Cica’s Bird People

Cica Ghost: Bird People

Bird People is Cica Ghost’s latest region-wide installation, and it presents something of a conundrum. In a largely denuded landscape, the ground of which has been partially and neatly divided into a black-on-white grid, sit giant, ornate metalworks. Some stand alone, others support great cages – or form cage-like structures, equally huge, while block-like towers, apparently made of stacked cubes also rise from the ground here and there. It’s a strange environment – and one, frankly, difficult to see when using the default landscape and following the viewing instructions (ALM enabled and Shadows set to Sun/Moon + Projectors).

Throughout the landscape, stairways rise, curl and undulate, some supported by metal structures, some starting from the blocky forms.  All of them twist and turn, and run by rise and fall to connect the ground – or at least their foundation blocks – offering people climbs up to dizzying heights and the giant cages waiting there. Some of these cages, but many are occupied by strange creatures with the bodies of bird and the heads of men. Most of these creatures sit within their cages individually or in pairs, facing open doors or sides to their enclosures almost apprehensively, as if fearing stepping out into the world beyond.

Cica Ghost: Bird People

What are we to make of this? The clue, perhaps, lies in the quote Cica has offered with the piece: We are all living in cages with the door wide open. It’s a quote from Star Wars creator George Lucas about creativity and imagination. It references the idea that we can all be creative, we can all soar far and wide on the wings of imagination, if we are only willing to just let go; So does the installation perhaps stand as a metaphor for this idea?

Certainly, there is a strong contrast between the expressions worn by the creatures who have stepped out of their cages and are variously gathered or dotted across the open spaces beneath their former prisons, and those who have yet to venture forth. The former – for the most part – appear happy, chatty, curious and even playfully (although there are one or two looking slightly wary). Those still within their cages look through open doorways with a mix of confusion, apprehension and uncertainty – or even close their eyes on their potential route to freedom. This contrast plays strongly into the idea that stepping beyond the confines of our personal cages – our comfort zones – if you will, and embracing the imagination can be a liberating, positive influence on us.

Cica Ghost: Bird People

For me, and in keeping with the broader theme offered by Lucas’ quote, the installation stands as the embodiment of a piece written be Debbie Hampton , the blogger and writer behind The Best Brain Possible. In 2015 She used the quote as the title for an essay about overcoming personal fear and the apparent “comforts” we can have in allowing ourselves to become caged by a “normal” life; we become, in effect, our own jailers.

I’ve lived most of my life like a bird in a cage with the door wide open. At any time, I could have hopped on over to the opening, taken flight and soared to new heights. All along, I’ve known how to fly. No one clipped my wings.

So, what kept me in the cage? My own fear and self-imposed limitations held me there. I was my own prison guard. I think we are all born knowing how to fly, but life happens and beats us down little-by-little until we forget that we ever had this valuable skill.

– Debbie Hampton, In A Cage With the Door Wide Open

Cica Ghost: Bird People

I must also, and in passing, admit that Cica’s human-headed birds put me in mind of something else – something entirely unintended by Cica (I know this because I asked her!), so I’m not going to draw any parallels between the two. I’ll simply state that in looking at these creatures, I couldn’t help but be put in mind of the Brontitallians from Douglas Adams’ Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – and while it may have been unintentional, it was also quite delightful.

A conundrum it may first be upon first arriving within it, Bird People is worth exploring and thinking about – although I do perhaps suggest you try a Midnight windlight setting rather than the default; it doesn’t detract that much from the experience (just ensure you do have LM enabled and Shadows set to Sun/Moon + Projectors), and it can certainly make navigation a lot easier when climbing the various stairways and reduces the risk of falling off them somewhat.

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Cica’s Fairy Tale in Second Life

Cica Ghost – Fairy Tale

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again,” so reads the quote from C.S. Lewis which Cica has selected for her latest installation, Fairy Tale, which opened on August 29th, 2017. It’s part of a dedication he gave to his God-daughter after writing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. While Cica assures me she wasn’t aware of the full dedication when picking the quote, it is nevertheless the most salient part of Lewis’ comment – and fits this installation perfectly.

Across an undulating landscape, columns of rocks stack their way into the sky, vying with denuded trees and the surrounding hills for height. Only one of the hills is topped in grass – the rest of the land appears hard and dry. Reached by a set of steps formed by more rocks, it is home to a little red house sitting in a tiny garden. A plethora of cats occupy the house, most taken by the bed sitting towards one end of the single room, although one is attentive to the young woman who also stands inside the house.

