Empty Chairs is a new art installation by Terrygold that opened on September 1st, 2021. It is perhaps the most personal installation Terry has created in Second Life, although its central theme – that of loss of a family member – is a subject many of us can particularly relate to in the current times, given so many of us have had to deal with the loss of loved ones as a result of the current pandemic.
It’s note directly indicated if Terrygold’s own loss was direct result of the COVID situation as I’ve not had the opportunity to discuss the installation with her. However, given the context of the final part of the installation, I am admittedly assuming this to be the case. But even if not, there is no denying the power Empty Chairs has to speak to all of us on the matter of loss.
The installation can loosely be split into three parts. The first presents a series of images together with words by Terrygold that contextualise the feeling she has been experiencing on the loss of her father in a deeply personal, but utterly understandable way; one that particularly speaks to anyone who has lost a close family member, regardless of our relationship with them., and Terry wears her heart on her sleeve in talking about her father and her impact on her.
I Don’t have good memories of my Dad, he was certainly not a good father. But I remember that one day he took me on a trip with the scooter, a different day for me; I thought he could change… I look at his empty chair at the table. Now the last memory of him is this loneliness. Will this sadness ever go away?
– Terrygold, Empty Chairs
These are not easy words to read, and I know they were not easy to write; but again, regardless of our own relationship with those we have lost, the loneliness – the emptiness – Terrygold brings to her words and these images will be familiar. The manner in which their absence gives rise to that loneliness in the oddest of ways, from a chair now sitting empty, to sights and sounds we encounter as we strive to resume our own lives, the memories that, long filed away now come back unbidden…
There are so many ways in which such memories can be triggered: the empty chair, a walk that brings us into contact with a sight or object they would have appreciated and the realisation it is something they will never again see or we can no longer discuss with them, and so on, all of which are reflected in these images. Also, the use of dark tones and shadows within them not only reflects the fact they are dealing with matters of grief but also offer a metaphor for Terrygold’s relationship with her father.
At the end of the walk is a set of pieces that are brighter in tone, and which might be said to be the second element of the installation. Here a trees grows and forest birds flutter beneath its boughs, and the images speak of the point Terrygold hopes to reach; where the darkness and loneliness have given way to warmer thoughts; when memories of her father no longer revolve around unhappy memories or the emptiness of a chair or room, but rather allow her to recall those happier moments like the ride on the scooter. Here, as well, is a doorway into the final element of the installation: a street scene crafted by Terrygold that appears to speak directly to the loss the pandemic has brought on the world.
Within this scene are many more chairs, all empty, sitting along the street and scattered through the little park, each representing those who have been lost. Among them are boards questioning the cause of the pandemic and our ability to truly live as a part of the world around us, rather than apart from it. Again, the tone is dark – but the thoughts and feeling it presents are ones we can all recognise – perhaps with a sense of familiarity. And here too, at the end, tucked behind the little row of shops is a message of hope.
Visualising and giving voice to grief can often be cathartic- and I hope this is the case for Terrygold. Speaking as one who has been through similar loss as a direct result of the pandemic – and while my own relationship with the one I’ve lost was far closer, I think, than Terry’s with her father – I will say that visiting Empty Chairs was moving and offering a further sense of release from some of the memories that still give rise to confusion and hurt. But even without my personal experience, I would have found Empty Chairs richly poignant and with a remarkable depth of content and context.
- Empty Chairs at Solo Arte (Mystic Bay, rated Moderate)