The Inevitability of Fate in Second Life

The Inevitability of Fate

I was led to The Inevitability of Fate, a region-wide installation by Rose Borchovski (the innovative Dutch multimedia artist, Saskia Boddeke in the physical world) by fellow grid explorer (and accomplished writer and machinima maker) Erik Mondrian – and I’m genuinely indebted to him for doing so, for a number of reasons.

The first is, and to be perfectly honest, I actually had no idea any of Rose’s installations were still present in Second Life; over the last few years she appears to have focused more on physical world installations that have a virtual cross-over features the work of artists such as Bryn Oh (see Art and Obedience in Berlin and Second Life and The virtual reality of the Russian avant-garde for more). Secondly, while this installation did get a mention in this blog when writing about Rose’s work on 2013, I never actually properly reviewed it, so I can now put that to rights.

Thirdly, and most significantly, this is an installation that is poignant in its message, and while it reflects on events that took place in the middle of the 20th Century, the underpinning message it carries has as much relevance in the world in today’s political climate.

The Inevitability of Fate

The landing point provides, via blank verse, a synopsis of the installation. This comes with an information note card outlining preferred viewer settings. Of these, the most important is to make sure your local sounds (not the audio stream) are active – a major part of this piece is aural, starting right on the landing point itself, which should be listened to before taking the teleport down to the ground level, as it very much sets the scene both directly through the spoken words and by the background sounds – particularly the clackety-clack of a train, which is not as innocent as might first seem.

On the ground, we are introduced first to Lot, then to her mother, Beth. All seems normal, Lot at play in the first vignette, and beyond it, Lot happily celebrating her ninth birthday with her mother. As a small aside, when moving through the vignettes (your route is denoted by white-on-black arrows), keep an eye out for the yellow tear drops, which offer poses, and the small blue eyes, which offer teleports.

These first vignettes are joyous – as childhood should be. But all too quickly, things change as we move beyond the birthday celebration.

The war came and all did change. A harsh hand ruled the world of Beth and Lot. They were forced to leave. They were separated from each other. They were made the enemy.

The Inevitability of Fate

With the war comes an increasing series of unsettling changes: we – with Beth and Lot – must wear yellow ribbons (a recognition of Jews within Germany and other occupied  / Axis nations being forced to wear the yellow Star of David). Then we are informed of a list of restrictions placed on our lives, both in terms of movement and activities. Finally comes removal of identity we become a number and “the Ememy”, forceably relocated to a ghetto.

This leads, inevitably to separation, as Lot is taken away from Beth. Here the story jumps forward to a post-war era, where, and although she survived, Beth’s agony does not end.

After the war Beth returned. The child Lot had disappeared; no one knows where she went. Beth keeps searching for Lot. On good days, Beth is able to imagine that Lot is flying like a bird, with her face towards the sky, searching for the stars. On bad days, Beth can only be angry about her loss. Beth’s wounds will never heal. Lot had no chance to become who she meant to be.

The Inevitability of Fate

While the horrors of the concentration camps and the Holocaust are not represented directly, they are given subtle recollection: the aforementioned clacking of train cars on rails (trains being the means by which those from the Ghettos were ferried to the camps) and the high “fence” surrounding the installation revealing itself, when viewed closely, to be the names of those known to have lost their lives as a result of their internment. Meanwhile the chequerboard surface of the landscape and some of the elements within it might be seen as an indirect reference to the stripped uniforms worn by those interred in camps and prisons.

Although historical in presentation, the relevance of The Inevitability of Fate to the modern political landscape is clear, from the re-emergence of discrimination and bigotry against people on the basis of appearance, colour race, gender or sexual orientation, through to the use of their religion or circumstance to blank label them as “the enemy” and / or a scapegoat for perceived woes – or simply as a means of political expediency / deflection, right up to and including the separation of children from parents, which has led to many of the latter being left entirely unaware of the fate of the former.

All of this may make The Inevitability of Fate an uncomfortable visit, but that doesn’t make it any less worth seeing.

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