The artefacts of love and lust in Second Life

Artefatos, the G.B.T.H. Project

The hotel sits alongside a canal, the one building lit within the gathering gloom of night. Limned in teal, the entranceway beneath the heavy awning looks cold even in the gloom, but inside is the warm yellow glow of ceiling lights offering a more friendly invitation to come inside, while more of the warm illumination pours out of the entrance leading up to the hotel’s rooms.

This is clearly a discrete establishment: the fact that the rooms can be accessed without the need to pass through the lobby area once a room is booked means patrons – and their guests – can come and go without too much notice. Thus, it is the perfect setting for a lover’s tryst – and for Artefatos (Artefacts), a provocative story-as-art installation by Ash (Ashratum), the latest exhibition presented at the G.B.T.H. (Grab By The Horns) Project, curated by Megan Prumier and Marina Münter.

Artefatos: The G.B.T.H. Project

The hotel lobby offers an introductory guide to the installation. In short, ensure you have Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) enabled in your viewer (absolutely essential, as the installation uses projected lighting and effects) – just go to Preferences > Graphics and ensure the ALM option is checked. Then climb the stairs to each floor in the hotel and visit each room in turn – there are two rooms to a floor for a total of 6 visits (although the 6th room offers more of a farewell, suggestive that the individuals in the stories might all be one in the same), each with a teleport door that should be touched to “enter” the room (touching the door also returns visitors to the landing “outside”) so they might proceed to the next door.

Each room forms a chapter of a story – the meeting of people brought together in love and – particularly – lust; erotic and sexual encounters. Written from a personal perspective (that of the / a woman in each story), they cast those visiting the rooms into multiple roles.

Artefatos, the G.B.T.H. Project

The most obvious of these roles as that of the storyteller’s male lover; written as recollections of recent encounters. In this, some might be stories designed to titillate and arouse as a kind of foreplay between lovers; in others they might be seen as expressions of regret for what has passed, while other hint at an unburdening of hurt. At the same time, there is an air of revealing secrets through the stories, casting the visitor almost into the role of confidante – although this is overshadowed by the sense that we are in fact voyeurs, having stumbled across the intimate letters from lover to former lover.

Thus, Artefatos presents a layering of interpretation through the stories, which are themselves made further tangible through the objects found within each of the room. These both reflect the story specific to each room whilst also casting visitors into two roles: that of the male lover – the props making us very much part of the story; and (again) that of voyeur, witnessing individual moments from each story from the outside, through the study of the artefacts that have been left behind.

Artefatos, the G.B.T.H.. Project

There is more to these objects than passive illustration, however. For those who speak Portuguese, approaching the items in each room allows the story to unfold through the spoken word via local sounds. For those who don’t speak Portuguese, a note card giver in the wall of the entrance hall to each room will supply the story in English, while extracts are projected onto each bedroom wall – hence the need to have ALM enabled.

The audio project can sometimes be disconcerting, as it is possible to stand within the room and hear multiple voices; but it can also deepen the sense of immersion within the installation, regardless of whether or not you understand what is being said. The passages layered one over the other can become fragments of memory; words said in the past, echoing in our ears. Thus we become not only the man to whom each story is projected, but the male half of the story as he perhaps revisits the scene of an encounter, hearing once again the words said to him in its wake or aftermath.

Artefatos, The G.B.T.H.. Project

A fascinating installation offering a different perspective on artistic expression in Second Life, Artefatos further establishes the G.T.B.H. Project as a forward-thinking gallery space in-world, and will remain open through until November 8th, 2018.

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