Exodus: A Trip for Life in Second Life

Exodus: A Trip for Life

Art can be expressive in many ways. It can be an outflow of creativity, a reflection of moods and emotions, a cathartic release of hopes, fears, wants or needs; or an echo of joy or contemplation or endeavour or of life itself. And it can be a voice of conscience commenting on society, culture and politics.

Exodus: A Trip for Life is a full region installation which falls squarely it that last bracket: offering a voice of conscience in response to our societal and political outlook. In doing so, it touches – invokes – something we can so easily lose sight of – even when it might appear we are trying to empathize.

Exodus: A Trip for Life

Designed by Kicca Igaly and Nessuno Myoo, Exodus: A Trip For Life deals with the discomfiting issue of the world’s refugee crisis, which became a hot button topic on several fronts of the past couple of years; one in which some essential truths have perhaps been lost in the clamour of angry voices, political posturing, and perceived threats to security, jobs and income.

“It almost seems,” Nessuno says in introducing the installation, ” As if all the evils of our society, unable to find effective solutions to the problems which from time to time appear, have found, in the dark threat of the foreign ‘invader’ , the perfect scapegoat.”

Exodus: A Trip for Life

And yet the simple truth is, these feared ‘invaders’, these people risking life and limb and family, do so not because they’re seeking to exploit our vulnerabilities and our way of living. They do so because they already are vulnerable; their war of life has already been destroyed through war and / or political / religious upheaval and oppression. Everything they have known has been torn apart in ways we cannot understand; far from coming here as exploited, they arrive as the exploited, preyed upon in their journey by criminals and traffickers; people more interested in taking money and possessions than in saving lives.

All of this, and more is brought forth in Exodus: A Trip for Life. It starts out at sea, where a battered hulk rides a heavy swell, figures crammed into its rotting hold or crawling desperately up to the main deck and clinging in fear to anything looking remotely solid. The vessel is tossed by waves of money – a reference to the physical price those aboard have paid, while strings rise from the hull to a puppeteer’s controllers, a further reference to the exploitation inherent in trafficking the desperate, as they are time and again forced to travel in vessels unfit for purpose (and it is no coincidence that the bows of this ship bear two names, again underlining the dire circumstances faced by so many).

Exodus: A Trip for Life

Ashore, the imagery continues. New arrivals walk along a road, watched from a distance by locals, the gap between the two groups as telling at the walls that constrain the refugees to that single, lonely road. A camp sits close by, but again separated from  the locals as if in quarantine from the rest of the land, by walls and iron gates. Both the road and the camp stand as metaphors of how we see refugees; they may not be so alien, they may appear more human – but they are still “others” to be kept at bay. And we are far more comfortable when they can be moved from our sight and thoughts, as symbolised by the line of arrivals slowly vanishing into a white mist. They pass and are gone – to where does not matter, nor does the fact their plight still goes with them; we can resume our lives.

Poignant, pointed, provocative, richly nuanced and threaded with a wealth of observation and commentary, Exodus: A Trip For Life may not sit well with some; it may not even by easy to entirely decipher on a single pass. But it does have a voice; one that reaches into our conscience to whisper a stark reminder about the realities of the world around us even as sound bites, posturing and the fickle lens of the media would distract us and divert our thoughts and feelings.

Exodus: A Trip for Life

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The Itakos Project in Second Life

The Itakos Project: Tutsy Navarathna

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera,” American photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams  wrote in The Camera. “You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” It’s  a thought-provoking statement which encompasses the richness and depth of photography as an expression of art and artistry; suggestive that photographs can be part of a wider, deeper journey through life.

It is also a quote Akim Alonzo has chosen to encapsulate The Itakos Project, which is now open through until the end of 2017. A gallery complex of three buildings arranged around a courtyard, with the main building flanked by two pavilions and facing an events space across the courtyard.  The name for the project has, like the quote from Adams, been carefully selected, echoing as it does the name Ithaca, the Greek island and legendary home of Odysseus. In doing so, it also evokes the idea of a journey  – or, as Akim himself notes, a dream or the search for beauty and emotion.

The Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo

The aim of the project is to present the work of SL photographers who, through their work, engage upon story-telling or presenting the ideas of stories, or who seek to present beauty and emotion through their study of the avatar and the worlds around it.

