Claustrophobia at Nitroglobus in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mareena Farrasco – Claustrophobia

Mareea Farrasco is a Second Life photographer whose work covers a broad range, from avatar studies to landscapes – the latter oft processed to resemble paintings – and the literal to the metaphorical, producing images that can contain within them a rich narrative or which offer the confluence of shape and form to present a simple statement or comment.

Many of these elements are presented to us through her exhibition at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, with the exception of examples of her landscape work – for reasons that will become clear. Entitled Claustrophobia, the exhibition takes as its theme the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, but from an angle that perhaps has not gained the attention it deserves.

When asked to define “claustrophobia”, most people are liable to go with its more well-known meaning: an abnormal dread of being in closed or narrow spaces. However, the word has another meaning, one not so often considered and that is a feeling of discomfort or discontent caused by being in a limiting or restrictive situation or environment, and it is this second definition that Mareea focuses upon.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mareena Farrasco – Claustrophobia

We live, these days, in a confined, pandemic universe of our own, and we are all more or less “claustrophobic”, even without suffering from this disorder in our normal, healthy lives. This exhibition is my metaphoric way to express those feelings, trying to rationalise them, in order to make them endurable.

Mareea Farrasco, introducing Claustrophobia

Now to confess, on first seeing the 14 images presented for the exhibition, I fell into the trap of looking at them through the lens of that more popular definition of “claustrophobia”, and while there are one or two that contain elements that most certainly do convey a sense of physically restricted space and / or a sensation of the walls closing in (notably Claustrophobia (6) and Claustrophobia (7)), I initially felt the exhibit, focused as it is on studies of an individual avatar, could just as easily be called “solitude”, without any need to reference the pandemic.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mareena Farrasco – Claustrophobia

It was only when I broadened my consideration to that second definition foe “claustrophobia” that I was struck by the manner in which Mareea has perfectly encompassed it through each of the pieces offered in this exhibit, and seamlessly linked them to offer expressions of how we have been forced into am artificial sense of “claustrophobic distancing” because of the pandemic. It doesn’t matter if we’re home alone or with family, we have been forced to artificially limit our environment and interactions to an extent that expressions of solitude are all we actually have left; circumstance demanding that as constrained as we are, we turn our thoughts inwards.

Seen it this light, all of the pieces here are subtle and evocative explorations of thoughts and feelings that reflect our desire – our longing – for more normal times. At the same time, there is perhaps a deeper aspect to be considered. Whilst physical distancing from friends, colleagues, neighbours and all might well be a requirement for all of us, many of us do at least have family with who we can at least find some release from that sense of isolation – but what of those who live alone? For them, the routine of isolation has potentially been amplified by the pandemic; through Mareea’s images, we perhaps catch a glimpse of all they face.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mareena Farrasco – Claustrophobia

Another outstanding exhibition at Nitroglobus that should not be missed.

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