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.
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.
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.
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.
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(!).