have a functional space for visitors and merchants I have the privilege to host. Stores are an essential part of the build and are the pillars of the structural architecture, the same as the path that lets people explore. I steer always away from complexity, as much as my idea allows me, from those two essential pillars of the build realising that what might look simple to me building and developing it, might not be easy to comprehend by someone stepping onto it the first time. It’s why originally the Opet pyramid was supposed to be floating above the City with just the waterfall pouring in the river and stairs ascending in a form of ethereal waters; an idea I did really like but was ultimately undoable due to difficult path finding, store visibility and draw distance optimization.
I would also like to thank Lorin, Polyhistor, Saiyge, Encaitaron, Luna, Runa and of course Garvie for making Opet possible.
How many Fairelands have you built? Does it get any easier in time? What makes you return and take part in this particular form of insanity again?
Opet is the 12th region I had the privilege to bring to the Fairelands, while I was lucky to participate to Fantasy Faire since its first edition in 2009 as featured merchant and 2010 as region sponsor. One of the reasons I make an interview as this every 6 years is because I’ve been around a lot. The last time I decided I had something to share was back in 2016 when I collaborated with Garvie and wanted her words and talent also seen and acknowledged. Besides, I think we look good in a picture together.
The only thing that gets easier in years is knowing what to expect, prevention of issues and being prepared for the process. Every year the Faire takes three complete months of my life, through the preparation and its run-time, and I never regret it. Sometimes I wish I could start from scratch, be a first year World Builder without dozen of worlds of expectations, but that would nullify the journey that brought me to the current year and all the experiences and memories they brought.
What became harder to juggle with my work as World Builder and SL designer with releases, is also the additional work I do on everything related to the FF visual design, be it posters, visual media and communication, banners, wootable posters and whatever needs to be done on a short notice, but I also wouldn’t want it any other way and am happy to use my skills from decades of illustration and design work to benefit the Fairelands.
It’s why I can just say I do not return to Fantasy Faire, I am just part of it all the time, the only difference is that we are open for 20 days.
How was it working with Garvie?
There would be no Opet without Garvie Garzo.
The sole reason I decided to return to the Golden Delta, on which we collaborated together back in 2016, was that she came back recently to Second Life from a very long hiatus. I’ve been pondering bringing back the theme for a while but I did not want to do it without her being an active part of it.
She is one of the most talented artists I know, on any platform and media. Her skills and willingness to always learn new things, new ways to express herself are something I admire and wish I could follow more in her footsteps. She is a breeze of ideas, chaos and beauty in her style of speaking through visual arts, and I think she is the perfect creative counterpart to me being a more controlled type of artist that likes to plan, prepare and create on layers with patience, resilience and complete visual creative control.
We speak the same language of ancient art and share both the same knowledge and fascinations. She understands my need for a very strong personal conceptual vision and meaning and she molds her work to adapt to what I have in mind, which is often easy since she immediately grasps the idea and makes something I cannot myself even imagine, more perfect that I would hope for.
We are both quite straight-forward, sincere, direct, dorkish and ultimately, very good friends.
Garvie, you are the Grand Sculptor of Opet, providing the fantastic statues we see all around the region. You also created the ones used in the Golden Delta 2016. How did it feel to return to the theme, was it easier to add to the ready foundation, or more challenging?
Garvie: Honestly, returning to an Egyptian theme for Opet was ideal and perfectly timed for my return to SL. Not only did I have lots of unfinished business left over from The Golden Delta, I knew how much more there was that I wanted to try.
How was it working with Alia?
Garvie: Pretty great really. He knows what he wants, we mostly speak the same aesthetic language, so normally we can arrive at an understanding pretty quickly. The changes he does suggest are often improvements. I consider him a great curator and best “second pair of eyes” I could want.
Do you have a favourite Faire memory?
Garvie: Favorite memory? No, every time is just a blur of fabulous little moments and chance encounters with beauty. For some reason I always remember the last moments of staying on the sims as they go off line forever, with everyone gathered and sad, but satisfied.
Thank you, Alia and Garvie, for taking the time to chat with us. Thank you for bringing us this enchanting Faireland!