Getting Extreme at Nitroglobus in Second Life

Nitroglobus: Extreme by Poupée Anna-Nana (IMaestra) and Nathaniel Jehangir

Tuesday, September 1st saw the opening of the September 2020 exhibition at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas. Extreme is a joint exhibition by Poupée Anna-Nana (IMaestra) and Nathaniel Jehangir, who are apparently making their first joint foray into exhibiting their photography through the medium of an in-world gallery.

Both artists focus on avatar photography, although Nathaniel also produces landscape images as well. For Extreme, the pair between them present 14 images supported by sculptures by Igor Ballyhoo and the late Nitro Fireguard, bot of which  have been selected by Dido for the way they reflect the central theme of the exhibit.

Each of us has deep-rooted extreme feelings, often based in traumatic experience, that can be hard to control. We often aren’t even aware of these feelings. Sometimes these feelings make us move around in circles, influencing our relationships with others and our own self-awareness. It’s only through self-awareness that we are able to see and free ourselves from these feelings, that we can step out of the ‘circle’. We present these extreme feelings here in our images, each of us in our own way. We are two distinct artists, two different views and ways of interpreting the same themes.

– statement by the artists

Presented as a mix of monochrome colour images, the pictures are offered without further explanation other than their titles, the artists noting that they would prefer those witnessing the pieces to interpret them for themselves.

Nitroglobus: Extreme by Poupée Anna-Nana (IMaestra) and Nathaniel Jehangir

At first, it can perhaps be hard seeing the extremes of experience within some of these pieces. This is not to say they are without emotion or narrative; rather the reverse, in fact, both narrative and emotion are clearly visible in all of the pieces – but within some of them, it may initially appear  both narrative and emotion is more rooted in perennial questions related to our digital lives  – identity (What’s Left and Mask for example), and whether or not we can find love and companionship (Love Me, Be Mine), for example. Others, such as The Frame, The Whisper, the Kill may initially suggest stories of introversion  more than anything else; even those that touch the fringes of what society might regard as “extreme” (notably  Don’t Mess With Me) may not immediately speak of trauma.

But flip your viewpoint with a second look, and look upon these pieces not as the result of past trauma, but rather the propose of trauma about to be visited upon the subject or those they are about to encounter, and a new narrative is revealed. This is perhaps most evident in Don’t Miss With Me, with its threat of open violence directed towards the observer, and the hint of trauma that may come from it. Then, within Monsters, the scratches over breasts and the banding  about wrist suggest the observer is being cast into the role of the traumatiser, while The Kill similarly switches to reveal a man who is about to visit trauma on an unseen third party.

Thus, throughout this exhibition, we’re presented with a nuanced series of images, and kudos to the artists for not trying to overlay our reactions to their work by offering their own expositions.

Nitroglobus: Extreme by Poupée Anna-Nana (IMaestra) and Nathaniel Jehangir

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Claustrophobia at Nitroglobus in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mareena Farrasco – Claustrophobia

Mareea Farrasco is a Second Life photographer whose work covers a broad range, from avatar studies to landscapes – the latter oft processed to resemble paintings – and the literal to the metaphorical, producing images that can contain within them a rich narrative or which offer the confluence of shape and form to present a simple statement or comment.

Many of these elements are presented to us through her exhibition at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, with the exception of examples of her landscape work – for reasons that will become clear. Entitled Claustrophobia, the exhibition takes as its theme the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, but from an angle that perhaps has not gained the attention it deserves.

When asked to define “claustrophobia”, most people are liable to go with its more well-known meaning: an abnormal dread of being in closed or narrow spaces. However, the word has another meaning, one not so often considered and that is a feeling of discomfort or discontent caused by being in a limiting or restrictive situation or environment, and it is this second definition that Mareea focuses upon.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mareena Farrasco – Claustrophobia

We live, these days, in a confined, pandemic universe of our own, and we are all more or less “claustrophobic”, even without suffering from this disorder in our normal, healthy lives. This exhibition is my metaphoric way to express those feelings, trying to rationalise them, in order to make them endurable.