Cica Ghost – Fairy Tale

The hill looks across the region, over the stacks of rocks, the trees and a group of standing stones to where three dragons proudly sit, surveying the world around them. One, perched high on a shelf of rock, is winged. “He’s the male,” Cica told me as we chatted about the build. “The other two without wings are female.”

One of the latter seems to have wandered a little from her nest, where patterned eggs awaiting hatching. another nest lies in a hollow of the ground a little further away. The second female offers a clue to the shell-like objects also scattered across the landscape. She is sitting on top of one, as if claiming it. “The dragons use the shells as caves,” Cica said. “They live in them!”

Cica Ghost – Fairy Tale

Scattered throughout the setting are sitting points, some with the addition of dances and other animations. Check the tops of some of the rock stacks and the little – but tall – island lying just off-shore as well in order to find them. All offer views out over this region and the opportunity to cam around or take photos.

Fairy Tale is another whimsical  installation from Cica. It is also a curio: just what do we make of it as we travel through it? What should we make of the dragons’ use of giant shells, and what of the original occupants of the shells? Where does the woman and her cats in the house fit within all this?

Cica Ghost – Fairy Tale

The clue to these and other questions lies best in the quote from C.S. Lewis: we are all enthralled with tales that give flight for the imagination, but somewhere along life’s path, we often lose the will to use our imaginations as fully as we might. Fairy Tale is perhaps presents a chance to recapture that willingness, to let out imaginations roams across this landscape as freely as our feet, and let imagination fill-in the blanks of the story.

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Cica’s Future in Second Life

Cica Ghost – Future

“It’s all prims except the dragon and the birds,” Cica Ghost says of her newest installation, which opened on Sunday, August 6th. Given that the majority might be seen as “retro” in using prims, the title – Future – might seem a little odd. But there is more to this build than may at first appear to be the case.

The core of the build is a series of windowed, concrete-like towers rising from a huge metal base. These are connected by metal “wires” which runs up out of the base, from walls and rooftops – and even support a number of these blocks as they stand above the base platform. Resistor-like elements in them suggest the wires might be some kind of electrical circuit.

Cica Ghost – Future

More of the wires arc over the build, and spheres slowly ride some of these, just as some of the “resistors” run back and forth along some of the horizontal segments. The idea that these wires conduct electrical current is further heightened by the way they appear to be insulated where they join with the tower structures, and by flickering lightning-like arcs zapping between some of the roof-top “resistors”.

It’s a strange, industrial landscape, largely grey in nature, set under a grey sky and surrounded by grey water where, rather incongruously, the mesh dragon raises its head, Nessie-like. A checker board landscape also rises hump-backed from the waters in places, and offers a dry path from the landing point to the installation, as well as places from which more of the wires rise into the sky. But what does it all mean?

Cica Ghost – Future

That’s the open question, and I’d venture to suggest that the answer lies in the quote Cica gives for the installation: If you don’t imagine, nothing ever happens at all. It comes from Paper Towns by John Green, and on one level it sits as an invitation for use to imagine for ourselves what Future might represent.  But there is also more to it, particularly when considered along with the other essential element of the installation: the audio stream.

Featuring much of the extended soundtrack from Blade Runner, the audio is something which must be listened to when touring the installation. Cica selected the sound track because she likes it, rather than it having a specific relationship with the build, or meaning within it. However, it naturally completes the build, adding a further sense of depth to it, and presence within it.

Cica Ghost – Future

What is interesting here – to me at least – is that Green’s quote from Paper Towns is essentially about identity and discovery; Blade Runner is strongly focused on the same issues – identity and discovery (the Replicants and who / what they are and have been / might be). Thus, when combined, they offer us even more of an invitation to examine, explore and consider Future and what it might mean to us.

Cica has a gift for making whimsical, evocative and thought-provoking installations. Future definitely sits within the latter category, and could well have you visiting and pondering for longer than you might have expected!

