Ekphrasis: the rhetorical nature of art in Second Life

Artsville: Angelika Corral – Ekphrasis

Now open within Gallery 1 within Artsville, the arts hub operated by Vally Lavender (Valium Lavender) and managed / curated by Frank Atisso is Ekphrasis, a selection of highly visual pieces of art by Angelika Corral, a Second Life photographer of note, and former co-operator of Daphne Arts in SL.

Comprising 10 individual pieces which – I believe – started as Second Life avatar studies, but which have been have been subject to considered post-processing to present a set of unique images created by the artist with the express intent of evoking a response from all who see them. But not, however, a purely emotional (or even visceral response); rather, the intent is evoke responses along more ekphrastic lines.

In its simplest form, ekphrasis is the use of one medium of art (traditionally the written word, be it prose, poetry or lyric) attempts to define and/or describe the essence and for of another, and in doing so, illuminates the art to a wider audience through its description. Some of the pieces I write in this blog on art exhibitions, of example, might be said to be examples of ekphrasis, in that they attempt to present an interpretive commentary on the art to which they relate. A motion picture based on a novel might also be seen as a latter-day form of ekphrasis, bringing the essence and form of the novel to an audience, allowing them to absorb and interpret it more freely than through the written word itself.

Artsville: Angelika Corral – Ekphrasis

In this, such interpretive broadening can be said to be rhetorical; they seek to persuade the audience towards a given reaction or response. Within her exhibition, Angelika embraces this concept, presenting ten images she encourages us to consider and interpret. to develop our own narratives and stories as we examine them; to allow thoughts and reactions to explore the spirit, if you will, of each piece. The fact that the narratives I see may differ from those you see, matters not.

And therein lies, perhaps, the broader genius of this exhibition; “traditional” ekphrasis is generally considered to be a rhetorical device – the words use by the poet or storyteller illuminating the art to which it relates. While this is certainly true here, it might be said that the images Angelika presents are themselves rhetorical devices; when we observe art, we do so entirely subjectively, our views coloured by our own sensibilities – hence my mention of an emotional / visceral response to any piece of art above.

So here, Angelika offers pieces that through their structure and form, themselves take on the role of narrator; they subliminally encourage us – through our own preconceptions / moods – to drive our personal narrative in a direction that is purely in-the-moment; a narrative that will more than likely shift and change the next time we view each one – be that an hour or a day or a month hence.

Artsville: Angelika Corral – Ekphrasis

Engaging, complex and a visual personification of a concept dating back to ancient Greece, Ekphrasis presents a thought-provoking exhibit of art.

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Invisible Cities: Fighting Women at Nitroglobus in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Debora Kaz – Invisible Cities – Fighting Women

Invisible Cities – Fighting Women is the title given to a combined 2D and 3D art installation by Debora Kaz that is currently open to the public through until the end of August 2022 at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas.

Supported by a custom lighting environment created by Adwehe, this is perhaps one of the most complex installations and layered installations I have seen – something that in itself is saying a lot: Dido has a consummate skill in challenging the artists she invites to exhibit at Nitroglobus, consistently leading to installations that stand head-and-shoulders above those found elsewhere in Second Life in terms of their richness of presentation, meaning, and narrative.

Perhaps the best way to describe the installation is to use Debora’s own words, both from the introductory notes (available via the giver at the landing point) and the open letter Debora has written form women and which is displayed on the north side of the gallery space (and which is included with copies of each of the pieces in the exhibition when they are purchased):

Invisible Cities – Fighting Women wants to show the pain and difficulty of being a woman in a world where women historically were portrayed as objects of desire, exposed to consumption, which induces rivalry, resulting in us women not having a real union to fight the violence that is directed at us.

– Debora Kaz, introducing Invisible Cities – Fighting Women

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Debora Kaz – Invisible Cities – Fighting Women

Whether we like it or not, we live in a world that is largely derived in terms of patriarchy, be it societal, historic, and religious or a mix of all three. It is a global environment where even today, women are faced with a broad range of physical violence (1 in 3 women world-wide will be beaten or raped or face other forms of direct violence at the hands of males at least once in their lives) and more subtle psychological violence.