For the initial exhibition, Akim presents his own stories told through his images and work within the project’s Blue Pavilion, while in the Red Pavilion focuses on Maloe Vansant and Paola Mills under the joint title of The Itakos Collection. Within the main gallery structure can be found Subtle Scent of Solitude, by Imani Nayar and The Dancing Serpent by Kate Bergdorf. Also to be found in the foyer area of the main building is a teleport doorway leading to a separate platform wherein can be found The Venal Muses,  an exhibition by artist and videographer Tutsy Navarathna.

The Itakos Project: Maloe Vansant and Paola Mills

“Poets, painters, photographers, writers, film-makers and musicians were all inspired by the atmosphere of brothels and their venal muses,” Tutsy notes in introducing the exhibition. “Some, like Toulouse-Lautrec have even made it an essential part of their work. Painters like Degas, Manet, Derain, Munch, Ronault, Van Dongen, portray ladies of little virtue lounging on a sofa, on the rooms of their lupanar….”

Thus those taking the teleport to The Venal Muses find themselves in a softly lit setting with plush red walls, soft furnishings, all of which are redolent of the boudoir for a woman of easy virtue whilst also retaining the feel of a gallery. On the walls of the rooms and halls of this space hang striking images by Tutsy, rendered as painting and richly recalling the work of the artists he mentions.  It’s an evocative space, not just because of the inherent depth within the images, but because the design of the space casts the visitor perhaps into the role of voyeur or – on a deeper level – patron, within some of the scenes presented.

The Itakos Project: Tutsy Navarathna

All of the exhibitions on display offer much to those visiting, but with its richness of setting and uniqueness artistic expression, both of which reach directly into the subject matter, The Venal Muses is perhaps the most captivating of the current exhibitions currently on display at The Itakos Project. From the project’s notes, I understand feature artists at the gallery will change on a monthly basis while the upper floor of the main building will be devoted to displaying work by artists enrolled in the Soul Portraits – Itakos Art Gallery in Second Life Flickr group.

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No Life Without Art in Second Life

No Life Without Art: Kandinsky

“My passion for art has been part of my virtual life from the start, and in RL began many years ago,” Alo (Aloisio Congrejo) says of himself. “As an artistic ‘consumer’ there have been many artists both great and lesser known that I have followed and admired, but what is most important to me is to see the work of anyone who can craft various media in such a way as to express their feelings.”

Thus it is that for his latest exhibition, No Life Without Art, he uses his own artistic expressionism to celebrate some of the most influential artists of the early 20th century – Wassily Kandinsky, credited with painting one of the first recognised purely abstract works; Paul Klee, whose unique approach to art drew upon abstraction, cubism, expressionism and surrealism and surrealists Joan Miró, René Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico.

No Life Without Art: Giorgio de Chirico

A visit to the installation begins on a platform overlooking a 3D tribute to Kandinsky with a piece that – for me at least – echoes his Small World pieces, produced in the 1920s when teaching at the Bauhaus in Berlin. This part of the installation is perhaps best viewed from above and by camming, although there is a walkway leading down to it for those who wish to explore more closely.

Beneath this, and reached via teleport board at the landing point sit the tributes to Giorgio de Chirico and René Magritte. In the early years of the 20th century, de Chirico founded the scuola metafisica metaphysical art movement, which profoundly influenced the surrealists. Featuring dream-like scenes offering strong contrasts in light and shadow and often with an undertone of mystery or threat, the movement flourished through the second decade of the 20th Century and is notable commemorated in this installation through the inclusion of a representation of The Disquieting Muses (circa 1917) and what might be a play on The Seer (circa 1914/15), together with architecture and backgrounds reflecting those seen in many of de Chirico’s works from this period.

No Life Without Art: René Magritte

Set across three platforms linked by walkways, the de Chirico pieces overlook a wall of identical pieces which offer a play on Magritte’s 1964 composition The Son Of Man and which also might be said it echo his 1966 piece, The Pilgrim. These form a link with the lowest level, where the artists is again celebrated, with another image of a faceless man, together with that of an apple, which for Magritte symbolised the tension between the hidden and visible.  Both of these images are also symbolic for the artist’s influence on the pop, minimalist and conceptual art movements, whilst also offering a tip of the hat towards his own playful use of art.

This level also celebrates Joan Miró and Paul Klee, with the latter’s highly individualistic style very well represented through a reproduction of his 1922 composition, Red Balloon, and a 3D representation of Flagged Pavilion (1927), while Miro is represented by his 1925 work, The Garden.

