Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor is the latest immersive installation by Frankx Lefavre. Like all of his work, it is deep in imagery and symbolism, but it is also and in difference to his previous works, a very personal piece.
“Serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the primary drug used to treat anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Last December, I was given a LEA grant for 2016. By January, I was suffering major attacks of anxiety and panic leading to depression. This is the resultant build,” Frankx says candidly of the piece.
The result is a piece that is deeply immersive installation making extensive use of projected lights and colours (so you’ll need to have ALM enabled in your viewer). In entering it, you are literally entering the artist’s mind, and witnessing first hand the tumult and confusion of a mind in turmoil and at odds with itself. Light, colour and sculptures all conveying the sweep of emotions: the helpless sense of falling; the demons of the subconscious looming over all thoughts and feelings, and the desire for calm and emotional stability, which is perhaps symbolised by the image of Buddha located on one side of the installation.
Such is the evocative richness within the piece, it really is one to be experienced, rather than witnessed in words and still images. For those who have experienced Frankx’s situation, there is perhaps catharsis and a demonstration that there is healing and release. for those fortunate to nave never trod this path, there is the opportunity for insight into what it is like, something one would hope foster greater understanding in our response to those suffering from anxiety, fear and panic.
Given it is a visual piece, I’m not going to say too much more about it here, other than to strongly urge people to hop over the LEA 23 and see it first hand. instead, I’ll leave you with a video in the hope that it will encourage you to do so. This is a truly extraordinary piece of art.
I’m a long-standing admirer of Frankx Lefarve’s art in Second Life; he’s a master of immersive art, using light, colour and particles with intricate designs with the appearance of glass to create extraordinary environments which captivate the eye and gently play with the mind. His latest work, Glass and Light Breakwave, which is open through until at least the end of November 2015, stands as a further demonstration of his art and skill.
I first became aware of Frankx’s work almost two years ago, at the start of 2014, when I entered his realm of glass and light for the first time. since then, we’ve become friends and I’ve been fortunate enough to witness his work at several installations, such as Insidious and Quilia. However, it is with that first installation I visited back in January 2014 that Glass and Light Breakwave shares the closest relationship; so much so, that is it possible to see echoes of the former in the current piece, as see just how much further Frankx’s expression and creativity have evolved.
To try to describe a piece like this is impossible; as an immersive environment it really has to be experienced first. Those who do remember his earlier glass and light works and Frankx’s alien landscapes will likely recognise certain motifs within this installation, which seems to bring together a number of ideas and melds them into a unified whole, mesh, prims, particles, colour and light blending to create a fully three-dimensional installation best experienced by flying in Mouselook mode or, if you have a Space Navigator or suitable controller, via flycam.
What I will say about Glass and Light Breakwave is that it is an installation that should not be missed, as I hope the short video below demonstrates.
Art is always well represented at SLB events, and 2015 is no exception; there are a lot of art focused parcels scattered throughout the celebratory regions, as well as those which have been judged by the organisers to be worthy of special recognition.
It’s fair to say that the event can offer a great introduction to the many and varied forms of artistic expression that can be found within Second Life, and such is the range of art on display throughout SL12B, I’m not going to attempt to cover everything; rather what I offer here are some of the parcels that I’ve particularly enjoyed visiting this year, and why.
Digital mischief maker Loki Eliot is one of Second Life’s great creative talents – his magnificent cake stage from SL11BCC remains one of the stand-out build from 2014, while his SL10BCC Behemoth will long stand in people’s memory, combining originality, mesh, storytelling and metaphor into one of the most entertaining visits of the 2013 celebrations.
This year, he uses the forthcoming Experience Keys to take people on a journey; a story combining drawings, mesh constructions, voice and imagination to demonstrate the freedom Second Life gives people to rediscover the joys of childhood and childhood dreams, and show just why child avatars are so popular within the platform.
