The exquisite corpse is the theme of a new full sim LEA exhibit called The Path, opening today in Second Life, which features the work of no fewer than eight of SL’s most talented artists.
The term “exquisite corpse” (also referred to as the exquisite cadaver) is a means by which a collection of words or images is assembled, with each collaborator in the piece adding to the composition in turn, either by keeping to a specified rule, or by being allowed to see the end of what the previous person contributed. If you think of it akin to the game of Consequences, in which each player contributes a line of a story then folding it to conceal part of the writing before passing the paper to the next player to continue, you’ll have the general idea.
As a form of art, the process was developed as a game by some of the leading Surrealist artists of the early 20th Century, including André Breton, Jacques Prévert, Marcel Duchamp, Yves Tanguy and Pierre Reverdy.
For The Path, the contributors of the piece are (in the order their work appears in the installation): Bryn Oh, Colin Fizgig, Marcus Inkpen, Desdemona Enfield / Douglas Story, Maya Paris, Claudia222 Jewell, Scottius Polke and Rose Borchovski. Bryn Oh explains how the order was decided upon:
” [The] Eight artists were invited to stand upon one of eight different coloured boxes I had set up. Once all had chosen a box to stand on, a chart was rezzed which listed the order of colours which would dictate the sequence of artists to compose scenes for the narrative. So if red was first on the chart, then the artist standing on the red cube would begin the narrative. If blue were next then the artist on the blue cube would continue the story.”
It’s an intriguing approach to building a collaborative piece of art – and one I’ve been itching to journey through since first learning about it while interviewing Claudia222 Jewell in September.
The Landmark / SLurl for The Path delivers you to a darkened room together with a request for the region to control your Windlight settings – for the best visual impact, you should allow it to do so.
To your left are eight plinths introducing the eight artists who participated in The Path – clicking on these will give you a short biographical notecard and (in some case) a Landmark where you can see more of their work. There are also two large stone-like tablets introducing you to the concept of The Path and which give you some advice on how to enjoy things – such as making sure you have sound available, as the installation is an aural, as well as visual, experience.
Getting A Head
A head, resembling a young Salvador Dali, watches you from the bottom of one of these tablets – clicking on it will carry you to the start of The Path proper, and Bryn Oh’s work. Note, as well, that the head is your main clue as to how to proceed through the rest of the work.
Taking the teleport delivers you to a white room. A strange engine-like thrumming fills the air, together with soft piano music. On the floor lies a single, plaintive butterfly, while before you lies a black wall…a hole…beckoning you through.
Walking through the “hole” leads to another white room wherein the music and the thrumming are joined by a lonely wind and the sound of water drip-drip-dripping…another hole beckons. Passing through this brings you to a third room….
It’s a room of curios and oddities, partially flooded – hence the dripping previously heard, planks providing walkways over the water. This is the inventor’s lab. There is much to see here – and one or two things to touch; find them and you will be treated to a side-story that accompanies the installation, told through YouTube – and which you might witness for yourself in part, should you find yourself in the field beyond the laboratory.
As you explore the lab, the inventor himself will materialise. You might recognise him – it was his head you clicked when commencing your journey, and thus you have a further clue as to how you must proceed. As he appears, a narrative beings, telling you about the inventor, his flooded lab and the portal he slipped through one day. Take it as your invitation to follow him.
Beyond the laboratory lies a misty, flooded field, water lapping around the trunks of trees. Here you can find the conclusion of Cerulean, the curio-accessed tale told via YouTube. Be warned, however, that if you step out into the field, you will not be able to return to the laboratory; instead you must find another way of continuing your journey along The Path. The only clue I’ll give you is not to wander too far from the walls of the laboratory itself…
Curiouser and Curiouser
With the inventor as your guide you will arrive at the second part of the story, created by Colin Fizgig. This is a hole-y place, with windows looking out on different scenes, different places – with some looking inward at you from the other side. As the narration resumes, it is through one of these windows – these holes – that the inventor flew, and you must follow him as he dives towards one…
Marcus Inkpen provides the third part of the installation. Here stands the Overseer and his stout companion, conversing at the junction of several strange, door-lined hallways. Do you take one – and if so, which one? And what’s that about a key being in your pocket? Does it mean something… or…?
Tonal sounds here give the place a brooding air, and if you wander the hallways, you’ll hear stranger sounds of life from the other sides of the many doors. But which door do you take…and what lies beyond?
Find the door, and you’ll discover the contribution from Desdemona Enfield and Douglas Story. It starts in a white room, just like the start of The Path itself. Here stand the Overseer and his companion once more, together with an apparently simple and innocent suggestion that you follow the key. But as with so many things, appearances can be deceptive, and following the key may lead to things not quite so simple and direct.
Maya Paris provides an altogether different landscape – are those the shadows of ladders, or the shadows cast by some bizarre web? Is something lurking in the apparent calmness of this place? Climb the ladder and find out; although I hope your eyesight is in good order – and not just for finding the inventor!
It is moving on to the sixth part of the installation that I confess to becoming a tad biased. This is because the sixth element features the vivid and beautiful imagination of one of my favourite artists in Second Life – that of Claudia222 Jewell.
This is truly a visual feast and (as always with Claudia) a tour de force of what can be achieved in Second Life. Her City of Lost Souls is amazing in its complexity and beauty. Without detracting at all from the other works in The Path, one cannot help but feel this is another of her pieces that should be preserved and displayed for everyone to enjoy.
If I have one complaint here, it is simply this: Claudia’s work is too enticing. I wandered it for over 40 minutes drinking-in the detail and unwilling to leave. Perhaps that is why her city is inhabited by lost souls – many more may have visited and been unwilling to leave…
But leave one must – and this requires finding a head once more – but not necessarily the head of the inventor; although finding the right one will lead you to him.
Scottius Polke returns to the theme of the laboratory with his contribution to The Path, and on a grand scale. Here you must keep an eye out for the direction you should take, negotiating giant rulers, coiled pipes and other obstacles. This actually needs some care – the route you must take climbing some of the items is very narrow, and lag here and there can easily have you stepping off into thin air if you press a key for too long – as I found out. And while you climb, be aware your every move is being watched from above, as the inventor himself gazes down upon you; but it is not his big head that will help you out of here.
The final part of The Path is by Rose Borchovski, and you might say it is an eye-opener. It’s also slightly unsettling for ways not easy to discern; it’s not the eyes that stare and follow you; or those heaped pyramid-like, eternally watching. It is more the child’s voice whispering forlornly and the strange circle of beds, each one an echo of the places you have seen and visited while journeying The Path, the occupants (or parts of them in some cases) pinned to them like items in a collection. Be careful with the beds in particular; you might find yourself going on an unexpected trip into the past….
Overall, The Path is an amazing piece – one that requires a good deal of time to experience fully. Each element of the installation has been carefully considered, and the themes linking them are clear, een when the verbal narrative stops. Each of the sections of the installation is distinctive in both style and approach, while all come together to form a story that can be followed as you roam. Kudos to all those who participated in the installation, and to Bryn Oh for conceiving the idea.
You need to give the exhibit a fair amount of time; even with my joyful distractions in Claudia222 Jewell’s part of the installation, I still spent the better part of four hours roaming, poking, listening, prodding and generally losing myself (once quite literally) in walking The Path. But it was four hours I feel were well-spent. So why not take a walk along it for yourself?
The Path officially opens today for a 3-month period. My thanks to Bryn Oh for the preview opportunity.