Questioning the meaning of love in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: The Meaning of Love

Now open at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, is The Meaning of Love, an exhibition by street photographer Natalia Serenade.

Noted for her vivid use of colour and composition, Natalia notes that her art is centred on physical world photography that are very much images caught in the moment as she roams with her camera, and then mixed together, given life and colour through Photoshop to become statements in their own right.

For the Meaning of Life, Natalia brings together a series of images that offer reflections and comments on love and relationships as they can occur in the virtual realm (but do not always remain there). Such relationships can, as many have learned over the years that Second Life has been around, be deeply rewarding – adding depth and light to our virtual presence, offering love, closeness and comfort that never need to stray out of the confines of this digital medium.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: The Meaning of Love

Sometimes it is possible for such relationships to reach beyond the digital and into the physical and become even more enriching for those involved. This is something the Lab has sought to emphasise through the video series Love Made in SL. But virtual relationships can also be fraught with uncertainty.

Anonymity allows us far greater freedom than the physical world; this is both a blessing and a curse – a point people can so easily forget when blithely quoting Wilde. “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth” is only half the story. While we may well speak a great truth through the freedom given us by the mask of an avatar, so to does that same mask allow those who would  – if I might use half another famous quote, if slightly out-of-context and this time from Sir Walter Scott – “practice to deceive”.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: The Meaning of Love

To put it another way, when restricted to the the virtual, how can we ever be sure what we’re being told is the truth? What about those who enjoy the art of deceit and think nothing of using one or more alts achieve their own satisfaction? How can we even be sure such thoughts as these really have a grounding in “reality”, rather than being a product of our own uncertainty / hidden fears?

All of these ideas are explored in the images Natalia presents here: the warming glow of being basked in the happiness of love and of having “found someone”, the first rising concerns that al might not be as it seems, the realities of being manipulated, the uncertainties created by our own thoughts, the deceptions of which we might be guilty in keeping our on-line life and lives hidden from those physically around us. Each image in this collection of thirteen represents an aspect of love and the rewards / risks it brings. Each image richly makes use of colour as much as form  and subject to convey visceral feelings and emotions.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: The Meaning of Love

It’s an engaging, vibrant exhibit (be sure to mouse over individual pieces to see names / gain context, and one in which Natalia appears to be asking a question – perhaps of herself more than anyone else: is love in SL real, or just – for most at least – a fantasy?

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Rose’s Feelings at Nitroglobus

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Feelings

Currently open at Dido Haas’ Nitroglobus Roof Gallery is Feelings, a selection of self-portraits presented by RoseHanry. It’s a evocative series of 12 images, each one of which has a deceptively simple presentation that nevertheless encompasses a wealth of care, and eye for detail and narrative to offer a startlingly life-like finish that richly imbues each image with Rose’s own life and vitality.

This is something Rose notes herself in discussing her art, stating:

Second Life is more than a game and the avatar is more than a pretty doll. There’s a human behind the keyboard, who experiences feelings and hopes, has a Real Life with the normal issues that life offers, Some are good and some are not so good. Real Life is not detached from Second Life as most people think, or want to make us believe.

In this exhibition I try to show that an avatar is very natural and can show feelings as in Real Life.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Feelings

And so it is that each of the twelve images within this exhibition offer an emotional depth that is stunning; expression, pose and lighting allow us to see far beyond the avatar. Many not as posed shots, but as candid captures that record a passing and quite natural moment in time (vis: … a beating heart of stone …, … when I wake up, I see you with me …, … when I wake up, I see you with me …, and … maybe if I’d skim the stone …), when the subject is caught by the camera without being aware it was watching.

In others, while as candid, there is a sense that the subject was aware of the camera’s eye, so took a moment to respond to its stare with a deliberate look intended to tease or flirt (… another one bites the dust …) or with a natural response to being caught (as with …2am…, with the defensive drawn-up knees).

Thus, throughout the collection we are presented with images that each has a tale to tell; a tale furthered by Rose’s inclusion of a link to be found in the lower right-hand corner of each image. Clicking on most of these will present you with a note card containing song lyrics reflective of the image and mood, and with a link to the song on You Tube (one simply offers a link to the song itself).

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Feelings

For me, the defining element of each picture lies in the eyes. We’re probably all familiar with the old saying, the eyes are the windows of the soul. Here, it is the case that the avatar’s eyes are the windows to the the avatar’s owner herself. Through them, we can perhaps capture the riches of each pictures’ story, even without reference to the accompanying note cards – and I would recommend viewing and considering each picture first before turning to the the note card giver.