Mareea Farrasco, introducing Claustrophobia

Now to confess, on first seeing the 14 images presented for the exhibition, I fell into the trap of looking at them through the lens of that more popular definition of “claustrophobia”, and while there are one or two that contain elements that most certainly do convey a sense of physically restricted space and / or a sensation of the walls closing in (notably Claustrophobia (6) and Claustrophobia (7)), I initially felt the exhibit, focused as it is on studies of an individual avatar, could just as easily be called “solitude”, without any need to reference the pandemic.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mareena Farrasco – Claustrophobia

It was only when I broadened my consideration to that second definition foe “claustrophobia” that I was struck by the manner in which Mareea has perfectly encompassed it through each of the pieces offered in this exhibit, and seamlessly linked them to offer expressions of how we have been forced into am artificial sense of “claustrophobic distancing” because of the pandemic. It doesn’t matter if we’re home alone or with family, we have been forced to artificially limit our environment and interactions to an extent that expressions of solitude are all we actually have left; circumstance demanding that as constrained as we are, we turn our thoughts inwards.

Seen it this light, all of the pieces here are subtle and evocative explorations of thoughts and feelings that reflect our desire – our longing – for more normal times. At the same time, there is perhaps a deeper aspect to be considered. Whilst physical distancing from friends, colleagues, neighbours and all might well be a requirement for all of us, many of us do at least have family with who we can at least find some release from that sense of isolation – but what of those who live alone? For them, the routine of isolation has potentially been amplified by the pandemic; through Mareea’s images, we perhaps catch a glimpse of all they face.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mareena Farrasco – Claustrophobia

Another outstanding exhibition at Nitroglobus that should not be missed.

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Contemplating artificiality and the eternal feminine

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Caly Applewhyte – Ex Machina

Officially opening on Monday, July 6th at noon SLT at Dido Haas’ Nitroglobus Roof Gallery is an evocative, provocative and challenging exhibition entitled Ex Machina, created by Caly Applewhyte.

While her work embraces Second Life landscape images, Caly is perhaps primarily an artist focused on avatar studies, producing pieces that offer stories, and that can be both produced out of an underlying theme and / or nuanced in their content and message. It is in this latter area that the pieces presented within Ex Machina fall.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Caly Applewhyte – Ex Machina

As individual images, each of the twelve large format pieces stands on its own in terms of narrative. While each has an obvious transhumanist / robotic element to it (the artificial enhancement of the body in the case of the former, the outright replacement of the body in the case of the latter), this is not necessarily the focus for the individual narrative; rather, this comes from the overall framing: the very human tilt of the head, the position of the hand (human or artificial), the cast of a look, etc., all of which serves to offer a story in and of itself.

However, when taken as a whole, it is evident that the transhumanist / robotic element evident in each piece does have a significant role to play in the exhibition’s core meaning. They reside alongside and reflect deeper themes of identity (and/or loss thereof), subjugation, and the psychological / philosophical / religious archetype of the eternal feminine, particularly as it relates to the idea (or myth, as Caly rightly references it) of the idealised female form, something that in turn encapsulates a touch Freud – and perhaps a darker warning.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Caly Applewhyte – Ex Machina

The first of these ideals  – artificiality, transhumanism, robotics – are evident from the outset, as noted. Within them, we might choose to see questions as to humanity’s future; are we really simply the sum of our frequently all-too-frail parts? Or might our growing ability to manipulate technology, replicate our capabilities robotically and our evolving ability to create artificial intelligence one day lead to us completely transferring the human condition from that of flesh and bone to something we might see as more perfect, in whole or in part?

Such questions inevitably lead to the core focus of Ex Machina: questions of identity, subjugation and the idealised woman and what they may mean in a coming age.

