Drug and alcohol abuse among you people – teenagers from 13 or 14 upwards – has long been a problem. So much so that today within many western countries, it scarcely appears to be on the radar of politicians, who instead prefer to point their fingers and rabble-rouse about imagined “evils” facing their countries from -*horror* – refugees seeking sanctuary or – *gasp* – the terror of equal rights for women, ethnic minorities, the disabled, and LGBTQ+ communities.
In Europe, studies have shown that while not rampant, substance abuse – including the use of tobacco – as a whole has been increasingly found among children below the age of 15 (per the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)).
Much of this has been put down to “experimentation”, although peer pressure has also been noted as a factor, as has the fact that in terms of illegal drugs, some dealers have taken a leaf out of the tobacco advertising playbook from several years ago, but “promoting” their wares to younger consumers.
Further, while many reports note that such experimentation / engagement with alcohol and drugs in particular has tended to be among younger male teenagers, the EUCDDA studies from 2007 onwards have shown that more and more young girls are increasingly following suit, and the gap between boys and girls in terms of drug use is closing.
Drug use among young girls is something artist Terrygold has had to face in the physical world and within her own neighbourhood; and what she has witnessed, almost daily, has resulted in her latest installation Crack, which opened at her art gallery in late July 2022.
As with her recent pieces, it comes as a set of vignettes, each narrated by a static, NPC called “Terry”.
These vignettes – a pair this time – are literally framed as pictures; in the first, linked to the installations landing point (reached via teleport disc from the gallery’s main landing point), we she a happy time at home; a wife and husband in a comfortable lounge, their little daughter apparently tucked behind an armchair with her teddy as she plays hide-and-seek with her father. It’s a setting of domestic bliss, which can be seen – literally – through two frames set to either side of scene so as to present frozen images of a happy, safe home life.
A further frame – be it a window or a picture frame, it matters not – presents a view of a world outside this cosy home; a place where alcohol is freely available, the siren glow of neon drawing all too it regardless of age, with those standing in the doorways also caring little about identity or age. Close by, under a streetlight two young girls draw lustful gazes from an older male, whilst another girl, provocatively dressed, staggers down the middle of the road, the worse for – something.
Through the words of “Terry” as we stand next to her looking out onto the scene, we learn this vignette is a reflection of a tragic situation she has witnessed: a girl high of drugs or alcohol, wanting – needing – more – and desperate, spiralling ever deeper into an addiction that can only lead to worse.
Within the house, “Terry” also vents the artist’s frustration in the way that stories of abuse and suffering have become so commonplace that not even the age at which youngsters find themselves trapped by addiction causes anything more than a raised eyebrow. And we, like her, should feel that shame frustration and anger; but how many of us turn the page of the newspaper, shutting out the story just as we can shut the terrors of the world outside by closing the drapes on the windows of our homes?
But just how safe are we, really? Herein lies a deeper layering to Terrygold’s piece.
The entire installation is offered under a dark environment setting. While this clearly adds atmosphere to the street setting, where faces are shadowed, and the sense of danger and intrigued raised, so to does it alter the “indoor” scene of familial bliss, casting pools of darkness that reduce the home to a small island of light, a visual metaphor of the fact that no matter where we go, the darkness in the world is never far away,
But more than this, the shadows within the house serve another purpose. If you view the family through one of the frames, that little girl playing hide-and-seek vanishes, and the faces of the mother and father can no longer be clearly seen. Suddenly the position of the mother as she sits on the edge of the coffee table apparently making a casual call whilst her husband and daughter play, becomes something more urgent, her look more worried.
Similarly, the smiling face of the father is now wreathed in darkness, his tall figure a shadow within a shadow, looming close to his wife. Thus, the entire scene becomes tense and foreboding. The stances of father and mother, together with the apparent absence of their child reminds us that little girls who play hide-and-seek grow into young girls who for whom teddy bears, armchairs and hunting daddies are not enough, but the world, for all its threats, is a wondrous place – and even the threats can tempt and attract, opening young lives to those who would hunt them and/or their money for reasons far less innocent than a game of hide-and-seek, and parents are left fraught and anxious; desperate for the reassurance of a voice on a telephone, for an ear to hear their pleas to come home.
Expressive, offering much to consider, Crack is best seen under the local environment settings (World → Environment → make sure Use Shared Environment is checked), and with ALM (Preferences → Graphics → Advanced Lighting Model) enabled (Shadows are not required, despite the instructions and the landing point, should enabling them impact your computer’s performance unduly).
Use the teleport disk to reach the installation
- Terrygold Art Gallery (Peaceful Land, rated: Adult)