A truly fascinating exhibition. One – as with all of those at Nitroglobus – that should not be missed.

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Moni’s Forbidden Fruit at Nitroglobus in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Forbidden Fruit

Monique “Moni” Beebe makes a further return to Dido Haas’ Nitroglobus Roof Gallery to mark the start of the year, with her latest exhibition Forbidden Fruit.

Moni is one of the most sensuous, evocative artist and – given she is generally the subject of her own work – models in Second Life, somthing I’ve noted in the past, as such I’ve been looking forward to seeing her latest exhibition since Dido tipped me the wink that Moni would be making a further return to Nitroglobus. She has the ability to present studies that are rich in mood, sensuality, nuance, story and sexuality – the latter without relying on being blatant provocation.  Rather, they are genuine works of art that would be fully at home in any physical world gallery as they would in a virtual setting.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Forbidden Fruit

This latter point is very much proven with the selection of work forming Forbidden Fruit, which marks something of a departure from Moni’s previous exhibitions at Nitroglobus – Hidden Faces , Sensuality, and Changing Moods – in that for some of the pieces here, Moni has found inspiration in the work of a another artist, as Dido explains:

Moni got inspired by a RL exhibition of famous Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf, which she visited last Spring in the Gemeente Museum The Hague. Especially the mood of the early series Squares and Chessmen by Mr Olaf you will notice are reflected in some of the images of this present exhibition.

Such is Moni’s compositional eye that she presents a unique perspective on Olaf’s work (take Stone as an example) which is far from derivative – but which would nevertheless be completely at home in an exhibition such as Chessmen.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Forbidden Fruit

For me, the power of Moni’s work is her ability to offer a tale of sensuality through pose and / or focus on bodily curve without necessarily utilising exposing nudity or full facial expression (which is not to say nudity is not present in some of the pieces here). Take the titular Forbidden Fruit, for example. It carries a rich sensuality that evokes feelings of desire bordering on lust, heightened by the use of clothing and the hiding of Moni’s eyes under the wrap. This particular piece also highlights another maturing aspect of Moni’s work: her ability to layer narrative and images; in this case the pairing of a woman with prominently placed apples offers a suggestiveness of story that reaches all the way back to Eve, the apple and a certain serpent – and what form the knowledge may have taken.

There is also a richness of self about Moni’s work that I again find attractive perhaps more than other artists who produce images using their avatars as models; Moni offers subtle insights into her personality and nature – with the emphasis on subtle. This heightens the response to her work that can reach beyond examining any single image or selection of images, to tickle the desire to know her personally.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Forbidden Fruit

Rounded-out with lounge, a sculpture by Kaiju Kohime that sits perfectly with Moni’s images, this is again a marvellous exhibition by an exceptionally talented artist and visualist.

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Art in reflection of self and poetry in Second Life

Nitroglobus: Maloe Vansant, “The moon lives in the lining of your skin”

Available at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, is an exhibition of art by Maloe Vansant that takes as its inspiration, words offered by Chilean Nobel Laureate Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto – better known as poet Pablo Neruda.

In Ode to a Beautiful Nude, Neruda offers a song of love and appreciation for the flawless beauty of a model appearing before him. The poem offers a lyrical examination of the woman, initially acknowledging his desire to appreciate her in a chaste manner rather than giving into more carnal desires – although the praise he goes on to offer towards her beauty carries with it an undertone of that desire throughout, before culminating in the line:

The moon lives in the lining of your skin.

– Pablo Neruda, Ode to a Beautiful Nude.

Nitroglobus: Maloe Vansant, “The moon lives in the lining of your skin”

It is this line that Maloe takes as the title of her exhibition at Nitroglobus. Within it, she offers an exploration of self and beauty as reflected in the moods and words found throughout the poem, whilst at the same time offering insight into the relationship between artist and avatar.

After creating little Maloe, my barbie doll, my pixel soul, I discovered the possibility of making snapshots and I started to make a graphic diary of Maloe’s journey in Second Life, showing the emotions she experienced in this pixel world … I am not a woman of many words, I try to express myself, my feelings, my passion and probably my dark side through my pictures.

Maloe Vansant, describing her relationship with her avatar.

The use of Neruda’s words might suggest that Maloe is offering a visual homage to his poem  – something that has been done before in Second Life (see: Poems and art in Second Life, April 2016). However, this would not be a fair assessment. The art and poem stand apart from one another in the extent of their explorations, but at the same time they are entwined by common themes of giving for and depth to the the nature of natural beauty. Therefore, one is neither a homage to the other.

