JadeYu Fhang has a reputation for being one of the most visually evocative artists in Second Life, her installations often plumb the depths of the human consciousness and psyche (examples: Roots and War, Everywhere and Nowhere and OpeRaAxiEty), and this is certainly the case with her latest installation, KÖMA (coma).
Billed as a “limited-time multimedia art installation”, KÖMA is at once intricate, dark, confusing, and – perhaps ultimately – revealing.
The intricacy of the installation is apparent on arrival, as is the confusion. Panels around the sides of the region, one of them flashing and flickering slowly with individual screen-like patterns, towering high above the visitor and imparting a sense of insignificance. Clouds scurry across a void like sky, a basso rumbling filling the air. Alongside the landing point rises a strange structure, looking to be one part exotic lighting rig, two parts science-fiction drone. Screens at the base offer information on how to view the installation (in short: there’s no route or TP – you walk around the base level and level up to the upper level), while at the top is an armless female torso supporting another computer screen as its head.
Behind this, within the region are a set of surreal scenes. Two giant heads rise from the mirror-smooth base of the installation, a swirling mass of what appears to be rose petals caught in a frozen swirl around them to rise towards the upper platform of the installation. Supported by another of the strange devices, this platform is home to a tableau of female figures, sitting and standing amidst flicking, ghostly projections and with most facing a large screen. What appears to be filaments of lightning flashes from their eyes and arcs around some of their bodies. Below them, peculiar female forms, arms replaced by insect legs and heads by computer monitors, are arrayed while screens on the supporting device flicker with images that might be medical in nature or represent memories, while all around this scene is a further rolling booming of sound and a voice echoing a single word köma.
Central to the installation is a golden female form, apparently frozen in the act of being struck down. She is also surrounded by a pattern of rose petals, caught with filigrees of white lightning-like light, also in stasis, and few of which – perhaps tellingly – either commence or terminate in her head. On the mirror surface around her, patterns of vein-line lines drift endlessly outwards, while a close by a “rain” of flicking gold leaves falls, each one of which reveals itself to be a tiny, flicking screen when examined.
With the exception of the rose petals and the golden “leaves”, the majority of the installation in monochrome in nature, giving it – along with the foretelling deep booms and rumbling – giving the installation its dark edge. It is also a scene reflected in the mirror-like base I mentioned, which around the kneeling figure is disturbed by drifting patterns of red lines looking like veins of blood.
But what do we make of all this? I think the clue is in the title. Comas are a medical condition filled with a certain mystique. We know what the external physical characteristics of a coma are – but what is actually going on within the victim’s head when they are within a comatose state – so often those surviving a coma and regaining their faculties suffer from post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) which affects their recall of memories – including anything their brains may have experienced whilst comatose.
In this light, many elements of the installation fall into place: the figures, the flashing images of figures and faces are perhaps the flicking memories or experiences the brain plays to itself whilst otherwise seemingly unresponsive to external stimuli; the strange devices become medical tech; the rose petals become blood corpuscles, vital in their role in carrying oxygen to the brain to keep it functioning and to life as a whole; the lightening-like filaments perhaps represent the flash of electrical links between synapses, and so on. So to does the figure falling to her knees perhaps represent the victim of a sudden event – a stroke or similar – collapsing, her situation triggering a comatose state as the rest of the strange figures and the echoing rumble and boom suggest the distant intrusion of medical on the comatose mind.
When interpreted in this way, the dark tones of the installation roll back, and we find ourselves immersed in an environment intended to evoke what it might be like to step into another’s coma and witness first-hand what is going on deep within the subconscious, well away from the accepted signs of neural activity and responsiveness.
But that is only my interpretation. You may find KÖMA speaks to you differently. It awaits your discovery.
- KÖMA (LEA 22, rated: moderate)