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  • Future (Seth Island, rated Moderate)

Cica’s Fade Away in Second Life

Cica Ghost – Fade Away

Fade Away is the name of Cica Ghost’s latest region-wide installation, which opened on May 5th, 2017. The title is drawn from a quote by Bob Dylan, “Some people seem to fade away but then when they are truly gone, it’s like they didn’t fade away at all.” It’s a quote from his 2004 memoirs, Chronicles 1,  which ostensibly looks back on his arrival in New York and immersion into Greenwich Village life.

It’s a quote which has tended to be used as a reflection of mortality, the passage of time and / or the sometimes transient nature of relationships. It is a fitting foundation for this installation, which is a deeply personal piece for Cica, for reasons those who know her are aware, and which I’m not about to reveal here without her permission. Suffice it to say, the meaning behind it is something with which we all identify at certain points in our lives.

Cica Ghost – Fade Away

Within a ghostly, misted landscape sits a bedroom, part of an old house, where a gaunt figure has apparently just risen from bed. An alarm clock states the time is some ten minutes before six. As we watch another version of the figure fades into view, apparently departing the room, looking over his shoulder, and down along a path, more versions of the figure fade in and out of view, copies of the alarm clock still frozen at ten before six sit close by, until the figure reaches a pair of wooden gates set within a rickety fence.

Nor is this all; outside of the house, and along part of the route, ghoulish creatures appear to watch and mock the figure’s progress, while he also passes through groups of cloaked figures, apparently caught in their own world. One more of these hooded figures sits apart from the rest, before a table, two cats providing him with company. Another alarm clock sits close by, also showing the same time.

Cica Ghost – Fade Away

Symbolism here is heavy – but what does it all mean? Perhaps the answer lies with a lone figure of a woman standing to one side of these various tableaux. She stands separated from them by the rickety fence the lone figure appears to be making his way without ever actually arriving, watching his progress.

Is the fence perhaps a metaphor, the dividing like between the woman’s physical presence in the world, and her memories of someone no longer in her life? If so, this perhaps makes the various tableaux across the rest of the region memories of that loved one, and his passage through (her) life. If so, might the hooded figures perhaps be more distant remembrances of time spent with him, echoes from deep within memory? As Dylan also said, “I’ll let you be in my dreams, if I can be in yours.”

Cica Ghost – Fade Away

Life is transient; however we feel about ourselves and those around us, we – and they – are only mortal. This would seem to be the message within the ghoulish characters gathered around the house. But at the same time, there is more to each of us than our physical presence, although that is often the most missed.  Through memories, we can hold on to those dear to us, however they have moved on from their physical presence in our lives so that, to one again use Dylan’s words, “when they are truly gone, it’s like they didn’t fade away at all.”

Fade Away is a poignant, heartfelt piece, rich in symbolism and deep in personal meaning, deserving to be seen and contemplated.

Cica Ghost – Fade Away

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Cica’s Frogs in Second Life

Cica Ghost: Frogs
Cica Ghost: Frogs

Frogs, Cica Ghost’s latest region-wide installation in Second Life opened on Sunday, February 5th. After the poignant, provocative Burning (which you can read about here), Frogs sees Cica in a lighter mood, with a little play on fairy stories – albeit with a little touch of pathos.

Across one of Cica’s familiar undulating landscapes sits a huge house. Or at least, part of a huge house. We’ll return to that in a moment.  A few trees, some a little scrawny, others tall or fat, are scattered across the landscape, some with their trunks ringed by flat circles of round stones. But these hold the attention for the first few seconds after arrival, before eyes are drawn inevitably to the frogs of the title. Given their size, they are a little hard to miss!

Cica Ghost: Frogs
Cica Ghost: Frogs

By default, seven of the amphibians occupy the region, sitting either individually or in little groups, their croaking filling the air as they bounce up and down on their hind legs as little children might seem to rise and fall when suffering a bad case of hiccups.  All of them crouch with forelegs folded over the top of pot bellies, mere bumps caught between belly and folds of fleshy throats. Wide-eyed and horned, six of these frogs are green, while the seventh sits alone and aloof, upon the stump of a tree. Its skin glistening and brown, it stares out to sea unaware that it is being watched by one of Cica’s crows, also perched on a tree stump.

It’s a wonderful, whimsical sight – although it is hard to know quite what to make of it on first sight. But then the fact that it brings a smile to one’s lips, and the opportunity to join in the fun by donning the free frog avatar Cica provides at the landing point, and go hopping off across the landscape is reason enough to simply enjoy the moment.

