Daantje Bons: Art and statement in Second Life

Nitroglobus Gallery: I Have to Show You Something

Note: The art exhibition described in this article contains images that might be considered as sexually suggestive, with some also including female nudity.

I Want to Show You Something is the title of the latest exhibition mounted by Dido Haas at her Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, and once again it presents something that is unique to Second Life, whilst also marking the second time in the gallery’s history that art from the physical world has been place on exhibition.

A collaborative installation, I Want to Show You Something features the images of Dutch photographer Daantje Bons, presented through the use of projected images created by Venus Adored to give the illusion of 3D pieces embedded in the walls of the gallery.

Nitroglobus Gallery: I Have to Show You Something

For this reason, it is essential that visitors have their viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) option enabled (Preferences → Graphics → ensure Advanced Lighting Model is checked), otherwise the art will not be rendered (note that, in difference to the instructions provided at the landing point, you do not need to have Shadows enabled to view the installation; however, I would suggest setting your time of day to Midnight).

Based in Utrecht, The Netherlands, Daantje Bons is a highly regarded photographer whose work is prominently featured in Dutch newspapers and magazines such as De Volkskrant, NRC Handelsblad and LINDA, and internationally in the likes of VOGUE Italia, FRAME, Kurier and Huffington Post, as well as being displayed in galleries across Europe.

The playful subversiveness and pleasing aesthetics of Daantje Bons’ fine art photography draw the eye, but the inherent contradictions make these images resonate and linger in the mind.

– Meredith Greer, writer

Nitroglobus Gallery: I Have to Show You Something

Her style is perhaps best described as Contemporary Feminist, her approach that of presenting her own femininity or re-imagining femininity with a sense of provocative humour and a sexuality; their presentation and apparent contradictions intentional as a means of both capturing attention and encouraging the observer to think more deeply about the subject presented within each piece.

This is all plentifully evident with I Want to Show You Something, a selection of 14 primary images around the walls of the hall, with three “collage” style of image projections to be found in a floating ball and cube, and via a “well” projected onto the gallery’s floor. These are all pieces that may well cause some discomfiture with the more conservative mind and raise smile in the more salacious, simply because of their overt sexuality.

Bons’ images are surprising, funny and often risqué — like a guide to puberty mixed with an untrustworthy recipe book with a surrealist twist

– Priscilla Frank, Huffington Post

Nitroglobus Gallery: I Have to Show You Something

The latter takes multiple forms, some obvious (flowers over the female genitalia), a raspberry covering a nipple, a string of pearls held between lips and tongue; other are possibly more subtle: petals held between lips; a chilli sliced partially open … all resonate with the observer, even if one may feel that sense of discomfiture. But these are not just pieces to provoke; they are in many respects self-exploration – what does it mean to be a woman? How doe masculinity and femininity affect how we see / express our sense of self?

Rich in content, sometimes swaying towards double entendre I Want to show You Something is an exhibition that operates on two levels, and you can learn more about Daantje’s work through her website.

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Taking in an American Shot in Second Life

Nitroglobus Gallery: American Shot

Update February 2nd: part 2 of American Shot is now open at Nitroglobus.

Opening today at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, is the first element in a two-part exhibition entitled American Shot, by Milena Carbone.

Both Nitroglobus and Milena have reputations for presenting and creating thought-provoking exhibitions that challenge perceptions and thoughts; and in this exhibition, we have one of the most expansive and provocative installations I’ve seen within Second Life. For her canvas, Milena essentially takes the entirety of human history, using it to outline the rise of civilisation – notably western civilisation – and the corruptions that have inevitably followed, with a focus on the American Empire.

To  say American Shot is richly layered would be an understatement; truth be told it is a complex piece that, for some at least, might make for uncomfortable viewing, given it is exceptionally timely in its presentation, indirectly touching, as it does, on events that have recently unfolded in the United States.

Nitroglobus Gallery: American Shot

This layering starts with the title of the installation itself. The “American shot” (or plan américain), was a term from French film criticism. It refers to a medium-long (“knee”) film shot used in the early years of cinematography to record a group of characters engaged in complex dialogue,  with all of them visible to the camera, thus negating the need for a more complex (and time-consuming at the time) multiple shots that might otherwise be required were close-ups of individuals to be used. It particularly became a staple of early American western movies of the 1930s and 40s, thus earning it the name.

