Untitled, the latest installation by Storm Septimus, is an extraordinary build. Deeply personal, a visit to is to take a journey into Storm’s Country of the Mind; a reflection of her thoughts and feelings around disability and illness.
Like The Void before it (see here), Untitled is something of a dark place – if not literally, then certainly in tone. As such, it may not appeal to everyone – but for those who visit, I urge patience; this is a build rich in symbolism and metaphor.
A visit begins on a rocky platform high in the sky, home to a desk filled with syringes, prescription containers for pills, and – other items which might in certain situations be associated with mental illness: a knife and bottles of alcohol. A denuded (dead?) tree stands over the desk, which has a single flower, a small tractor and an old toy sitting with it; all of them metaphors for life and death.
An ornate mirror stands close by, a touch teleport offering the way to the second island (or to the Lower Garden – although I recommend a trip to the second island ahead of any jump to the Garden. Rising from a sea of roiling cloud, this island is a place of vivid symbolism, in places mindful of Invictus (see here). Central to it is a sea of blood surrounding a smaller island, home to the mirror teleport. Scattered around the rim of the island are expressions of illness: old-style hospital screens, wheelchairs, bed frames and theatre lights. Elsewhere are the wrecks of ships, old watchtowers, trees twisted in the shapes of strange creatures, while atop a high plateau sit images of death – tomb stones, broken limbs of mannequins, all of which is crowned by a small chapel.
The Lower Garden reveals that the landing point sits upon the shoulders and upper backs of four huge statues, semi-bound by chains – a further symbol of being held prisoner to illness and disability. A bridge spans the gap between this lower garden and the base of the second island, revealing that latter is in part held aloft by two huge creatures. Troll-like in form, they are held in place by great chains, hands locked in place in great cast iron restraints, further holding them in place. Between and either side of them, blood rises in three streams, feeding the pool above.
Scattered across these landscapes are diaries waiting to be discovered and read. They offer further personal insights into dealing with illness, disability, doubt and depression. There are also places to sit and reflect on what is being presented in the open, and for those who explore carefully, other teleport points. One of these, deep within the island, suggests a place of sanctuary – an inner sanctum of the mind, a place filled with small comforts: a favourite chair, a select of treasured books, and open vault of memories – although a little darkness remains in the form of a centipede wrapped around the glass bell containing the beauty of a flower.
“I wanted to highlight the emotional effects of disability,” Storm says of the installation. “I know I could have gone so many ways with that [but] the build ended up being that lonely, desolate, hopeless place of despair in my mind.” And indeed, the emotional power contained within the installation is inescapable; it permeates throughout every element, presenting a powerfully immersive environment which, dark though it may be, offers considerable food for thought.
When visiting, there are a few things to keep in mind: firstly, you’ll need to have Advanced Lighting Model enabled in order to fully appreciate the more subtle touches in the installation – such as the reflections in the teleport mirrors. Also be sure to try touching things as you explore the installation; some – like the diaries – are interactive. Also, be aware this build has a lot going on, and viewer performance can be very variable throughout it.
Storm has also passed an invitation to disability support groups to display information about their work in the Lower Garden. So, if you represent such a group and would like to have your information displayed there, please drop Storm a line.
- Untitled by Storm Septimus (LEA 28, rated: Moderate)