An Accidental No Exit in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Milena Carbone – No Exit

No Exit is the title of the latest 2D art exhibition hosted by Dido Haas at her Nitroglobus Roof Gallery. It features the images and words of Milena Carbone, and is very much something of an “accidental” exhibition which still nevertheless offers food for thought – something Milena is prone to do with her art.

I’ll let Dido explain why No Exit might be considered an “accidental” exhibit:

[Milena] initially intended to work on a totally different project. However, this was cancelled due to her RL work as well as to her lack of motivation. So the images shown at the walls of the gallery this month were not created for an exhibition. Instead they were taken from the stream of images which Milena regularly produces for herself.
I made the selection and pointed out to Milena that there were always two characters in each image, .which made Milena think of the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s play “No exit” (“Huis clos” in French). And voila the title for this exhibition was born.

– Dido Haas, explaining the origins of No Exit

The connection between Satre and images is important to understand, because – as if so often the case with Milena’s work, there is a philosophical theme running through No Exit that invites consideration and, by nature of the framing of the play’s own central theme.

The title of the play actual comes from the French legal term “in camera”, denoting a private discussion behind closed doors; within it, three deceased people find themselves trapped in a room with no exit, doomed to face eternity with only one another’s company. Thus they are faced with Satre’s truth that “hell is other people” (L’enfer, c’est les autres), itself a reflection of his fascination with existentialism (perhaps most notably through L’Être et le néant), and of the internal struggle that arises when forced to view oneself from both the point of view (that is solely from how they see you in a particular moment) and the perspective (i.e. how they perceive you and your actions within the broader context of their own cultural and societal influences and personal biases / experiences) of another consciousness.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Milena Carbone – No Exit

However, before delving into these deeper themes,  I would emphasise that these are images that can be seen and appreciated entirely in their own right and free from any more layer thinking. In fact, I would say they should be seen in this manner before being contextualised within the broader scope of theme and Satre’s world of ontological thinking; there is a beautiful minimalism to every piece that renders it fully as moment of narrative, encouraging us to freely construct a story around it, or to simply appreciate its form, tone, framing and expression.

When Milena’s theme and Satre’s ideas are taken into consideration, these are images that taken on an entirely new depth. Take, for example, XXI Century. On the surface, a simple image of two women with different cultural heritages posing for a photograph – be they friends or relatives, it makes no difference. But, add the title of the piece into the equation, together with the fact one of the women is wearing an al-amira, and a more complex narrative emerges, that invokes thoughts of the manner in which during the first 21 years of the 21 century has continued to see the impact of “otherism” – the ostracising of those whose dress, system of belief and place of origin mark them as “different” and thus not to be trusted or allowed. It’s a negative attitude that has gripped many to the point of being without any exit; yet, were they to step outside of the strictures of peer / societal pressure, then the reality that we are all of one, single unique race would become that much harder to ignore.

Elsewhere, the questioning of self, and other others see is more direct (e.g. within Difference, Asymmetry, and The Invitation (the latter’s use of Black and white being particularly effective in bringing for the idea of differencing outlooks / perspectives that challenge our own). Whilst 7 Billion Bullets most clearly questions our entire attitude towards the preciousness of an individual life.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Milena Carbone – No Exit

This image also leans itself to the central cube that sits between the two arms of the exhibition hall. Apparently open from the outside, in stepping in, it becomes a closed room with no exit – a physical representation of the room from Huis clos. Here we are forced to confront the fact that we are all essentially locked in rooms of self – everything we see or experience generates our world-view, making us all, in essence selfish; the imprint of those around us, through their thoughts and actions, rightly or wrongly, shaping our own views and outlooks, thus trapping us in our own hell of thought and convictions.

The words here carry both a startling reality of creating our own hell and – conversely – of allowing ourselves to become trapped in thinking that encourages us to retain that hell. The former is most succinctly stated through the commentary that global ammunition production means that each year, sufficient bullets are produced to wipe out all of humanity. Whether or not one is rooted in “the right to bear arms”, this is a grotesque factoid.; how much better might it be if the money poured into arms and ammunition were to be devoted to green sources of energy, improved food production, medicine and education?

Conversely, the fact that we are trapped within this one world is not an argument against attempting to expand elsewhere. For one thing, we are a naturally expansive race – and right now, we have nowhere else to go – a point of increasing concern given Earth’s finite resources. More to the point, space has more than anything else, given us the means to truly understand the fragility of this world and to actually start to take constructive (if limited) action to curtail damaging activities. For 60+ years, we have simply failed to more properly respond to what as been revealed, trapped as we have become in a materialistic, selfish need to have with no apparent exit – and pointing the finger of blame to a billionaire or two isn’t going to change (much less reverse) that; we – you, me, Milena, et al, are equally as guilty.

Milena is, I understand, absent from Second Life due to those physical world commitments mentioned above, and is liable to remain so for a while. As such, whether or not you are drawn to the philosophical / ontological expressions found with No Exit, or if you would simply like to again experience the attractiveness of her art for its own sake, this is an exhibition well worth witnessing.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Milena Carbone – No Exit

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