Within the exhibition, the term refers not so much to the framing of the images, but to the idea that, in the history of world shaping civilisations, it is currently the “American Empire” that holds sway  – is calling the shots -, although it now appears to stand at a junction in its own history, the paths before it leading either to further greatness for the benefit of humankind, the other leading to collapse and decay.

Further layering comes in the form of presentation: for the first part of the exhibition, fourteen out of 28 images are presented; these will be swapped at around the mid-point of the exhibition’s run for the remaining fourteen. Each of these images offers something of a reflection on humanity and / or the American experience, the commentary within them both clear and subtle.

Nitroglobus Gallery: American Shot

The “clear” commentary among the first fourteen images is perhaps best exemplified in Million Dollar Priest, an underscoring of the way in which the Christian religion has been subverted over the decades in America through the rise of the “tele-evangelists” with their messages of godliness being invariably tied to the idea of their own personal aggrandizement through the acquisition of wealth through the concept of prosperity theology.

The inclusion of this image also brings into focus one of the themes that can be found throughout Milena’s art: questioning the nature of God and religion. Nor is it the only one of her themes. Also to be found here are thoughts on the collapse of humanity, the roles of science and spirituality, our perception of fiction, reality and consciousness. Some of the pieces also are relevant to the current US situation in their commentaries on the nature of authoritarianism and the role of violence in  shaping civilisation – again, notably, but not exclusively, Army of Bataclan.

I’ve selected the latter image both to highlight the the point made above, and because it encompasses another element of the pieces here: a neo-classical linking of modern civilisation with the great empires of the past. These are again both somewhat clear in places, and elsewhere subtle, with some also layered in broader references. The mirage of democracy, for example, reminds us that the democratic ideal has been the goal of western civilisation – but is something that can easily be subverted (as seen with the Rome Empire and, again, the events in the United States of the first week of January 2021).

Nitroglobus Gallery: American Shot

Much more awaits discovery within this installation, including a a book that helps chart the way through the images and Milena’s ideas in American Shot. Rather than forming a simple expositional piece, however, the book actually forms an integral part of the installation, offering categories for the images that help with their context as well as a story that brings together Milena’s ideas and focus for the installation. It can be found for sale both at the landing point for the gallery and at the café, and I recommend visitors consider purchasing it.

There really is a lot to unpack within this exhibition, as such a visit is highly recommended – as is a return when the second group of images in unveiled (all 28 are contained with the accompanying book), something I’ll be doing later in the month. As such, I’ll finish her by pointing out the official opening takes place on Monday, January 11th at 12:00 noon SLT.

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Sensation & Perception in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery – Sensation and Perception, Monique Beebe, December 2020

Monique Beebe returns to Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas for the gallery’s final exhibition of 2020, entitled Sensation & Perception.

Monique – Moni to her friends – is one of my favourite artists when it comes to narrative avatar studies;  her work is richly evocative, sometimes provocative, and always fascinating to read and admire. Such is the richness of her work, Moni has been a semi-regular at Nitroglobus over the last few years, and it is always a pleasure to see her work there. However, for this exhibition, she presents something a little bit different; a series of images that challenge her and those of us who view them, as she explains:

The aesthetic experience is more a matter of emotion and feeling (sensation) than of the subjective image which we create in our heads of what we see (perception). In other words you can be ‘touched’ by an image, a feeling you have, before you interpret the story shown on the image …
In that same way this exhibition Sensation & Perception is made. It’s not like my usual artwork where I try to capture emotions in a face. This time I moved outside of my comfort zone to create art that I leave to the observer to respond to through their own sensations and perceptions.

– Monique Beebe on Sensation and Perception

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery – Sensation and Perception, Monique Beebe, December 2020

The result is a series of avatar studies, some of which might be considered not suitable for work (NSFW), others of which are richly layer via post-processing to offer a finish that is very different to many of Moni’s previous works, and which by doing so, particularly evoke sensations on a physical level as well as visuals by suggesting we might actually run fingers over their uneven surfaces in order to appreciate them through our sense of touch.

As per the title of the exhibition, all of the pieces presented generate an initial response that is guided by our senses – that initial wash of emotional response that may see us drawn to one image whilst perhaps stepping back from another. But so too, they challenge us to look again, to view them more deeply, and allow our perception to see past our initial reactions and let each piece tell its story as we study it more deeply. Again, as Moni notes:

Everybody has a different sense or perception: for instance when we see an image of a face with wrinkles we can get touched by the emotion of that face and we automatically assume it is an old person we see. But maybe we also see something different in it, like a person who went trough a lot, who suffered and/or lived in pitiful circumstances.

