Theatre: a story in pictures in Second Life

Diotima Leisure and Culture Gallery: Ana Oceanida

Opened on April 7th, 2019 at the Diotima Leisure and Culture Gallery, is a new installation by Spanish artist Ana Oceanida, featuring 2D images presented in a 3D space that forms a part of the overall statement for the installation, which has the simple title of Theatre.

I often discuss the idea of narrative within these reviews, the stories that so often exist with in the images presented by photographers and artists. With Theatre, the story very much is the installation, told through the images displayed, and via the broader setting itself. It is the story of the life – and ending? – of traditional theatre as a medium for teaching and telling stories; and it is a story told through the camera lens of a photographer – the images themselves taken at locations around Second Life.

Diotima Leisure and Culture Gallery: Ana Oceanida

Best enjoyed with local time set to midnight and with the viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model option enabled (Preferences > Graphics), Theatre can be very loosely split into two intertwined elements. The first is the setting itself, that of the photographer’s developing studio. It contains the paraphernalia of the photographer’s art: the chemical developers, the trays in which photographs seem to miraculously appear in their baths of chemicals, a cropping board, packs of developer’s paper, rolls of film awaiting use, scattered plastic containers of used film, and more, all bathed in the red glow of the developer’s bulb and the photographer stands before a bench carrying out her artistry.

On the walls and floor of this setting are the results of this work: a series of images that might be regarded as unframed slides, more than 40 of them, some in colour, some in black-and white. Offered sequentially, starting with 1-1A in the corner of the room above the photographer’s right shoulder and proceeding to the right, these offer an unfolding story about the theatre that winds back and forth across two walls of the studio, before dropping to the floor to finish their tale there.

Diotima Leisure and Culture Gallery: Ana Oceanida

The story perhaps isn’t easy to grasp. However, there are grab bags within the installation which contain, among other items, note cards outlining the tale.

I remember that moment, that time when, in the heat of fire started to tell stories , Stories of gods, Stories of monsters, stories of heroes, was such a fascination that I woke up among people that the cold nights became warm to the stories. Little by little you gave me a body, my first body was cold, hard, wide spaces and open-air stands but with your stories became laughed, suffering… and people. My childhood was happy.

In this, the story of the rise and fall and rise (or rebirth) of theatre down through the ages, I was reminded of Jaques‘ soliloquy and lament from As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;…” in that we are both observers of this installation and the actors within it; we play our role here in witnessing the story, and thus give theatre another breath of life.

Diotima Leisure and Culture Gallery: Ana Oceanida

And like Jacques’ view of the seven ages of man, so to is this story ultimately a lament: the passage of time has meant theatre has grown and changed over time, only to perhaps now in the digital age to face its final passing, the permanence of physical structure through bricks and mortar, of floorboards and seats, now giving way to the ephemeral flow of bits and bytes that give rise to impermanence and passing. Hence, perhaps the tear-like rain in the installation.

I’m not sure I agree with the conclusion of the piece – digital environment could be a boon to theatre – but, this is a story after wall, and the tale has its own telling and conclusion. As to the images offered, I can only say that they are fascinating studies, each one of which stands on its own, whether or not one follows the broader story, offering a unique perspective on the places Ana visited in preparing this installation.

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