No Life Without Art: Paul Klee

All five artists are well represented, and Alo also provides biographical note cards on each, allowing visitors to gain a greater understanding of their lives and works. In introducing himself, Alo notes that he appreciates those who can express their feelings through their art. In No Life Without Art, he clearly reveals his own depth of feeling for, and admiration of, these five influential and provocative artists.

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One Tree Hill in Second Life

One Tree Hill

Karma Avedon sent me an invitation to visit her full region installation, One Tree Hill which is – although still in part a work-in-progress – now open for visitors. “[It’s] my first ever work for the LEA and I am very excited both to have had my idea accepted and to have managed to actually bring it to fruition,” she told me prior to Caitlyn and I paying a visit.

The installation is a virtual reflection of U2’s seminal album The Joshua Tree, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of its release in March 2017. The album grew from a mix of influences – social, political, spiritual, and cultural. It was released in a period of history which we see echoed somewhat today, with economics dominating the politics of the UK (U2’s home) and America; global small-scale conflicts; the changing face of traditional industries – notably coal mining; etc.

One Tree Hill: With Or Without You

All of this, including the influences behind many of the songs contained within the album are reflected within One Tree Hill. Some of these references are obvious, others are more subtle or layered. Also to be found are reflections on the band’s contrasting views between “real America”  and “mythological America”, and reminders that the UK and the USA have much in common.

A journey begins  Where the Streets Have No Name, a flat desert-like environment cut by broad, nameless roads, stretching away to the horizon, a great mesa rising to one side. Much of this contains images of the American mythos: great flat desert plains, broad, ruler-straight roads arrowing to the horizon, billboards (which carry some of the more overt political references for both the 1980s and today), and a reminder of the former importance of coal in building both the UK and USA.

One Tree Hill

Where one travels through this landscape is a matter of choice. Follow the single south pointing road, and you’ll pass a row of bonnet-buried Cadillacs – a reference to Cadillac Ranch, and emblematic of the American mythos. Close by, on the other side of the road visitors can reflect on being With Or Without You; the internal struggle of the song (to be a husband at home or a rock star on tour) powerfully represented by the statue of a couple caught in the tension of a tango – and a dance orb allows visitors to engage in a dance as well.

Staying on the lowland area, where Joshua trees via with umbrella thorns to offer some greenery, and travelling south, one will eventually come to a large gallery space (still under construction) and references to Bono’s time in South America. The latter represents both Bullet the Blue Sky and Mothers of the Disappeared in a rain-soaked corner. The latter of these also perhaps contains modern-day references: the three distressed mothers all being clad in burqa-like garments, whilst the boards set on the chain link fence appear to be in reference to more recent conflicts.

One Tree Hill: Red Hill Mining Town

Atop the mesa and reached via an ascending set of wooden platforms, sits a literal representation of Red Hill Mining Town literally sits, offering another layered interpretation of the period. The song itself was written around the unfolding political upheavals impacting Britain’s coaling communities in the mid-1980s, and in particular the 1984 Miner’s Strike; however, the town is very clearly American in setting.  Thus, a parallel is drawn between the decline in the importance of domestic coal witnessed in both the United States and the UK – for largely the same economic reasons – during the 1980s. A further layer is perhaps added as well, in that the embodying Red Hill Mining Town as a run-down American township might be seen as a metaphor for the band’s own conflicted views of the “real” (declining traditional industries), and “mythological” (land of golden opportunities) United States.

Within this town are further references to both The Joshua Tree with I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, featured appropriately enough within a church; and to U2’s own history in the form of the STS Studios, where many of the group’s songs (including some from The Joshua Tree, but notably the likes of Rattle and Hum) originated / were recorded. Standing over all of this, and reach by another set of wooden steps, is One Tree Hill, written in reflection of a 1984 visit to Maungakiekie, a volcanic peak in New Zealand, and one of the most spiritually significant to Māori people. As with it’s namesake, Karma’s One Tree Hill is a place of reflection and peace.

One Tree Hill: Mothers of the Disappeared

 

One Tree Hill is a fascinating, layered installation, one which should be explored carefully, allowing for reflections on U2’s album and music and the imagery presented within the build. Do be sure to have ambient sounds active when visiting and – if you’re a U2 fan, try the music stream as well. I’ve also not referenced all the tracks on the album – others are to be found, but I’ll leave you to find them (hint: look indoors for at least one), as that’ll leave you some mystery as well 🙂 .

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