Nitroglobus: Maloe Vansant, “The moon lives in the lining of your skin”

One of the interesting contrasts been poem and art is in their examination of beauty. Whereas the poem perceives the beauty and reflection of the soul from without; Maloe’s art does so from looking out from within. One of the interesting links between the two is in their use of metaphor.

Take eyes, for example. In his Ode, Neruda acknowledges The two deep countries of your eyes, so often seen a a window into a person’s soul. Within The Face is a Picture of the Mind, focused as it is one the eye of her avatar, presents a similar examination of the eye and soul.

Elsewhere, each uses metaphor from somewhat different perspectives. With his poem, Neruda uses metaphor to encapsulate that push-pull between wanting to appreciate feminine beauty both from a celibate objectivity and that of a more carnal desire:

Flowering fire
Open chandelier
A swelling fruit
Over the pact of sea and earth.

– Pablo Neruda, Ode to a Beautiful Nude.

By contrast, Maloe uses metaphor more broadly. Take Leaving the Light, Gold Makes Monsters of Men, and The Apple that Changed the World. In three both in words and image, might be seen as metaphors for the way in which west religion has cast the female as being complicit in the Fall of Man (The Apple… and Leaving…) and the subjugation of women as a whole (Gold Makes Monsters…).

Nitroglobus: Maloe Vansant, “The moon lives in the lining of your skin”

Thought-provoking, rich in substance and meaning, The moon lives in the lining of your skin is another outstanding exhibition at Nitroglobus, and will run through until the end of the year. Also still on display at the gallery (at least at the time of my visit) is Kaiju Kohime’s CRISP, an examination of CRISPR gene editing, and which I wrote about in Art, science, and the future, October 2019.

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Art, science, and the future at Nitroglobus

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery

Two thematically related exhibitions opened at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, on Monday, October 21st. Between them, they touch on subjects of concern to many, and which can be viewed as controversial. With CRISP, a single large 3D piece, Kaiju Kohime delves into the subject of CRISPR gene editing; in A Beautiful Collapse, Nevereux questions the decline of societal values.

Genetic manipulation in human beings has the potential foe enormous good: it could help cure / prevent cancers and viral infections, for example, while its use in pregnancy could prevent in vitro genetic depletion than can cause the creation / transfer of genetic illnesses in unborn babies.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: CRISP

However, it also potentially has a much darker side as well – which is why the November 2018 report that Chinese scientist, He Jiankuihad helped to make the world’s first genome-edited girls was greeted with no small degree of outrage among the global science community. The twins, called Lulu and Nana, reportedly had their genes modified before birth to make them immune to infection by HIV, through the removal of the CCR5 gene – a process that may also have boosted the twin’s intelligence and cognitive abilities and made them better able to recover from strokes.

Through his piece, Kaiju points a spotlight at the birth of these twins and the reactions He’s work has caused. At a time when many in genetic science had agreed to limit human gene manipulation to material extracted from embryos until such time as the ethics of such manipulation could be fully understood and safeguards enacted to prevent the misuse of such a capability (if at all possible), He is seen by some as irresponsibility throwing wide the doors of the science without regard for potential consequence.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: A Beautiful Collapse

Neveraux, meanwhile uses the format of the Polaroid snapshot to explore the decline of societal values, which appears to be occurring at an ever-increasing pace. The framing is the idea that these images are all that remain as a means of defining our society following our global demise – although in truth, these are intended to challenge us as their audience.

These are sharply conscience-pricking images, each one focusing on an aspect of our modern lives, framed within a picture and caption, covering as they do everything from the superficiality of our so-called “on-line lives” through to the collapse of established national norms (This is America) and the declining longevity / honesty found within our physical world relationships (Partnershit). Elsewhere, the images carry something of a double edge to them. Take Art Doesn’t Sell, for example. On the one side, it carries with it the message that unless it is intentionally commercial in nature, it is not worth consideration. On the other, it perhaps carries a message within it concerning our quickness to turn to violence to achieve an end  – or fame through notoriety rather than creative talent. Similarly, Stay Hidden both (again) critiques the shallowness of our need to share everything on-line and offers a reminder that there is sanctity (and safety) to be found in also keeping things to ourselves.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: A Beautiful Collapse

One of the functions of art is to provoke; to give us pause for thought and consideration. By challenging perceptions, it offers us an opportunity to re-evaluate our ideas and how we might view the world. Both CRISP and A Beautiful Collapse do just this, and I recommend both for your viewing.