It is something many women the world over are trying to address and overcome through projects and activities such as One Billion Rising, through protests, activism and even through art – as has often been seen here in Second Life.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Debora Kaz – Invisible Cities – Fighting Women

However, as Debora moves to point out in Invisible Cities – Fighting Women, we so often undermine these efforts by committing “violence” upon ourselves and one another: we cave to the demands of advertising, objectifying ourselves, turning ourselves into things of desire to attract others; we seek to dominate one another at work or socially, and so forth.

Within this capitalist game of consumption and desire, women compete with each other attack each other in an irrational way; and most of the time, they are not aware of it, because of the superstructure. Structural misogyny occupies the minds of not only men, but it is also present in the formation of every woman who is born objectified. The demand to be desired grows and seeks to be desired all her life – by men, but mostly by women; to be desired by another woman is to have power, to be better than others is wanting to be better than any other woman.
With this in mind, the union that women desire [in order] to combat violence against women [as] imposed [by] the history of patriarchal societies becomes unviable. It is not possible to unite when someone wants to have one power relationship over another.

– Debora Kaz, Invisible Cities – Fighting Women

Through the 16 images and 5 sculptures, Debora presents aspects of all of this in quite vivid and engaging pieces. Within them, we can find reactions to patriarchal dominance (Fuck God) to the need for mutual support (I’m By Your Side), and more. Throughout all of the pieces, colour pays a major role. Pink references both female empowerment and the struggles we face  – external and internal – to be understood as individuals, while harder, courser colours are used to represent emotional and the turmoil they can and create and the conflicts – again, internal and between one another – they induce.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Debora Kaz – Invisible Cities – Fighting Women

Individually, these are striking pieces; each carries a weight of narrative that has impact – this cannot be denied. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to being somewhat confused in understanding the core theme and message of this installation. I’m not sure if this is down to a shortfall on my part or because the artist has accidentally cast her net too wide and introduced to much in the way of narrative and subtext. As such, I encourage you to visit and explore Invisible Cities – Fighting Women for yourself and free from any confusion on my part.

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The art of Suzanne Graves and AL in Second Life

Selen’s Gallery: Suzanne Graves

I’m a little behind in my art blogging (and blogging in general), so I’m getting to this article a little later than intended, having originally hoped to get it out over the last weekend in July because it is something of special event in Second Life, featuring as it does the 3D work of Suzanne Graves, with a special exhibition of 2D art by Selen’s father, AL.

Having opened at the ground level on Selen’s Gallery, operated and curated by Selen Love (Selen Minotaur), this untitled installation features the 3D piece by Suzanne Graves, whose work has been featured in exhibitions at such august institutions as the University of Western Australia and Linden Endowments for the Arts and at arts hubs such as Sinful Retreat.

Selen’s Gallery: Suzanne Graves

Here, Suzanne presents a series of 3D sculptures with a lean towards the surreal. Some are static, others are animated with either moving parts or shifting colours – and in some cases, both.

Created entirely using prims, sliced, cut, twisted to create almost organic forms, these pieces are a remarkable celebration of natural form and the richness of geometry, bound together in an expressive environment created by Selen. However, to see them at their best, it is strongly recommended that you do so with the viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model enabled (Preferences → Graphics) is enabled, and you utilise the environment settings Selen has created for the gallery space (World → Environment → Use Shared Environment).

Set one side of the Suzanne’s pieces is the glass pavilion where AL’s artwork is displayed.

A physical world artist, AL works in oil acrylics, and the 15 pieces presented here have been selected by Suzanne, who encouraged him to consider Second Life as a further means to show his work – and this exhibition represents the first time he has done so.

AL’s primary inspiration in terms of genres is that of surrealism – and that is certainly to be found within these pieces, as are touches of abstractionism. He is also an experimentalist, sometimes using paint pouring to produce pieces.

As the name suggests, this is a technique – or rather, a series of techniques – primarily used with acrylics, where the paint is “poured” onto the canvas, rather than by using a brush. However, it is not simply a case of taking the paint and just tipping on to suitable medium (e.g. canvas or paper); not only do the paints require different approaches to how they are diluted in order to alter their viscosity and the degree to which the will flow, it also involves a range of techniques to assist in how they are blended and mixed, either as a part of the pouring process, or before they have dried, to develop a finished result.