– Monique Beebe on Sensation and Perception

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery – Sensation and Perception, Monique Beebe, December 2020

This makes Sensation & Perception one of the most engaging exhibitions by an artist who has a deserved reputation for producing art that engages the eye and mind.

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Camouflage and questions in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Traci Ultsch – Camouflage

November 9th, 2020 sees the opening of the latest exhibition at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, and it is a double first for her. The invited artist is Traci (Traci Ultsch), who is an artist in both the physical and virtual worlds, and she is exhibiting  her physical world art in Second Life for the first time – marking this exhibition as the first time Dido has displayed work from outside of Second Life at Nitroglobus.

Camouflage is another provocative selection of art that pokes strongly at the grey matter sitting between one’s ears. Thirteen pieces (plus the titular artwork) are offered, and an initial glance at them might lead one to characterise them as “pop art” – but this would be misleading; these are pieces that are, both literally and figuratively, layered.

The literal layering lies within the technique used to create the pieces on display, which Traci describes thus:

My method of working usually revolves around the collecting of objects (Magazine cuttings, dirt, stones, tape) which are then laid out on glass layers, painted on, layer upon layer until the idea starts to fall apart. At which time, it’s photographed or scanned at the moment of collapse and gone. The moment is cleaned away and all that’s left a captured image of something now gone.

– Traci, discussing her technique

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Traci Ultsch – Camouflage

The figurative element is rooted in the title of the piece, and Traci’s description for the exhibition, which she gives as:

Camouflage is the use of any combination of materials, colouration, or illumination for concealment, either by making animals or objects hard to see, or by disguising them as something else
The idea for this exhibition came from the (not recent) realization that, for quite some time, my life and work has been driven in some way by the desire to lose myself. In both RL and SL I’ve spent many years trying to find a level of ‘exposure’ I’m comfortable with. A lot of these feelings and experiences have fed into my RL artwork and my ‘Second Life’ where I’m beginning to wonder who is really obscuring who.

– Traci, describing Camouflage

Thus, layered within Camouflage are questions of identity (including self-identification), reflection, exploration of creativity as it relates to her ability to express herself to the world(s) at large. These literally are nuanced, layered pieces, that invite the eye and mind to examine closely from title through imagery, a mental peeling of the layers as we visually bring together the various aspects of each piece.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Traci Ultsch – Camouflage

This idea of layering goes a lot deeper however than purely a reflection of the artist’s own introspection and examination. For anyone who has invested any part of their “self” in their avatar, these are pieces – and questions – with which they will identify: who we are, how our physical world dealings can inform our virtual identity and – equally importantly – how our virtual dealings, outlook and expression can come to inform our physical world life and outlook.

That said, Camouflage offers a broader theme as well. As Traci notes, art is a moment caught in time. Whether a photograph (posed our otherwise), a painting of the countryside or a building, or the Pollock-like splashing of paint on a canvas or whatever other technique is used – all art is, at the moment of capture / completion, an expression of a point in time that can never be truly reproduced again; copied, yes, but not reproduced as a unique statement.

This is particularly true of Traci’s work, which as she notes, reaches the point of near-destruction prior to being scanned, and then destroyed. As such, these pieces are not only expressions of identity and the questions that surround it, they are equally also unique captures of the artist’s sense of self and her governing emotions at a singular point in time, offering us a series of unique insights into her thoughts and feelings.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Traci Ultsch – Camouflage

Camouflage officially opens at 13:00 SLT on Monday, November 9th, 2020, with music from DJ Ferdy.

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Art and the ecosystem at Nitroglobus in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Animals on Earth

The start of October brings with it the opening – on Monday October 5th at 12:30 SLT – another provocative exhibition at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas.

Nitroglobus remains one of my most-visited (and most written about!) galleries because month in and mouth out, Dido encourages some of the most engaging artists to display their work there, and to do so within the frame of a theme she – or more usually the artist – has set. The result is that each most, Nitroglobus plays host to art that can provoke, evoke, emote, and engage on a level that I personally cannot help but find magnetic.

For October, the gallery is playing host to an installation put together by two artists working together under the banner of Dreamers & Co. They are Nette Reinoir (Jeanette Reinoir) – who is exhibiting her work within a gallery for the first time – and Livio Korobase, and they are  supported in part by drawings from the portfolio of physical world Dutch artist, Redmer Hoekstra.