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Crossing Over and Night Walks in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Crossing Over and Night Walks

Open from September 10th, 2019 at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery curated by Dido Haas, are two independent – yet in some ways complimentary – exhibitions by two gifted artists. Crossing Over features a 3D installation by Kaiju Kohime located in the middle of one of the gallery’s two arms, while Night Walks presents a further series of Melusina Parkin’s unique studies of Second Life. Both installation and imagery offer a richly layered environment in which thought is strongly provoked.

Crossing Over is the second installation Kaiju is presenting since his return to Second Life (his first being a collaborative piece with Electric Monday and entitled Orizuru (which you can read about here). It forms, in the words of the exhibition’s introduction, a commentary on the changing face of society’s thinking and structure:

The vertical small worlds we used to live in, illustrated by male white religious oppression, are slowly tilting towards a more horizontal and more human engagement. This installation is about the continuing struggle between verticalism and a horizontal way of thinking and being, about the masks we put on to protect ourselves from our mirror image.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Crossing Over

The white-dominated element of religion (Christianity) is clearly symbolised by the main structure of the piece, which forms the framework of a great church. Within it, at the chancel, multiple white crosses float over the wireframe bust of a man as tendrils of light (thought / understanding / realisation?) fall from an angled blue cross to strike a mask that deflects them away – although it is showing signs of crumbling and breaking under their persistence.

It’s a clear and concise statement concerning religious oppression through the implementation of doctrine over belief / understanding. The white crosses stand as bars rigidly defining the dogma and the vertical nature of “white” Christianity as it is so sadly practised by some, wherein matters so often defined as “right” or “wrong” in terms of race, colour, gender and sexuality (perhaps more so in this present era than more recent times past). Meanwhile, the blue cross and the tendrils of light reflect that shift in thinking from dogma and vertical superiority towards the more compassionate, humanistic (and perhaps even more Christ-like?) “horizontal” view that we are in fact all equal; thus underlining the use of race, colour, gender and  sexuality by some as masks and shields by which they seek to hold themselves apart from, and over, others.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Crossing Over

Night Walks, meanwhile, offers a series of images that take us on “journeys into a dark world”. As the introduction notes:

Streets are empty in the night. At 3 or 4 am we can walk around without meeting people (just somebody who is “still” or “already” there, according to the words of the great Italian writer Italo Calvino, a night owl or a worker). So, we can look at buildings, parked cars, windows, street lamps and benches as they are the true inhabitants of that dark world.

Thus we are offered a series of night-time images taken from around Second Life offered in Melu’s unique perspective where she uses minimalism and close focus to tremendous effect. These are images that offer not so much a picture of a location but a glimpse into a world; sharply defined and focused they might be in their composition, but behind each one of them sits an entire story into which the imagination can fall.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Night Walks

Empty streets at night can be both enticing and frightening. We can be alone, even when just beyond the few inches of stone or brick that may separate us from the interior of house or apartment building, we know there are others, sleeping peacefully or – if lights are still to be seen through curtailed windows – going about their lives as we tread the pavements outside. Thus, we can wrap ourselves in a cloak of our own thoughts without fear of interruption or distraction.

But at the same time, the streets late at night can be unsettling: the familiar can be redrawn by the simple fall of light and shadow; doorways that by day might be welcoming can by night become places of menace. Thus – and again as the liner notes state, “Serenity and fear live together in the dark and empty streets. Which of them wins, depends on our mood. In the night the dark enchanting forest of the city becomes the landscape where the contrasting sides of our souls live.”

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Night Walks

And it is in this contrasting sides of the soul that the link is formed between Night Walks and Crossing Over is formed. It is said that it is in the depths of night that one can most clearly hear the voice of God – or the voice of conscience, if you prefer. That quiet, insistent voice of challenge against dogma that cannot be silenced by the distractions of daytime life or deflected by the masks we might otherwise wear when not so deeply alone, and which calls into question our structure doctrine of thinking and encourages us towards a more open  – dare I say “horizontal” view of the world around us.

The symbolism within and between both Crossing Over and Night Walks is both rich and powerful, offering multiple ways to interpret each as individual pieces and as interconnected exhibits (there is something of a symbolism for death in Crossing Over, for example, and the small hours of the night as seen in Night Walks are said to be the time when death visits the most – ideas which can taken interpretation of both into a whole new dimension).

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Night Walks

In this, I could go on to write at length on both, but I’ll resist putting words into the artist’s mouths and ideas into your heads. Instead, I would encourage you to go to Nitroglobus and view both, and allow them to jointly speak to you. Both Night Walks and Crossing Over officially open at 12:00 noon SLT on Tuesday, September 8th, 2019.

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