He does so with a beautiful story visitors are invited to travel through and share; a story without the need to couch anything in matters of unhappy childhoods or metaphor or anything else; but which rather shows the unbridled joy of escape that can be found, of sharing something which – for whatever reason may have been lost or denied at an earlier age. In doing so, he also blows away the fog of misconception surrounding people’s self-expression through child avatars and offers a gentle, engaging challenge to those who persist in looking upon other who use child avatars with doubt and suspicion. This is a brilliant and captivating piece, and one that should not be overlooked by anyone visiting SL12BCC.
Juliana Lethdetter – Second Life Maps
I first visited Juliana’s marvellous collection of Second Life Maps back in 2012 (you can read about that visit here). For anyone remotely interested in Second Life’s history, it is a must-see destination (and one overdue for an update visit for this blog!). So it was with delight that I found her display at SL12B enjoying a prominent position just across the road from the main auditorium building.
In many respects, the idea that Second Life is a world is actually an illusion; while we can cross the mainland continents, and in some cases travel between continents and some estates, it simply is not possible to travel the entire “world” without resorting to the use of of the teleport – even, at times, for the simple act of visiting a neighbouring region.
But, the fact is that the illusion is a consensual one; we all freely engage in it; and through it, we gain more of a sense of place within Second life than might otherwise be the case. The rich diversity of maps which have been created over the years, both by the Lab and by residents, is both testament to the power of this consensual illusion, and a means of really understanding just how vast and diverse this digital realm really is – as Juliana beautifully reminds us:
The collective dreaming of Second Life Residents past and present
has resulted in the creation of a unique consensual reality:
a shared imaginal space far greater than the sum of its individual parts.
When it comes to SL photography, I wish I had just an ounce of the talent Ziki Questi consistently displays in her work. She has a eye for subject, composition, depth of field, colour, and framing that always has me in awe.
Matter and Memory presents a series of Ziki’s images captured from around Second Life between 2011 and 2015, which range from landscapes through unique takes on art installations through to the “not possible in real life” category, where the builds and creations to be found in Second Life far outstrip anything to be imagined or created in the physical world.
The images displayed represent regions past and present, offering something of a glimpse of Second Life’s history through the lens of an exceptional photographer, all of which are shown in what is, for me, one of the most visually appealing pavilions in SL12B, designed Anthony (ADudeNamed Anthony).
I first became enamoured of Frankx Lefavre’s work at the start of 2014, when he participated in the LEA’s “interim” series of installations, and I met him at the piece he’d built which he informally called “light and glass” (and about which you can read here). Since that time, I’ve reported on a number of his set pieces at the Linden Endowment for the Arts, and for the 8th round of the LEA’s Artist in Residence series, he is back once more, with arguably one of his most ambitious projects yet – and one which was bound to grab my attention.
Cocytus: the 9th Circle of Hell, now open at LEA 18, is a dramatic 3D representation of the ninth and lowest of the circles of hell Durante degli Alighieri wrote about in Inferno, the first cantica of his Divine Comedy. This is the resting place – if such a term might be used – of those who have committed treachery or acts of fraud, and within it are four “rounds” leading inwards, and through which Dante travels with his guide, Virgil. Within each round, and according to the form of their treachery, are the souls of the damned, buried in ice to varying degrees, from semi-submerged through to completely entombed.
The four rounds of Cocytus are described by Dane as, Caina (after Cain from the Bible), where can be found those who betray their blood relatives; Antenora (after Antenor), where can be found those who betray their county; Ptolomea (after Ptolemy, the governor of Jericho) where can be found those who betray their guests; and Judecca (after Judas Iscariot), where can be found those who betray their benefactors and masters. At the very centre of this round lies Satan, bound up to the waist in ice.
Visitors to Cocytus: the 9th Circle of Hell take something of Dante’s journey through the Cocytus of Inferno, starting with their arrival in a dramatic, desolate landscape dominated by a red-rimmed Sun which fixes them with a baleful stare. A slender wooden bridge directs people to a path which zig-zags down to the maw of a cavern, and the first of the rounds of of which Dante wrote.