Selen’s Gallery: AL

These mixing techniques are many and varied – pouring a batch of colours into a single container with one or more outlets, and letting them pour through as the container is gently swirled to mix them, or pouring them individually either directly onto a surface or a base colour / tone and then using assorted tools (such as a hairdryer!) to mix them / form patterns within them, and so on.

Several examples of the technique sit among the pieces presented within the exhibition at Selen’s Gallery, some of which are combined with more direct surrealist over-painting to produce the most richly colours and engaging pieces. Other pieces are more “traditionally” produced, folding in both surrealist elements and  / or abstract painting.

Selen’s Gallery: AL

All of the pieces by AL are for sale, but rather than being offered at a fixed price, they are offered on the basis of “pay what you will” by means of a tip jar just outside the entrance to the gallery pavilion (the pieces themselves are offered at L$0), and Selen will ensure gratuities are passed to her father.

Visually captivating, demonstrating both the power of prims in artistic expression and also offering a view of physical world painting techniques which may be unfamiliar to many, this is a exhibition not to be missed. And while visiting, don’t miss the teleport point just outside the pavilion to reach Selen’s gallery on a sky platform, home to her own art.

For those curious about paint pouring, check the video below.

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Terrygold’s Crack in Second Life

Terrygold: Crack, July 2022

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.

Terrygold: Crack, July 2022

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.

Terrygold: Crack, July 2022

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.

Terrygold: Crack, July 2022

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).

SLuel Details

Use the teleport disk to reach the installation

Dinosaurs and Coconuts in Second Life

Cica Ghost: Dinosaurs and Coconuts, July 2022

Cica Ghost carries us through the end of July and into August with her latest installation, which opened on Friday July 29th, 2022, bringing us a touch of Jurassic Park meets The Flintstones in another easy-on-the-eyes-and-brain piece.

Dinosaurs and Coconuts comes with a quote from the Dalai Lama – Once a year, go somewhere you have never been before, and this is a setting that surely offers us the opportunity to do just that.

Like Jurassic Park, this is an installation that presents avatar the opportunity to witness the great reptiles of an prehistoric era as they go about their business. Scattered across the landscape visitors might find armoured dinosaurs mind of those common to the Cretaceous period (Taohelong, Dyoplosaurus, Struthiosaurus, et al); sauropod-like dinosaurs that bring to mind those of the Jurassic the Late Cretaceous periods (such as Brachiosaurus, Apatosaurus and the truly enormous titanosaurians); and two-legged carnivores suggestive of the infamous velociraptor genus.

Cica Ghost: Dinosaurs and Coconuts, July 2022

However, this is no trip down Archaeological Lane; Cica’s dinosaurs are not intended to be reflective of the great beasts that once called the world their own. Rather they are here to offer a lightness of mood and sense of fun, as demonstrated by their expressions and the tip towards the fantastical among some of them. This sense of fun is further emphasised by the landscape in which the are located; a place in which Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble may well find familiar were they to walk into it, with its stone-hewn houses and  cobbled-together wagons and caravans of stone and wood.

Some of the latter sit on the ground, others upon stilts and trestles. Quite who built them is open to debate; no sign of early Man here – although the local technology has clearly reached the point where the wheel is understood, as is the concept of the see-saw and that of the bridge (a concept a couple of the local raptors perhaps have yet to grasp, befuddled as they appear to be by the stretch of water which divides them, despite the bridge that sits close by…).

Cica Ghost: Dinosaurs and Coconuts, July 2022

At least one of the mysterious locals has even reached a point of understanding matters of ecology, a small windmill jutting through the roof of one stone house, presumably to supply power, and rudimentary garden spaces have been established to help give a sense of homeliness with some of these dwellings.

But it is the dinosaurs who hold sway here. From small to large (and in some cases I do mean large), they all have characters of their own, given life by a subtle sense of expression that suggests some of the thinking going on behind their eyes. Even the raptor-like dinos look like they’d be more interested in fun over hunting.

