Art and Asperger’s in Second Life

Janus Gallery, September 2021: Xia Chieng

Open until the end of the September 2021 at Sinful Retreat’s Janus Gallery is Visions of an Aspie, a collection of original physical world paintings by Xia Chieng. While I’m getting to it late, this is a fascinating exhibition that should not be missed.

Asperger Syndrome (AS or sometimes referred to just as Asperger’s (without the “syndrome” when used with the apostrophe)) is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests.

Having been diagnosed with the condition, Xia has found a way to overcome her difficulties in communicating with others through her art, using oils and watercolours to express the feelings and emotions she experiences and to give a sense of the her personal situations, outlook and experiences.

The Janus Gallery, September 2021: Xia Chieng
I see artistic creation as a tool for self-transformation and healing, a way to dialogue with my own internal demons and those of our culture, a means to create my own myths with which one moves through the world. I am on personal journey; personal exploration into the essence of the live; the nature of the relationship between my senses, ideas and perceptions and the external world; my conception of space and substance. Only things that are personal can be truly real for me. 
My art is narrative but not literary, it tells stories but does not create their meaning. It may not mean anything, more than we can individually feel. My work is a thing, an object, presented to you for your pleasure and for my relief. It just is what it is. It is not explained alone.

– Xia Chieng

At Janus Gallery I, Xia presents a collection of self-portrait images each one of which presents a narrative – but not one in the literary sense; these are stories designed to give insight into a thought, a feeling, a senses of mind. In part, this might be contained within the title of each individual piece, but which is also mostly through the composition itself. Given this, these are exceptionally poignant pieces, paintings that might also be seen as a part of Xia’s own quest.

My condition makes me face life as a continuous challenge. Rejection, misunderstanding, intolerance have been present throughout my life and have led me to become elusive and lonely.

– Xia Chieng

Janus Gallery, September 2021: Xia Chieng

This quest is perhaps most clearly indicated in those images in the collection that feature a keyhole (or in some cases a question mark) painted onto the forehead of the subject(s) in each painting. A keyhole that might be taken as both Xia’s quest to unlock that part of her that causes her to feel apart, separate and lonely, and also perhaps as a pleas for use to better understand the blurred, isolated, challenging world in which she finds herself living.

As insights into a person’s life, these are pieces that can be stark, dark and a little disturbing (Memento Nori, I was a Suicide Girl, Misery, Nightmare, Good Memories), other have a difficult edge to them (The Princess of Broken Hearts, The birthday Party Without Guests); but these should not be taken to mean these are exercises in personal pathos – life is abundant throughout all of them, with some encompassing religious motifs that speak to broader questions that can affect us, thus offering something of a bridge between our own inner thoughts on life and those that flow through Xia’s mind.

Janus Gallery, September 2021: Xia Chieng

I cannot imagine what it means to be diagnosed with Asperger’s and would not try; but what is undeniable about Visions of an Aspie is  the over-arching statement of the power of art in its ability to give voice, to share, to overcome  – to help understand oneself and one another. This makes it – as mentioned at the top of this article – an exhibition that should not be missed, although it will be ending on September 29th.

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A Spoonful of Sugar 2021 in Second Life

via the Spoonful of Sugar website

Currently underway in Second Life through until Saturday, October 2nd, 2021 is the annual Spoonful of Sugar festival in support of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)).

Also known as Doctors Without Borders, MSF was founded in Paris, France in 1971 as a non-profit, self-governed medical humanitarian organisation delivering emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare around the globe, based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

Since its founding, MSF has grown to a movement of 24 associations, bound together as MSF International, based in Switzerland. Thousands of health professionals, logistical and administrative staff – most of whom are hired locally – work on programmes in some 70 countries worldwide to provide medical and social care and support for a staggering 10+ million people annually. Much of this work is focused on third world countries where the likes of tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS continue to be major health threats to people of all ages.

How donations to SOS Help Every 3 seconds, someone in the world dies of malaria, many of them children. A donation to SOS of just L$100 gives one child a potentially live-saving treatment against the disease. 

In addition, MSF is often one of the first organisations to have feet on the ground following a disaster, and is also to be found carrying out vital work in work-torn countries such as Yemen, where over 91,000 people have been killed and many more wounded, injured and / or displaced in a 6-year-old war than gains little world-wide attention.

Spoonful of Sugar 2021

Since its foundation in 2016, Spoonful of Sugar has year-on-year consistently built on the amount it raises for MSF, with 2020 seeing the event contribute US $27,879. In all, and up to the opening of this year’s festival, Spoonful of Sugar had raised over US $80,000 for MSF, where over 80% of all funds raised by the organisation in turn go directly into its social and medical programmes, the remaining 19.5% being split between administration and management (4.5%) and global fund-raising initiatives by MSF (15%).

The 2021 Spoonful of Sugar opened on September 18th, 2021 with a special message from Greta Doucette, the Digital Marketing Associate for MSF Peer-to-Peer and Streaming Programmes, followed by the start of the events rolling music and entertainment schedule. Covering a total of six regions, the event combines shopping, entertainment, fashion and breedables in and event that has something for everyone.

The selected theme for Spoonful of Sugar 2021 is Mexico, with the shopping regions each featuring a little town in gay colours, complete with fund-raising kiosks along the broad streets. Some of these are of the “traditional” click-to-pay variety, others are more novel, offering the opportunity to buy special items such as the Astralia Taco Party set or grab yourself a Mexican recipes cook book.

Spoonful of Sugar 2021: fund-raising kiosks

All of the five shopping regions can be reached via a teleport station at the main landing point for the event (further stations can be found in each of the shopping regions). The landing point also provides information on the the festival and offers the opportunity to join the event’s chupacabra hunt that is packed with rewards from leading creators, and offers s free plushie on joining the event group.

Also to be found at the landing point is extensive information on a part of MSF’s work that is year-on-year becoming increasingly significant: dealing with the humanitarian crisis of forcibly displaced people. Those who are,  due to war, political or religious extremism, gang violence, terror, or other life-threatening circumstance, and unable to live safely within their preferred parts of their homelands (some 48 million people), or have been forced to flee their homeland entirely (30.3 million). At a time when those of certain politic stripes present the displaced and the homeless as some form of blight on society, the MSF information at Spoonful of Sugar is an important reminder of the reality of the plight of 82.4 million people world-wide.

I’m here to tell you that nobody wants to leave home. They love their cities, their neighbourhoods. They love speaking their own language. The people fleeing their home countries are running because their home countries aren’t safe. They are fleeing for their lives.

– Dr. Ahmed Abdalzarag, MSF neurosurgeon

Spoonful of Sugar: MSF information area

As such, Spoonful of Sugar is an event well worth the time taken to visit. Event if you don’t find anything to buy in the shopping regions, the donation kiosks will welcome your Linden dollars, and you can be absolutely sure that your money is going to a very worth cause..

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