Entitled Animals on Earth, the installation is designed to encourage us to use this time of enforced pause in our lives courtesy of the SRS-COV-2 pandemic to consider what is happening to the world’s ecosystem – its flora and fauna – directly as a result of mankind’s impact on the planet.

Modern societies have been treating Mother Earth as if it was their property; extracting resources, polluting constantly, changing the landscape, killing the animals and destroying its natural balance.
Since the Industrial Revolution, humanity has killed 83% of all wild mammals and half of all the plants on Earth. Two hundred species of living beings are extincted every single day. We collectively need to change so many things in areas such as the use of plastic, meat consumption, contaminating energies, day-to-day overconsumption and more.

– Statement by the artists

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Animals on Earth

Now to be sure, statistics and figures need context, and those relating to “daily” extinction rates can be called into question, as they tend to be inconsistent. For example, in 2015 the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment concluded that perhaps some 24 species of plant, insect and animal became extinct either regionally or globally every day – but the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity put the figure at “up to 150”, a far larger number, even allowing for the “up to”. Other models present further differing rates, and all appear to be distanced from the fact that historically, we have “only” seen around 800 global extinctions of animals (land, air and marine), during the last 400 years.

However, this does not negate Animals on Earth‘s thematic message. The current epoch – the Holocene – is regarded as encompassing the sixth mass extinction level event (ELE) this planet has seen, the Anthropocene extinction; and event that is still very much on-going, and potentially accelerating. It has its roots in natural climate change as the Pleistocene period, with its rolling waves of ice ages, gave way to the warmer, wetter Holocene period, leading to the extinction of many of the large mammalian species that had acclimatised to the cold, dry ice ages, and an a matching marine megafungal extinction event that brought an end to many marine reptiles and fish due to changing sea temperatures.

But this period of extinctions was influenced by another factor: the rise of humans as organised hunter-gatherers, which gave rise to the first wave of over-hunting, accelerating the demise of many species. It was the start of a trend of human intervention and meddling in Earth’s ecosystem that has continued throughout the Holocene period such that within a few thousands of years, humankind has had one of the most dramatic impacts the Earth’s biomass has witnessed.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Animals on Earth

From over-hunting, to disrupting natural environment as a result of increasing agricultural needs (notably livestock rearing) through to large-scale urban and other development and its associated infrastructure and waste, humans have significantly altered the world’s biomass in multiple ways,  own of the biggest being the distribution of mammalian life on Earth, which in 2018 was shown to be 36% humans, 60% livestock (notably cattle and pigs) and just 4% wild animals (source: The biomass distribution on Earth, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Nor does it end there; as the pre-eminent apex predator, human kind is regarded as a megahunter due to our predisposition to hunt and kill creatures pure for “sport” – an act that significantly increases the risk of regional (and even global) extinction of multiple species.

Thus, through our actions, we are directly responsible for continuing the Anthropocene extinction, and thanks to our broader impact on the climate, we are pretty much its primary driver. Our actions are bringing multiple species of fauna and flora and biota dangerous close to the edge of global extinction, we have irrefutably been responsible for many regional extinctions (rendering portions of the world and its oceans no longer habitable by species that once occupied them, even if those species survive to some degree elsewhere) over the last several decades.

It is all of this that Animals on Earth tries to encompass, and it tries to do so not by brow-beating with facts and figures or by doing so by being unduly heavy in its imagery, but by presenting us with images and models and interactive elements that in places fun (do make sure you kiss the frog) and which also serve to get the grey matter working, even if subconsciously.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Animals on Earth
Flow with the thoughts and you’ll discover nature illustrates the Creator’s powers, whoever he/she is. Most of us, however, fail to appreciate nature because we’re entangled in our fast-paced lives, and life’s problems cloud our minds from grasping its beauty and lessons. Climate change, overpopulation, pollution, unfettered urbanization, and wars cause disasters to the natural environment. Little wonder we see less of nature and more of guns, nukes, and bloodshed in our cities.

Statement by the artists

Rich in colour thanks to Nette’s images, and very interactive thanks to Livio’s models and scenery (be sure to mouse-over things carefully – even  Redmer Hoekstra’s drawing are more than they seem – Animals on Earth encourages the visitor to consider Earth’s biodiversity as represented by the creatures with who we share the world, and presses us to imagine what life would be like in general terms were we to lose them.

With much to see and do – and to mull over / research – Animals on Earth officially opens to music by DJ Gorilla on Monday, October 5th,  appropriately enough, and will remain open through the rest of October.

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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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