“I made these travelling houses, like migrating people,” Cica Ghost told me of her latest installation, Beginners. “And I was thinking, they are looking for new beginning. I didn’t want political thoughts, especially not in SL. So I think they are just moving., travelling. “Migrants” is such a heavy word.”
And it is, particularly in the current political climate and the situations occurring in Africa and the Middle East. Yet, with Beginners, it is in some ways hard not to see a reflection of what is happening in the physical world.
Across a rocky landscape, devoid of trees but covered in part by breeze-swayed grass, a caravan is slowly making its way up an incline. Pulled by gigantic snails, each with a house on its back, the caravan comprises two sets of wheeled houses, yoked one to another, the leading ones in each train harnessed to one of the aforementioned snails.
Progress is slow. the snails stretch and contract, the wheels on the house turn, but forward momentum seems non-existent. And all of this is watched by enormous figures standing on nearby hills or seated on the edge of the grasslands. Somewhat unkempt, their faces twisted, the sleeves of the jumpers they wear stretched and hanging over hands, Cica refers to them as trolls, and notes they mean no harm; they’re just there to watch.
Taken as individual scenes, the snail caravan and the huge figures offer a humorous study; the poor snails stretch and try, stretch and try, without ever showing signs of reaching a particular destination, hauling gaily painted houses (which show signs of wear), while the troll figures offer a clown-like face and look to the world; their oversized jumpers giving them a gentle charm.
Nevertheless, the echoes of migration and the displaced cannot be entirely put aside. It’s there within the caravan, where a closer examination of the houses reveals that their careworn look might actually be the result of being caught in strife. It’s there in the idea of people moving their entire home to seek a new beginning and leave the past behind. It can even be found with the trolls, although this might not initially be obvious.
As tall as they might be – easily matching the wheeled houses in height – the trolls and their relationship with the caravan take on a new meaning as you cam closely around them. As the caravan on the rigid comes into sight, the trolls aren’t giants any more. They are instead transformed into figures in the foreground, watching the distant caravan roll by, their expressions now filled with pathos and bewilderment, perhaps a reflection of inner turmoil at being unable to go on the journey as well.
There are other subtle nuances as well. For example, the landscape is pockmarked with craters, giving it an alien look in places. And “alien” is often a term we use is respect of those arriving in our lands from elsewhere, or when referring to lands and customs removed from those we have lived with.
Beginners is again another marvellous piece by Cica, working as it does on several levels. Whether or not one is struck by the potential parallels with the dispossessed, this is an installation which is hauntingly beautiful in its presentation. There is also Cica’s trademark sense of fun: you can sit on the roofs of the houses if you wish as the snails struggle forward, or you can ride a balloon over the fields (and beneath the waters!), either on your own or with a friend. And if you do look hard enough, you’ll find a little secret spot where you can curl up and relax, leaving the world above you to get on with itself.
- Beginners (Rated: Moderate)