Bamboo’s reflections of reality in Second Life

Kondor Art Centre, April 2022: Bamboo Barnes – Metaphysics

Bamboo Barnes has a new exhibition, one that opened at Hermes Kondor’s main gallery at the Kondor Art Centre on April 14th, and like all of her work, it is a rich collection of images that offer food for thought through a presentation of vibrant colour and imagery.

Entitled Metaphysics, it offers a visual reflection of the themes explored through the branch of philosophy that shares the same name: the study the nature of being and identity; of causality, and possibility; of space and time; of consciousness and the relationships between mind and matter; of potentiality and actuality. In other words, the fundamental nature of reality.

Kondor Art Centre, April 2022: Bamboo Barnes – Metaphysics

Or to put it another way, metaphysics asks questions such as Who Am I? Who are you? What is there? What is it like? Through her words and images, Bamboo offers her own explorations of these questions. Her words set the frame for the exhibition, her paintings and images standing visual essays on the ideas she presents in her words.

Though I’ve never drowned
There is a sense of drowning.
In a crowded train.
You are the only one on the train.
In the life of the person next to me.
His parents, whom I will probably never cross paths with, his family, whom I have never met, his childhood memories, joys and sorrows.
His family’s very separate friends, jobs, partners, and the loneliness and past they carry with them.
I am alone in the midst of it all, like a spreading ant’s nest.
I drown in it, the dark and bright air constricting me, and I gradually become a black spot.
Unable to open my eyes, I continue to watch the black dots disappear.

Kondor Art Centre, April 2022: Bamboo Barnes – Metaphysics

Thus, within the images we might find commentary on the nature of self; the causality of emotions on perception and outlook, and vice versa. And, ultimately whether we are ever really or genuinely joined as beings or is it merely an illusion brought about by these more esoteric interactions?

Because, how can we really be joined, share, unite, when ultimately, a part of us – our true inner self – forever stands apart, an observer, aloof, separated, able to ponder those questions free from the influences they seek to explore, but which actually govern and encompass every passing moment of life? A core being that forever sets us apart within ourselves; a part of society’s nest, but separated from it.

Kondor Art Centre, April 2022: Bamboo Barnes – Metaphysics

The images themselves are typical of Bamboo’s style: a marvellous mix of colour and form, each one captivating and eloquent in its expression of life and content, making this a further exhibition to be enjoyed for the art in its own sake, as well as for Bamboo’s explorations of self and reality.

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Lori Bailey and Lam Erin at Kondor Art Garden in Second Life

Kondor Art Garden, January 2022

Now open at the Kondor Art Garden, located within the Kondor Art Centre operated by Hermes Kondor, is double-header exhibition featuring the landscape art of Lori Bailey (Ishtara1) and Lam Erin.

The Garden has been a regular exhibition space at Kondor since the centre opened, but it has been recently given a completely new look by Naru Darkwatch on behalf of Hermes to present a striking new exhibition space. Gone is the central event space surrounded by a path and a space for images to be places, with a stage at one end and an additional open display space at the other. Instead, the gardens present a central events space, bounded by two pools of water around which gravel paths loop. Predominantly constructed using Alex Bader’s Zen Garden building kit, it is a space I immediately felt at home within, both because Alex’s kit is a personal favourite of mine and because the design reminded me of the open-air area display spaces I built using it and on behalf of the Phoenix Artists Collaboration.

Kondor Art Garden: Lori Bailey (Ishtara1)

This much larger design means that the garden can now easily feature two exhibitions of art, each centred on one of its two halves, or potentially a single large exhibition by an artist, their being plenty of room on the outside of each path as it loops around its respective water feature to display both 2D or 3D art as the need arises. Given both Lori and Lam specialise in landscape works, the garden is especially well suited to this joint exhibition.

I believe this is the first exhibition I’ve been to in which Lori’s art is very much centre stage. Occupying the northern end of the gardens, it presents some 15 pieces, all with a focus on water, and most taken during the later part of the day when the Sun is low on the horizon. However, what makes all of them particularly engaging is the manner in which Lori has used light, shadows and reflections, together with a very considered hand in post-processing to give us images that, while shot within the digital realm of Second Life, could so easily have been captured in the wilds of Canada or the United States or perhaps Scandinavia or northern Europe – and in one case, somewhere in the far south Atlantic.

