OpeRaAnxiEty: metaphor in Second Life

MetaLES: Op[eRaAxiEty
MetaLES: OpeRaAxiEty
Now open at MetaLES, curated by Ux Hax and Romy Nayar, is OpeRaAxiEty,  by JadeYu Fang. Reached via teleport from the landing point, it presents a haunting mix of ideas and images  intended to play on our anxieties – albeit at times in the most subtle of ways (make sure you have local sounds enabled when visiting).

A misty landscape awaits visitors, across which web-like lines faintly ebb and flow and the air throbs with a steady beat, warping at times into the high-pitched beep of an electrocardiogram. These combine to offer the first play on feelings of discomfort.

In the distance, a huge structure glimmers its way into the sky, figures limned against its glow while darker shapes sit on the horizon. Closer to hand, a hill rises from the surroundings, crowned by twin human torsos atop stilt-like legs, each holding a sphere in which two more figures, back-to-back, stand surrounded by eggs as large, blood-red spiders sit on their abdomens as if about to suckle. Apparently genuflecting before this scene on the slope of the hill, is a crystal Arachne (as perhaps popularised more by fantasy than mythology).

MetaLES: Op[eRaAxiEty
MetaLES: OpeRaAxiEty
A web forms a bridge from these figures to the floating crystalline structure, its arches and general form suggesting a temple. Here, green female figures fade and form as one cams around them, bright trails of light curling and twisting around their bodies, kneel in a circle as a black arachnid female offers up eggs to a female human. Above all of this, watching, sits another crystal Arachne.

Elsewhere, human figures lie wrapped in webs, tended by more arachnids, while before the glimmering, cathedral-like structure stand three android torsos raised on great plinths. Within the arches (vaults?) of the “cathedral” white human forms float over their barbed wire doppelgängers. Flanking this, on either side, are two groups of plinth-mounted female forms, heads encased in televisions sets / computer CRTs.

MetaLES: Op[eRaAxiEty
MetaLES: OpeRaAxiEty
With the ebb and flow of the webs on the ground at this point giving way to flickering data displays (which also form the walls of the cathedral), and data wrapping itself through the misty air, OpeRaAnxiEty offers an ethereal, fascinating environment. But what might it all mean? The artist offers few clues; it is for us to create our own narrative.

To me, the arachnids are a metaphor – albeit perhaps a multi-faceted one. There is the obvious spider-as-phobia element. Many of us are put on edge on seeing spiders, and it would seem that is the intent here. But it is also true that we are by nature complex creatures;  we weave and create so much that often it can ensnare us or confuse us – hence the webs. This idea is also perhaps manifested in the armless figures with their heads encased by screens: they are helpless to prevent their total immersion in a media-driven overload of information which creates is own reality around them.

MetaLES: Op[eRaAxiEty
MetaLES: Op[eRaAxiEty
Thus, OpeRaAnxiety might offer a warning: that the unequal blending of humanity and technology may give rise to something potentially unpleasant. Hence (again) the use of arachnids and their link to images of gestation and hatching / birth (might even the heartbeat throb in the air and the ECG be indicative for new life?).

But perhaps there is also hope here as well. Might the figures floating over their barbed wire doppelgängers within the data-walled vaults of the great “cathedral” be a metaphor representing the potential for technology to yet free us from the mortal constraints  imposed by our own bodies?

OpeRaAnxiety will remain at MetaLES  into the New Year.

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