Cica Ghost: Dinosaurs and Coconuts, July 2022

Quirky and fun, and with a number of places for people to sit (or carry out handstands!), Dinosaurs and Coconuts is another fun installation from Cica, and the Dinos are available to buy though the little shop within the region.

Oh, and the coconuts? Just keep an eye on the local giant palm trees – and be careful not to stand too close to them!

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Kids These Day in Second Life

Lex Machine (Archetype11 Nova): Kids These Days

It’s been over a year since I’ve written about the work of Lex Machine (Archetype11 Nova), perhaps one of the most engaging visual artists within Second Life. Part of the reason for this gap is that I understand Lex has been on something of a hiatus. Even so, his most recent installation opened back towards the beginning of July, and to my shame, I came very close to missing it.

Kids These Days takes as its topic the changing face of childhood; of the truth that even in so-called developed nations, children are all to prematurely being made to “put away childish things”, and deal with the “realities” of life. Before they are old enough to understand who they are, they are being forced to focus on “who they want to be”; before they can really understand if who they want to be reflects who they actually might be, they are being cajoled into confined tracks of thinking and discourse, channelled into taking decisions that are ill-equipped to understand – or which are patently harmful to their core self.

Lex Machine (Archetype11 Nova): Kids These Days

Of course, for many children the world over, this is very much a fact of life; they are from the earliest age forced into marriage and/or to bear children or take up arms on the basis of tribal or ethnic fealty. Day in and day out, they are forced into situations we in the west correctly view as abhorrent. But until now, those of us in developed nations have managed to remain aloof to all of this secure in the belief it couldn’t happen here.

Only it has; as noted, kids these days are subjected to pressure beyond their years. Some of this can be blamed on “the Internet”, and that dark and mysterious world beyond the computer and mobile device screen, and the increasingly role of the toxic and utterly partisan worlds of social media.

Lex Machine (Archetype11 Nova): Kids These Days

But more insidious than this is the fact that in many respects adults and parents are now making the situation worse for; just take, as two example: the matter of gender and the matter in which many on the religious right are determined to suppress any and all acceptance of anything but “male” and “female; and the blatant disregard the majority of adults today have for the environment, thus forcing those for whom we should be stewards in safeguarding the world, to fight for a future world where they can live without fear of climatic or other repercussions.

All of these ideas are explored within Lex’s Kids These Days through a series of individual, but interconnected vignettes. Some of these are – in his trademark and captivating way – on a massive scale, while others are of a more natural avatar-based size – and perhaps as a result, easier to miss.

Lex Machine (Archetype11 Nova): Kids These Days

Some of the latter might bring to mind the innocence the “childhoods past” – the locomotive suggesting playing with toy trains; a blanket set with cushions, parasol and the delights of a panic representing carefree family days out, adventures by car to new worlds to explore; the presence of cars themselves referencing time when teenager years were about engines, racing, personal freedom and escape, and not – as is all to frequently the case today – a focus of political activism or having to “rebel” in order to be recognised. Others offer commentary on the pressures piled on kids today – the demands that they “gain the keys of success” and “unlock their potential”; demand that all too often leave youngster forced to bear of drag weights of expectation they are ill equipped to carry.

The larger vignettes, meanwhile, offer a more immediate focus, speaking as they do to the central theme. Here we find pieces depicting the way technology can carry young minds to concepts and worlds they are ill equipped to handle. Scattered around the landscape stand Crow Demons, symbolising the many predators – criminal, psychological, familial, political, and so on, waiting to prey on young minds and bodies. And, in the midst of them stands a clown-like pied-piper, representing adults the world over touting their pipes of conformity over their young.

It is among these that Lex offers his clearest and most succinct observation about the future of kids across the globe being born into the world of today, a sentiment that should stand as a warning to us all for the way we continue to abuse our offspring.

Lex Machine (Archetype11 Nova): Kids These Days

Kids These Days is rich its visual expression and powerful in the manner in which it presents its subject. It is also – for those like me who are confirmed admirer’s of the artist’s installations and regions builds – a place that offers numerous Easter Eggs to Lex’s past works, some of which where build when he was known by a different name(!).

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