For how better could the archetype of female beauty, grace, purity, and compliancy be expressed than through the creation of the flawless, artificial woman? And much easier might it be to relate to the potential widespread use of AI units than be giving them the idealised female face and form? After all, it is the female who is literally the mother of life, and the female ideal most often used to present the good and the positive.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Caly Applewhyte – Ex Machina

But – and here’s the rub that Caly expressly raises – the entire idea of the eternal feminine whether rooted in the philosophical, psychological religious, is a male construct, one that has – intentionally or otherwise – constrained women. As humans, we are by nature flawed, just as all men are flawed in one way or another – though looks, abilities, disabilities, etc. However, for women, these flaws so often leave us wanting in the eyes of the (male) beholder, as Caly notes:

This paradigmatic myth, which generates high expectations that will always be disappointing, and moreover tries to trap women in an impossible ideal image, denying their individuality. Real women are thus always perceived as burdens, unfinished business.

Thus, in embodying the feminine in the perfection of the artificial, is there not a risk of further constraining / denying female individuality and value? To put it another way: in giving machines a female appearance, we may well establish a sense of connection to them in their role as servitors and assistants; but might not this also risk a further degradation of the place women have in society – perhaps even increasing things like the Madonna-whore complex (again, it is no coincidence the pieces in Ex Machina have a certain erotic edge to them)?

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Caly Applewhyte – Ex Machina

Complex, nuanced and challenging, Ex Machina is an exhibition intended to get the grey matter working, and it is well worth allowing it to do so, and in taking the time to to peel aside its layered meaning.

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Tranquil Droplets at Nitroglobus in Second Life

Nitroglobus: Bamboo Barnes – Traquil Droplets

Opening on Monday, June 8th, 2020 at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, is Tranquil Droplets, an exhibition of art by Bamboo Barnes.

There can be few involved in the art world within Second Life who can be unfamiliar with Bamboo’s work; it is by turns vibrant, evocative, provocative, emotive and so often rich in narrative. A physical world artist hailing from Japan, Bamboo works with digital tools to produce her pieces, her finished works strongly assertive in terms of its presentation, ability to dominate the space it occupies and in the way it demands the attention of the eye and mind.

Nitroglobus: Bamboo Barnes – Tranquil Droplets

There’s hopeless life still seeking for hopes like abandoned walking shadows of people on the street, my artworks are expression of confusion of life, darkness of light and strangeness of love. I create what I see but maybe you won’t, they are about people’s reality and mind.

– Bamboo Barnes, discussing her work

Much of her works is produced entirely outside of Second Life, which presents itself – along with Flickr – as a means for Bamboo to reach her audience. Which is not to say the pieces offered in Tranquil Droplets originated beyond our digital realm; rather the reverse, in fact, as the focus here is very much on avatar faces.

Not that the pieces offered are in any way a “traditional”avatar portrait / study; far from it. Each is presented in Bamboo’s rich, evocative style such that her use of colour, digital highlighting and layering all serve to add depth to the portraits offered. This gives each piece a life of its own, an expressive richness that presents us with a sense of story.

Nitroglobus: Bamboo Barnes – Traquil Droplets

For Bamboo, emotions are a core element of her art, be they those that are invoked by the piece she is working on; those she felt at the time she started working, and / or those evoked by the music she is listening to, as well as those she sees within her subject.

All of this is strongly evident within the 17 pieces offered within Traquil Droplets, each one of which offers unique reflections of both her subjects and of various artistic techniques – abstract, modernist, hints of dadaism / collages, and impressionism, all without ever merely mimicking these styles.

Nitroglobus: Bamboo Barnes – Tranquil Droplets

As Bamboo says, these pieces are like water whose dripping echoes in the silence; once heard, it cannot easily be forgotten, except here, it is that each of these images that continue to live with the imagination long after they’ve been seen, because of their richness of colour, presentation and emotion. In other words, this is a captivating exhibition.

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Images of Entropy in Second Life

Nitroglobus: Entropy, May 2020

Officially open from Tuesday, May 5th at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery curated by Dido Haas, is Entropy, by EmberPolaris.

