There are probably very few of us who have not been shocked by the events in Ukraine that started on February 24th, 2022. The global reaction against Russia’s invasion of the country under entirely false pretexts has in many ways been seismic, involving everyone from governments down to individuals.
Within Second Life, Milena Carbone (Mylena1992) – an artist renown for her use of art to offer political and religious commentary – found herself unable to remain silent on the matter, and has developed a three-part exhibition that is both a direct response to the war in Ukraine and also a wider commentary on global relationships which may well prick at the consciousness (intentionally or otherwise) it may appear to contain; certainly, I know that viewing all three parts caused me to reflect more widely on such things.
The first element of the exhibition is located in Milena’s gallery space within her Carbon Art Studio. It is entitled Paroxysm – a term that might be used to define what should be the reaction of any caring, humanitarian individual to the news of any massive military incursion by one nation state into a neighbour, and the reaction of the people of that neighbour on seeing their worse fears realised as tanks and rocket launchers roll across their border. It charts Milena’s initial reaction to the news, and the reality of the fact that, almost one hundred years after the last rise of unbridled authoritarianism was allowed to go unchecked only to plunge Europe – and eventually the world – into the cataclysm of war, we have once again allowed to bring us perilously close to the brink once more.
In six images produced in a day, Milena offers up both hard truths and also a measure of hope. Those truths include the fact that war has always been a tool of political power, allowing the victor to bend history to their interpretation of matters; all that has really changed is the destructive power laying at the fingertips of those who would wield the machinery of war to suit their ends; the hope is expressed through identifying people’s willingness to fight for their (and our) freedoms, and that a more politically aware globalist movement of younger generations are increasingly able to see through the masks of so-called “great men” who seek only their own aggrandisement and adulation by others (and thus hopefully curtail their rise to power).
The Second element of the exhibition, Fury, is located in the open air setting of Calypso Bay. Again the title might be said to have a dual meaning, referencing they increasingly brutal response of the Russian military in directly and intentionally targeting civilians as their campaign fails to proceed as planned (thus underscoring the truism that no order of battle survives contact with an opponent), and the almost world-wide anger in response to the bombing, shelling and missile attacks direct at the Ukraine civilian populace.
Here, the setting plays as much an important role within Milena’s triptych as the art itself. The café setting, the quaint little shops, the blue skies and beach speak to the idyll of life as we expect it – the ability to wander, shop, share, enjoy, without fear of disruption or hurt – indeed, without the shadow of fear itself. These are all things the people of Ukraine are now denied; no-one is safe, not even the innocent new-born. In this, Fury is presented as a personal appeal to the people of Russia not to stand for what is being done under the false claim of being “for them” – as indeed, many are doing in cities throughout Russia, and at no little risk to themselves.
The concluding part of the trilogy is Apocalypse, located in Dido’s Space within Dido Haas’ Nitroglobus Roof Gallery. It is a personal look at what yet come out of the unfolding situation. To achieve this, Milena uses six images to depict one of more outcomes (“children”), each accompanied by Milena prose to give each form and meaning – although the images themselves are deeply evocative.
As noted towards the top of this article, these three exhibitions not only voice a reaction to the 2022 situation in Ukraine, they also prick the conscience. The Ukraine war has, to a degree, been on-going since 2013/14, although this escalation is markedly above anything previously seen, and has rightly led to the aforementioned global outrage towards Russia and support for Ukraine. But one has to ask, when it comes to the response of Europe, where was it in 2008 when Russia launched an offensive against Georgia?
Back then our response was far more muted, with nations such as Germany and France unwilling to even apportion blame. Could it be that Georgia’s geographic location (as much in western Asia as Eastern Europe, with the “buffer” of the Black Sea between it and Western Europe) helped to make that conflict appear less relevant? Would America have been so vocal in it response, but for the manner in which another would-be authoritarian dictator put it front-and-centre in recent US politics? Or is it that we are finally awakening (once more) to the realisation that not only is war unjustifiable, but the Chamberlain approach to dictators rarely yields positive results, and a stand must be made?
And therein lies the power of art: to challenge; to cause us to question, to re-evaluate, to ask hard questions of ourselves. All of this, as well as a highly personal – one might say visceral – statement makes Paroxysm, Fury, Apocalypse well worth a visit.
Note that all three elements of the exhibition have teleport board to the other two.