The path through the installation is also a zig-zag, and the windlights should change progressively as you make your why through the four rounds – I’ve used different lighting in the images here for effect). They are atmospheric in tone, but you may need to pick your way with care to avoid blind turns or dead ends. There are some torches along the way to mark a part of the path, so keep an eye out for them, and a further wooden bridge will bring you to the innermost round.
While representing Dante’s work, in a vivid manner, Frankx also takes a couple of diversions as well – his Satan is not the three-faced beast Dante witnessed, for example – which is not to say it is any the less imposing. More particularly, where Dante saw Cocytus as a frozen lake, Frankx’s use of the path through the caverns and over the four icy rounds gives the impression one is following the course of a frozen river, albeit one broken by sections of hard stone. In this way, the ice here carries an echo of the original Cocytus, the river of lamentation (or wailing) in Greek mythology, and one of the five rivers surrounding Hades.
This is the second interpretation of Dante’s Inferno I’ve seen mounted at the LEA, the first being Rebeca Bashly’s Inferno in October 2011, which marked the inaugural AIR / LEA installation. Like that installation, Cocytus: the 9th Circle of Hell is an involved and beautifully executed representation of of Dante’s poem. It will be open through until the end of June, and a visit is recommended.
I’ve become something of a fan of Frankx Lefarve’s work over the last couple of years, and always look forward to his installations. They are invariably thought-provoking and beautiful in both design and execution.
This month, he is once more back at LEA18, the location for his last LEA piece, Insidious: the Spread of Ideas, which I reviewed here. Now, and open through until the end of the year, he brings us Qualia: The Sentience of Being, which takes as its basis Frank Jackson’s thought experiment, Mary’s Room.
Jackson, a philosopher best known for his primary focus of studying philosophy of mind, epistemology, metaphysics, and meta-ethics, offered Mary’s Room as a philosophical illustration of his argument against physicalism, the thesis that the universe is entirely “physical” in nature, consisting only of the kind of entities postulated by physics.
In Jackson’s experiment, Mary is a brilliant scientist forced to investigate the world from a black-and-white room. and via a black-and-white monitor. However, she is able to acquire all the physical information she needs to understand the concepts of colour, and the ability to comprehend the wavelength combinations from the sky which stimulate the eye and, in doing so, lead to the various nervous interactions which result in our uttering the phrase, “the sky is blue”, and so on. Thus, she has all the physical knowledge to understand the world beyond her monochromatic room, and to acknowledge the physical interactions that go on within it. But is this really the sum total of the universe beyond her room, and in acquiring the physical knowledge, has she reached the fullest extent of her learning? Thus, Jackson asks:
What will happen when Mary is released from her black and white room or is given a colour television monitor? Will she learn anything or not? It seems just obvious that she will learn something about the world and our visual experience of it. But then is it inescapable that her previous knowledge was incomplete. But she had all the physical information. Ergo there is more to have than that, and Physicalism is false.
With Frankx’s piece, the visitor initially arrives in Mary’s room, beyond which lies a world of colour and movement, accessed by approaching one of four walls in the room, which will open automatically. Which wall you opt to open first is up to you; they are marked with various items: Buddha (which you face on arrival), clock, mosaic and lightning, but the order in which they are taken is not necessarily important. Be aware that the walls may be a tad slow in responding as you approach them.
Outside of each wall, set against the backdrop of the universe, are walkways, each of which leads to spaces, guarded by what might be called star gates through which you must pass to fully see see beyond them. In certain ways, these might be said to echo the discoveries Mary might have made following her exit from her observation space. Four example, in one, there are elements of red, perhaps signifying the ripening tomato Jackson mentions and, more subliminally in shape and colour, the heart, our engine of life; in others we see flashes of blues and yellows as we step into them, suggestive of the sky, and so on.
This is a deceptively complex piece, one slightly Bowman-esque in its leanings (Bowman as in, “My God, it’s full of stars!”) if handled correctly. The simplest route through the work is to travel back and forth from the black-and-white room, visiting each of the main segments in turn. However, there is another way, pointed-to in the introductory note card, and which I recommend.