Cica Ghost: Frogs
Cica Ghost: Frogs

It is at the aforementioned huge wall where the mood shifts. The side facing the landing point has a little girl dressed in a simply knitted dress, feet shod in heavy boots, drawing what might be a self-portrait upon it: a little girl dreaming of a prince who might sweep her away to a different life. On the far side of the wall (touch the huge door if it is not open when you arrive), we catch a glimpse of her threadbare life, complete with an image of times past.

The juxtaposition between the poignancy surrounding the little girl and the whimsy of the frogs is striking, while the link to childhood fairy stories so subtle it might at first glance be overlooked – but it is there. If you need more convincing of the connection between little girls and the frogs hop (so to speak) onto the table in front of her little girl, and make a choice. Might it even be that the lone brown frog is, in her imagination, an enchanted prince, hence its difference to the rest of the frogs on the island?

Cica Ghost: Frogs
Cica Ghost: Frogs

Frogs is another gem from Cica, offering a gentle blending of humour and pathos, where visitors themselves can become a part of the scene. Should you pay a visit, do offer a donation towards Cica’s work so more delights like this can be shared.

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  • Frogs (Aggramar, rated:  Moderate)

Cica’s Burning and poetic musings in Second Life

Cica Ghost: Burning
Cica Ghost: Burning

Burning is the title of Cica Ghost’s latest region-wide build, which opened on Sunday, January 15th. It is a piece which stands in contrast to several of her recent builds in that it is of a darker tone and style. Under a lowering, cloud-heavy sky, lit by a distant sunset, a town burns. The land around it is scorched and aflame, ashen tree trunks, bereft of branches and leaves, point to the heavy sky like gnarled, accusative fingers.

Within the town, the tall buildings are charred, their pain blistered and blackened as flames lick doorways and windows. Some walls carry some of Cica’s usually light and happy stick figures, which here are cast in a new role as poignant reminders that this was once a happier place. A single bridge spans what might be the parched bed of a vanished body of water, offering a way into – or perhaps an escape route out of – the conflagration.

Cica Ghost: Burning
Cica Ghost: Burning

The who, what, how and why of the fire’s origin are not revealed. The burning landscape and buildings are an open page on which we can write our own view of what has occurred. However, with all that is going on in the physical world, coupled with the general presentation of Burning, it tends to cause the name Aleppo to spring to mind. So is Burning perhaps a political commentary?

Possibly. But before we decide or judge, Cica provides a possible clue to interpreting the work. It comes in the form of a quote: time is the fire in which we burn. It’s part of a line from  a 1938 poem by Delmore Schwartz entitled, Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day (also sometimes called For Rhoda), which is by coincidence, a poem I know quite well. In it, Schwartz records how we go about our daily lives largely unaware of the uncontrollable passage of time and the fact that, with every moment, we are closer to our own deaths and the deaths of those we love. From childhood through adulthood, we are so often caught within the minutiae of our lives that we lose track of all that is really important – or should be; only in our closing years do we realise what has happened – by which time all may lie burnt by time.

Cica Ghost: Burning
Cica Ghost: Burning

So is Cica presenting us with a philosophical piece with Burning? “I didn’t know about the poem,” she told me, “But I came across the line while searching for quotes about fire, and it fitted what I wanted to say.”

The quote in question attributed the line as coming from a character in the movie Star Trek Generations, hence why Cica didn’t make the connection. However, she has perfectly captured the tone and meaning of Schwartz’s poem as a whole, from the melancholy through to the way in which we do hurry through our lives – as exemplified by the visitors Caitlyn and I sat and watched from one of several perches in the installation (hover your mouse around to find them) as they hurried back and forth through the buildings and trees before vanishing.

Cica Ghost: Burning
Cica Ghost: Burning

That Cica has captured all of the nuance within Calmly We Walk…. may have been serendipitous, spinning outward from that one line from the poem, but that doesn’t matter. Serendipity is often the cousin to artistic expression, and the pairing of the installation with the entire poem broadens our understanding and appreciation of Burning. It also perhaps sits with that image of Aleppo which pops into the mind when first arriving. Schwartz wrote his poem shortly before the outbreak of World War 2, a time when towns and cities burned and lives  – and generations – were shattered; thus another layer of poignancy is added to the installation.

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  • Burning (Aggramar, rated:  Moderate)