Kondor Art Garden: Lori Bailey (Ishtara1)

These are pieces which, in terms of tone, balance and colour, capture a natural beauty that is far from the world of pixels and rendering engines. In looking at Dawn for example, it is hard not to think we are looking at a picture taken from aboard a survey vessel cruising along the coast of Antarctica (or maybe somewhere like South Georgia).

Sitting further along the same side, Remoteness, Duo and Transparency bring forth thoughts of a long walk along the banks of one of Canada’s wilderness rivers and what might be encountered along the way. Each image offers a scene so beautifully composed, it is hard not to get lost within it, whilst within others, narrative stir and entice us – perhaps the most evocative laying curled within Childhood Memories of Winter and Golden Hour.

Kondor Art Garden: Lam Erin

Lam Erin is an individual whose work I have covered numerous times in this blog, both as the holder / creator of his Cherishville region designs and as a master of Second Life landscape photography. His work is almost always immediately recognisable due to the richness of colour he tends to present – a deliberate over-saturation of the colours of the Sun – and the processing of the clouds within his images to give them an often brooding sense of presence, so often stirring thoughts of Nature’s power and her sometimes capricious nature.

This is very much evident within the majority of the 11 pieces Lam offers here, images perfectly composed to convey a mood within their setting, the cloudscapes most clearly hinting at the narrative each picture contains. And even in those where the colour has been removed, leaving us with a monochromatic view of Lam’s world, the clouds continue to speak out and frame the image and its story.

Kondor Art Garden: Lam Erin

Were I to critique this joint exhibition at all, it would be in the size of the individual images. They are pieces whose beauty deserves to be writ large, but within the expanse of this garden, there is a risk that, without close examination, they might be overwhelmed. However, this does not detract from both halves of this exhibition from being thoroughly engaging and well worth the time taken to visit them.

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Clau Dagger’s Awakening in Second Life

Kondor Art Centre – Into the Future Gallery: Clau Dagger

January 6th 2022 saw the opening of Awakening, an exhibition of art by Clau Dagger, which is being held at the Into The Future Art Gallery, a part of the Kondor Art Centre, operated by Hermes Kondor.

Specialising in avatar studies, Clau is an artist photographer whose work I’ve not previously seen exhibited in-world, but who has – as this exhibition demonstrates – a talent for creating images that not only present her avatar, but offer an entire story within – and beyond – their frame. As someone who always tends to look for a narrative within a picture, this makes her work particularly fascinating to me.

Kondor Art Centre – Into the Future Gallery: Clau Dagger

Comprising over 30 images spread across the three levels of the gallery building, the art within Awakening presents an visually engaging mix of studies that are richly expressive in terms of their colour and presentation, and which offer a range of themes and stories. From “simple” pictures celebrating the seasons, through to those focused on fantasy, horror, science fiction and glamour, with dips into literature and film, this is a collection that will capture the eye and offer a richness of story that extends will beyond the framing of each picture on its own.

While there are many who practice the art of avatar study and in creating single-frame stories with their images; Clau’s work stands apart in the level of detail presented in each piece. From backdrop through props, to angle, framing, focus and pose, everything within each picture is brought together not just the create an image, but to create a world that lives beyond the limits of each image.

Kondor Art Centre – Into the Future Gallery: Clau Dagger

One aspect of this “larger than the frame” story aspect of Clau’s work is her conscious directing of her avatar’s eyes. Rather than looking out of the image towards the camera, Clau frequently directs her avatar’s gaze to a point off-camera, with the rest of her avatar’s pose set to suggest a reaction to something out-of-frame and entirely separate to the camera’s position. This gives these pieces – such as Ritual Night, Holy Gral [sic] and Cabell (as three examples) – a cinematic feel, we are caught in a moment of something wider, that were the camera pan around, we’d see more of the story and the action would resume.

Another factor that brings a number of these pieces to life is their richness of colour. Often with avatar studies, there is a tendency to tone down colour in post-processing an image, to add “natural” haze or “natural” light. While this is true in several of the pieces within this exhibit, there are also pieces here where the colour has either been left untouched or perhaps enhanced (e.g. Supernatural, Under the Holiday Tree, Spring Fae and Metamorphosis) that further intensifies their framing and story.

Kondor Art Centre – Into the Future Gallery: Clau Dagger

All of which makes for an exhibition that is genuinely worth visiting, one that lifts avatar studies to a new dimension of expression.