In terms of thermodynamics, entropy is defined as:

A measure of the unavailable energy in a closed thermodynamic system that is also usually considered to be a measure of the system’s disorder, that is a property of the system’s state, and that varies directly with any reversible change in heat in the system and inversely with the temperature of the system.

More informally, entropy is referred to as a general running down of the universe into a state of disorder. For her exhibition, Ember presents an almost Shakespearian view of modern life; one in which we might as a well be mannequins, we have so little little say in the fate of the universe as a whole; that all we say and do, all that we build, is merely a stage for the greater passage of life – ours and the universe’s.

Nitroglobus: Entropy, May 2020

It is a stark, but captivating view of things; one that might be referred to as emphasising the futility of life. But there is more here; through the use of mannequins in place of humans, Entropy folds within it question of identity – not only who we are or might be, but also a challenge as to what our role in life might be when framed against the bigger backdrop of the universe’s slow passing.

More then this, through the framing of each picture is a reminder that creation – and creativity – can offer a richness of beauty that far surpasses any darkness that might otherwise be inherent in these pictures: sunlight falling through the scaffolding of an advertising hoarding, Shadows falling across an alleyway or a sudden bright splash of colour amidst the grey; sunlight falling through clouds. 

There is a stark beauty within these pieces that is astonishing; life is present in every image, the use of mannequins as models notwithstanding; a vitality that stands in contrast to the basic meaning of entropy. There is also, conversely, the suggestion of disorder that is entirely in keeping with the precepts of entropy; it surrounds and enfolds the sense of order also suggested elements present in these pictures and their sense of structure and order of life as can be witnessed in the settings for many of these images.

Nitroglobus: Entropy, May 2020

Those Entropy is a richly layered exhibit, offering multiple commentaries on life, the universe, and our place within it, as well as presenting rich images in and of themselves.An excellent first-time exhibition from an artist I hope we’ll see more of in the future.

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Birds and Blue: a Nitroglobus escape in Second Life

Nitroglobus: Birds & Blue

As I’ve oft noticed in these pages, through her Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, Dido Haas presents some of the most evocative, engaging art to be found in Second Life. I’m constantly drawn back to the gallery each month as Dido has the ability to draw out the very best in the artists she invites to exhibit there, gracefully coxing their own inner voices to the fore.

However, Dido is herself a gifted photographer, although it is rare that she places her own art into the spotlight at her gallery. It is in part because of this that the latest exhibition at Nitroglobus is so attractive, because for April she offers a selection of her own work. I say “in part”, because Birds & Blue is very much a joint presentation from Dido (photography) and Harry Cover (ImpossibleisnotFrench – 3D elements).

We’ve turned Nitroglobus into a large pond, with the soothing sound of rippling water. Harry added awesome blue boats, barrels and super cool birds he made specially for this installation … For my part selected snapshots from my blog posts, which I made blue to fit into the mood of this installation, and I’ve added pieces of land (thx Miu) with seats and parasols, waving blue flower beds, rusty wind turbines, a beach hut, an animated rock and more… We hope you like to wander around, ‘cos it’s fun and should be enjoyed as such.

– Dido Haas describing Birds and Blue

Nitroglobus: Birds & Blue

The result is a setting that might be said to be much needed in the current times: big enough to have a wander around and enjoy the sounds and the setting; small enough to suit those who would rather just sit and admire the art and let the sounds wash over them and escape daily worries.

Tinted blue for the theme, Dido’s images further offer a means to relax and forget the worries of the world. Offering wide-open views, oft with coastlines and water, each piece sits as a window through which we can escape, perhaps to join Dido as she appears in many of the pictures, and share in her exploration.

When visiting, make sure you make your way up to the high beach house, where two of Dido’s black-and-white self-portraits offer s contract to the blue tones below.

Nitroglobus: Birds & Blue

A different kind of exhibition for Nitroglobus, but one that is nevertheless richly attractive.

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