Of collaboration, rafts and Gaia

PosterCollaboration in Second Life is not new, it goes on in many ways and in all corners of our virtual cosmos. Nevertheless, it’s always interesting to see what results when several minds come together in order to create something new.

With this in mind, I hopped over to the Linden Endowment for the Arts recently, where two new installations opened during the last week. Each involves multiple artists working to a common theme (albeit a very broad theme in the case of one!), and each of which has, in the eyes of this beholder at least,  produce very different reactions to one another.

Moving Islands [Rafts] sees Eupalinos Ugajin bringing together  no fewer than 24 of SL’s artists (click the poster, left to see the names) to create a piece that freely interprets the central theme of moving islands or rafts, with Derek Michelson providing assistance with scripting and Takio Ra with sounds. The result is a collection of remarkable pieces which are eclectic, quirky, fun, different, provocative, interactive, and more.

With twenty-four participating artists already involved, and the chance for more to be added (Eupalinos is still open to accepting ideas and submissions for artists – even you, as the exhibit’s poster indicates), this is a very busy installation – yet it is not by the same measure crowded. The space above and below water (not all of the islands  / rafts are floating) has been used to the fullest, and there’s a lot to see (be sure not to miss the world’s first deep-sea diving … cow!). Do make sure you have sounds on as you move from piece to piece, and you may also appreciate the streamed soundtrack compiled by Eupalinos – all four hours of it!

Moving Islands [Rafts] – Maya Paris
This is very much an interactive installation as well; objects and pieces are always on the move (which makes taking snapshots interesting!) and there are places you can sit and be a part of things – giving another twist to the exhibit’s poster noting you can join the exhibition…

It’s not really fair to single out individual elements in a work like this – especially when some of my favourite artists are featured; but I confess to adoring Meilo Minotaur’s undersea “forest”, and Pallina60 Loon’s Nautilus and its accompanying Steamfish had me smiling, if over-exercised after riding on it!

Moving Islands [Rafts]
Moving Islands [Rafts] – Meilo Minotaur
This is an installation you’ll want to take time exploring; some of the artists have provided note cards describing their works, but I felt it more interesting to let each speak for itself. Eupalinos has also compiled a note card listing all of the artists’ websites / Flickr streams, all of which are worth visiting as well. He’s also provided a link to a Dropbox of images for those who wish to make use of it.

Another of the pieces in Moving Islands is Haveit Neox’s Mythic Rafts, which pictures the aftermath of the destruction of the Earth as a result of humankind’s history. “A raft survives the big flood after the polar ice caps had melted,” reads the note card for the piece, “No landmasses were high enough to poke through the new ocean. The Earth had been stretched beyond its limits – pulled apart at the seams.” Given the underlying theme of loss and destructions, It’s something of an interesting (if entirely unintentional on the part of the artist) link to the piece which forms the second part of this review.

Moving Islands [Rafts]
Moving Islands [Rafts] – Oberon Onmura
Destruction, decay and ending seem to be the focus of  The Gaia Theory Project, which also pened this month at the LEA. Presented by the Tanalois Group and the torno Kohime Foundation, and directed by Aloisio Congrejo, Tani Thor and Nino Vichan, this installation brings together a total of eleven artists in what is designed to be an interpretation of the Gaia Theory. And therein lies a problem.

As already noted, the installation is very much directed toward themes of destruction and decay, with extinction, loss and death also featuring. Yet the Gaia Theory is about the organic and the inorganic interacting in a complex system which helps maintain the conditions for life  to exist on the planet. So by focusing on just one side of the equation – desctruction and decay, etc., – the installation comes across as decidedly lopsided; where’s the re-birth, the growth, the renewal?

The Gaia Theory Project
The Gaia Theory Project – Tani Thor

There also appears to be something of a negative towards humanity’s role in things which is presented here, The contributions of man appear limited to toxic waste, the extinction of animals, urban decay, etc. Again, it’s not uncommon in discussions around the subject of Gaia for humankind to be referred to as a parasite responsible for upsetting the balances proposed by the hypothesis. However, it again lends a bias to the installation which some might say is at odds with Gaia Theory when taken as a whole – as Ziki Questi argues in her considered review of the installation.

All that said, there is nothing wrong with using art to raise awareness of the destructive forces – natural and man-made – at work in the world today is a valid activity (especially where humanity’s more destructive or environmentally damaging efforts are concerned. Were this the intent with this installation, I’d venture to say it succeeds. However, as an exploration of Gaia Theory, I can’t help feel that it largely (with one or two small exceptions) falls wide of the mark.

The Gaia Theory Project
The Gaia Theory Project – Kicca Igaly

Both Moving Islands [Rafts] and The Gaia Theory Project will remain open through to the end of December 2013.

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Postscript: following the publication of this review Melusina Parkin, one of the collaborators in The Gaia Theory Project contacted me as to her own approach to the piece, which she has presented on her own blog. If you’re planning to visit the installation, I recommend you give her piece a read first.