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Scylla’s study of the Virtual Toxic in Second Life

Kondor Art Square: Scylla Rhiadra – Virtual Toxic
Elven Years ago, I opened a new exhibit that tackled the subject of representations of gender violence in Second Life entitled Is This Turning You On? About a month and a half ago, Hermes Kondor asked me if I’d be willing to return to the subject of toxicity and hypocrisy within Second Life.  This exhibit is the result.

– Scylla Rhiadra, introducing Virtual Toxic

Thus reads the introduction to Virtual Toxic, what will be for some, an uncomfortable exhibition at the Kondor Art Square.

Without a doubt, whilst Second Life offers a lot that is positive in life – physical or virtual; however, it also attracts the more negative aspects of human behaviour. And while other platforms also suffer from their own forms of toxicity, negativity and hypocrisy, the fact that Second Life does offer the means for positive immersion leads Scylla to frame this exhibition around a central question:

Why do we persist in replicating the flaws and toxicity of our sublunary physical existence in the virtual world as well? We can literally fly here. Why then do we fetter ourselves to the dark places on the ground?
Kondor Art Square: Scylla Rhiadra – Virtual Toxic

Thus we are presented with a baker’s dozen of images that deal with what can be seen as the more toxic – or at least darker – attitudes that can be expressed through words and activities in-world.

Virtual Toxic starts in the north-east corner of the square with Imagine Dark, a piece that offers a narrative on the fact that in entering Second Life, we are presented with multiple opportunities for discovery and expression, light and dark – and ask the question as to which we might chose. From here, the remaining images progress clockwise around the edge of the square with the last sitting in the centre. Each has a particular focus on behaviours and activities that all have an uncomfortable edge to them – sugar daddy / baby girl role-play, direct violence, rape “play”, the objectification of the female, and more. Each comes with its own text element offering  either direct or narrative context.

Each image and its associated text is provocative in the statement offered for us to consider; statements that – due to the fact they are based on physical world situations, attitudes, outlooks, activities – obviously extend beyond the virtual and challenge us to think more deeply and broadly about how we interact with one another and why we might chose to engage in actions that are in the physical world abhorrent to us and / or why we opt to display toxic / hurtful attitudes towards others.

Kondor Art Square: Scylla Rhiadra – Virtual Toxic

The former of these aspects is duly noted in one of the three information panels on the exhibit in the centre of the square (Some Important Disclaimers), which should be read when visiting the exhibit. The latter is perhaps most clearly defined in the south-east corner of the square, and the pieces My Name Is… and Gaslit.

Within the former we see reflected the fact that there are some who have an unwillingness to view others as equals / individuals with thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc; the avatar stands with face blotted out by the word Whatever. It’s a term that can have both positive and negative implications – and here is the usage is reflective of the negative / passive-aggressive form (as in, “I don’t care about you or what you have to say or feel”). Gaslit, meanwhile, references our use of words to manipulate others into self-doubt or (possibly) taking an action they’d normally avoid.

Kondor Art Square: Scylla Rhiadra – Virtual Toxic

Offered for public consumption to overlap with the UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, which draws to a close on December 10th, 2021, a campaign specifically focuses on violence and abusive acts against women (1 in 3 of whom, globally, will be subjected to violent abuse at least once in her life, with that abuse extending well into digital environments, as seen through the likes of Gamergate), Virtual Toxic is an arresting exhibition. However, it is not polemic; in asking its questions – most clearly exemplified by the 13th image, Why? at the centre of the art square – it invites us to view, read and consider what is presented without undue sway on the part of the artist.

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Sensual wings and written reflections in Second Life

Kondor Art Centre: Lika Cameo – One Thousand Wings

November 25th marked the opening of a new exhibition at the Kondor Art Centre, curated by Hermes Kondor, of a themed selection of images and words by Lika Cameo (LikaCameo) that is utterly extraordinary in its presentation of art, introspection / reflection and in its presentation style.

One Thousand Wings takes as its foundation, the major part of a quote from Virginia Woolf:

[Lock up your libraries if you like;] but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.

– Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Within that essay – the result of two lectures she delivered in October 1928 to the women’s constituent colleges of Newnham and Girton at Cambridge University, England – Woolf sought to explore social injustices and comment on women’s lack of free expression that existed at the time. This quote is joined by a verse by artist Erin Hanson:

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?