There is a transparent path connecting each of the four main segments which leads one through the intervening geometric forms spaced in a circle between them. You may need to use CTRL-ALT-T at times to see the path (I recommend toggling on and off when needed; otherwise the red interferes with the installation). This will take you on an unfolding journey through the installation which may well lead to an entirely different perspective.
I have no idea if echoes of David Bowman’s journey through the star gate of 2001: A Space Odyssey is intentional or simply a case of my own projection onto the piece. However, it seemed to resonate with the overall theme of the work; that there is more to our universe than can be adequately explained by our understanding of the physical. Indeed, to go further, that our discovery of such other things – up to and including intelligences far superior to our own – might actually redefine our understanding of the “physical”, just as in Jackson’s thought experiment, Mary’s experiences in the world of colour may have reshaped her perceptions.
Frankx Lefavre’s latest installation at LEA18 may have been put together at relatively short notice after the intended artist had presumably dropped out of the current round of the LEA’s Artist In Residence grants, but it is nevertheless a fascinating piece offering a wonderful breadth and depth of interpretation.
Insidious: The Spread of Ideas presents the visitor with a very alien environment. Around you is a strange, faceted green sky, while the ground beyond the very human-looking walled terrace on which you land is a vivid blue-green, suggestive of a sea frozen in time, waves caught mid-swell. Scattered across it are other indications of former civilisation: collapsed walls, a meandering footpath, and a huge, crystalline form carved into the likeness of a human head.
Across this landscape spreads a strange tangle of organic-looking growths, reaching outwards from the great monolith and curving around the landscape as if to enfold into slowly spreading arms. Nor is this all, as ranged between these tangled arms, stand creatures for whom the term alien is entirely appropriate.
Whether the landscape is that of Earth in the far-flung future, or another world elsewhere in the cosmos in unimportant; all that matters is that it had once been the home to humans. For a time it had been theirs, but that time has long passed. Whether civilisation here had faltered and failed or moved to other stars and other planets, makes no difference. All that remains are their ideas; stored for the ages to come within a great monolith, carved in their likeness, awaiting others…
And others have come. So much like us in their curiosity to explore the cosmos around them, yet so unalike in look and form. Perhaps they sought to study the strange monolith; or perhaps it was simply the passage of time and the weakening of age. Whatever the reason, the human ideas have escaped their confines, and now they spread across this otherworldly landscape, growing, spreading like tangled vines. They call to those who have come, drawing them to the monolith; infecting their thoughts, reshaping their ideals and goals, supplanting them. Like a contagion, human ideas will survive; they are insidious.
Is the crystalline head, in which the ideas can be seen shifting, writhing, turning, growing, through the magic of ribbon particles, a honey trap? Did it lure these creatures to it and encourage them to build their stairways up to it and breach its walls to give the ideas within freedom? Or is their presence purely happenstance, the spread of ideas as organic forms already having begun long before their arrival? You decide.
That ideas can seem like an infection invading us, is not so strange; when struck by an idea, we can react in an excited almost feverish manner. Thus this installation has something of a resonance for us on a purely natural level. But there is also a lot more here as well; the hint of racial immortality, that in the distant future humankind might outlive its own extinction by infecting other races with its thoughts, ideas, desires, emotions. This brings with it shades of the age-old debate on whether or not humans are planetary parasites, adding a whole new twist to such ideas.
Beyond offering multiple interpretations (which tend to grow the longer you explore – just like the ideas within the build are intended to be growing), this piece is fascinating for its use of mesh – Frankx tells me some 90% of the installation is mesh – to create a very organic look to the environment and the aliens themselves. Ribbon particle effects are also put to good use here as well, as mentioned above, so it is worthwhile taking a little time in explorations to discover them; those not wishing to walk can ride on buglike buggies. Do keep an eye out for the fish as well…
An absorbing installation which will be open through until the end of July as a part of the current round of LEA grants.