An arid land surrounded by the sea, conical hills sprouting from its back to rise above both the nude ground and denuded briar-like trees – this is the strange landscape that greets visitors to Dogwood, Cica Ghost’s latest installation in Second Life.
Within this landscape is an equally curious mix. Two slightly porcine dogs, the kind you might expect to see romping through an animated film, appear to stand guard either side of a ramshackle pair of fences that themselves appear to be protecting a group of strange structures.
Looking like a mix of gourds, pearl drops and long-necked vases, these structures sprout valve-like arms from necks rising up to open mouths. Combined with their sometimes bent shapes, these “arms” and open mouths give these forms a comically anthropomorphic look about them, little little odd women and men waving little arms at one another or to visitors, and exchanging conversation.
Two more dogs stand among these structures, again appearing to have dropped in from an animated film. One is a toothy and slightly worried-looking bulldog, the other an almost Chihuahua-like companion. Together they have an air of a Laurel and Hardy pairing about them.
Also scattered across the island are black birds, standing some in groups some on their own. With their colouring, long legs and beaks, they resemble a cross between a stork and a crow; but like the dogs and the strange structures, they have a strong sense of individual personalities.
Both dogs and birds are nicely animated – the eyes of the dogs dart around, while the birds move their eyes, turn their heads and raise the occasional leg as if about to take a step, then lowering it again in an change of mind. These animations, together with the multiple avatar sit points with their share of dances waiting to be found throughout the region, add a subtle dynamic to this setting.
But sitting under a hazy sky, even with its oddly comical-cum-fairytale look, it’s hard to completely understand Dogwood – until that is, you reach the south-west corner of the region. It is here, with a narrow channel of water acting like a moat to separate it from the rest of the land, that a another hill rises. It is topped by a tall tower, reached by precarious-looking flights of steps stacked together without support. The tower is itself enfolded by the scaly tail of a great, wingless wyvern, who rests his bulk on the crown of the tower, eyes roving over the landscape before him.
Tower and wyvern add a further fairytale feel to Dogwood – but it is what lies within the tower, at the end of that precarious stairway that offers a key to Dogwood. A lone flower stands here, the brightness of its colours and the redness of its pot standing in strong contrast to the rest of the landscape. Put them with the quote Cica has selected to frame the installation, and the poetry of Dogwood falls into place:
Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
– Hans Christian Andersen
Perhaps initially hard to grasp but equally quirky and cheekily humorous, Dogwood is genuinely poetic in its presentation, carrying a rich vein of fairytale under the banner of the Andersen quote.
- Dogwood (Dueville, rated Moderate)