– Erin Hanson

Kondor Art Centre: Lika Cameo – One Thousand Wings

While there are some core against various views Woolf expresses within that essay, Lika uses the quote from her essay, and the words by Hanson to explore what it means to freely express emotions in a century that has started to feel as if our freedoms are being increasingly being constrained by intolerance and when life has been constrained by a global pandemic, complete with a layering of what freedom means to her.

In doing this, Lika presents trios of avatar studies, all utilising the same pose and with a motif of wings, each piece finished individual to its partners. This approach leads to three images that, whilst all identical in terms of posing and motif, offer three pieces that offer a vastly different sense of depth, focus and emotions.

Accompanying them is a piece of prose  / blank verse (by either Lika or possibly Zakk Bifrandt, it’s not entirely clear) that offers an outlook / sense of emotion or thought that works to both complement and compliment the images.

Kondor Art Centre: Lika Cameo – One Thousand Wings

Complement, because the text can be taken as a whole with each version of the image and the trio as a whole, forming pairings with each image, working with the subtle differences in presentation and finish to tell a unique story of reflection / emotion. Compliment, because whether taken as pairings or as set of four panels, they together form a whole, works balancing image(s).  Each set of images is further reflected in animated double-sided panels that offer a further, changing take on the sets.

As expressions of freedom, these image carry a powerful metaphor in the use of birds and butterflies to express the freedom of thought taking flight, as captured in Erin Hanson’s words. As reflections of emotion and release in a time when were are under pressure to conform or keep our feelings under wraps, this is an incredibly powerful series of images. More particularly they stand as insightful, emotive reminders that it is so easy to become trapped within ourselves  – something that Lika expresses beautifully through her own words:

Often our thoughts tangle around the soul, forging our prisons, never grasping that we are always the key to our infinite free will.

Lika Cameo

Kondor Art Centre: Lika Cameo – One Thousand Wings

As demonstrations of art and how to use lighting, colour, tone and other post-processing techniques to impart a range of emotional responses to a single image, One Thousand Wings is equally as powerful an exhibition; and while I’ve oft said this – it is an exhibition that should be seen and appreciated.

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Suzen’s Illusion in Second Life

Kondor Art Garden: Suzen JueL – Illusion

Now open at the Kondor Art Garden, curated by Hermes Kondor, is Illusion, an exhibition of 2D art by photographer-artist Suzen JueL (JueL Resistance). It offers an engaging range of pieces that mix styles and ideas to present images that are visually engaging and carry with them strong narratives.

Within these pieces might we find photo-collages, measures of surrealism, expressionism and more; stories with an edge of abstraction and / or the broad strokes of impressionism, some of which sit as dream states in their form and colour. Primarily produced within Second Life and richly post-processed, these are pieces that also encompass elements and images drawn from the physical world.

An intriguing aspect of several of the pieces is that rather than using a traditional avatar, Suzen presents a mannequin-like personage that, while female in form, offers us – male or female – the opportunity for greater association with it, and thus themes and emotions contained within the pieces where it is used.

Kondor Art Garden: Suzen JueL – Illusion

With their focus on the mannequin presence, these particular images offer a sense of dual narrative. Backwards into Depths, for example offers the suggestion of taking a leap of faith. On the one hand, they colours stand in emphasis of the fact it is into the unknown we might jump whilst also presenting the sense of fear that such leaps often entail. Similarly, Monster at first seems to suggest the coming of a horror, a strange, looming creature that might well be in pursuit of us – but then on second look, it perhaps suggests we are the monster, looming forth to inflict something on the unwary.

Elsewhere the narrative is more direct, as with Whale Dreaming, a marvellous photo-collage that folds into itself considered elements of surrealism, impressionism and realism. Beside it, Hanging with the Zebra similarly offers a mix of surrealism and over-exposed expressionism that holds the eye before the magnificent Elephant awaits to again offer use entwined stands of narrative.

In their mixing of styles, narrative, these are pieces that live up to the title of the exhibition. Each gives us an illusion to ponder, be it directly through the image (again, I’d point to the likes of Whale Dreaming) or in the manner in which meaning and narratives might be seen to be intertwined to hold our attention, making it an engaging and captivating exhibition.

Kondor Art Garden: Suzen JueL – Illusion

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