Memories, Friendship, Love, and Art in Second Life

Terrygold: My Friends, May 2023

Terrygold has always been and complex and expressive artist, her work often touching on matters of politics, ecology, the environment and more, her installations often a treatise of a theme intended (and succeeding) in getting the grey matter going. Some of her more recent works – Empty Chairs, Rain, I Would –  have contained autobiographical elements and reflections on life.

Such is the case – if only in part, perhaps – with My Friend, an installation which opened on May 20th. Given that they are somewhat autobiographical, these more recent installations can be difficult to follow; not because the narrative is particularly confusing, but simply because the subject matter is so personal. Such is the case with My Friend; but also, like Empty Chairs, Rain, and I Would, it has a message that can resonate deeply.

Terrygold: My Friends, May 2023

However, before getting into the installation itself, a quick detour into viewer settings. Terry’s work relies heavily on ambience, and the local environment is an important part in My Friend, so make sure you have your viewer set to Use Shared Environment (World → Environment →), and that Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) is enabled (Preferences → Graphics). Terry also advises the Shadows are set to Sun/Moon+Projectors, which can place an additional render load on a system; however, as this appears to be for the projected lights – which work just as well with just ALM enabled, so don’t fret if your system cannot hand Shadows. For the benefit of other, do please remove any facelights.

The installation combines three elements – a story presented in text, 2D images, and 3D dioramas, which in turn are combined into three parts. In the first, the story and images continue the broader narrative found in Terry’s earlier instalments, the narrative mixing with images to present the opening idea of how life can be shaped by memories and dreams. From here, on turning a corner, the story segues into a different narrative, one which may well leave the more autobiographic elements behind. It deals with reflections and memories of a lost friendship – and what might have been a first, and ultimately unrequited / lost, love. Finally, and on the upper level of the installation, we are invited to share in some of the memories that form recollections of that friendship.

Terrygold: My Friends, May 2023

The darkened environment reflects both the subtext of dreams used to open the installation and the fact that for many of us, memories most vividly come at night, in the darkened period between the lights going out and sleep arriving, leaping out unbidden. Here, the darkness of the setting causes the images Terry uses to illustrate her story do much the same: their  muted colours leaping from wall to eyes, reflecting that way in which those memories mentioned above flash into being.

In travelling through the art and story, we are drawn into a tale of a precious friendship held by one person towards another, and the mixing of positive and negative emotions that so often ebb and flow through the interactions which mark that friendship, and its eventual – perhaps inevitable – end. I don’t want to spoil the story by saying too much; however, there are elements throughout that will doubtless echo with us as we progresses through the lower level – for who has not had a certain friendship / love that has become framed by regret? What I will note is that all of the images presented have been created in Second Life and sans post-processing of any description, instead relying entirely on the available environment settings.

Terrygold: My Friends, May 2023

At the end of the story, two round openings offer access to a stairway leading to the upper level and a parkland sitting in darkness, pools of light illuminating little vignettes reflective of the story below (most notable the two bicycles).

Exactly how autobiographical the friendship elements within the My Friend might be is not for me to say; they could just as easily be born of the imagination. That is for Terrygold to reveal (or not!). But taken as a whole, My Friend is an evocation and nuanced story in both art and words.

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Terrygold’s Horror Museum in Second Life

Solo Arte October 2021: Terrygold – Horror Museum

I’ll say up front that I’m not a great fan of the “Halloween season”. Not because I dislike horror or anything; it’s just that I sit just on the side of the age divide (and also the Atlantic) where I look upon all the fuss and things like trick-or-treating as a dubious import¹. However, every so often something comes along that is related to the “season”, and which catches my eye – such as the first iteration or two of Linden Lab’s Haunted House or the odd region design.

One such place that did this for 2021 is a modest but engaging art installation by Terrgold, which is now open at Solo Arte  to form both an immersive art space and precursor to an event space that will likely see activity throughout the month.

Solo Arte October 2021: Terrygold – Horror Museum

Horror Museum is a small semi-interactive exhibit in which you can witness scenes associated if not with Halloween per se, then most certainly the annals of cinematic and written horror. The core element of the installation is a visit to a museum – or perhaps gallery would be a better description – offering a series of images drawn from the worlds and legends of horror. In one hall, for example, we can peer into a scene of Frankenstein’s laboratory; and another, Nosferatu stands as if in greeting as we pass, whilst others offer images of nightmare characters and creatures – clown and giant spiders – with more beside.

Solo Arte October 2021: Terrygold – Horror Museum

But these are not ordinary images; each is in fact a 3D setting in which visitors are invited to step and become a part of the story that has been captured. Most are fairly straightforward in their presentation of a scene, but one takes you a little further than the others, opening as it does into a chamber beyond its frame.

As well as the 3D images by Terrygold, the halls of the gallery include models of monsters and posters from a number of horror films, some of which compliment Terry’s art.

At the end of the gallery spaces is a picture called The Forest, a walk through what is often the favourite setting for horror films, a mysterious forest, this once complete with strange figures and creatures. A path winds through this forest, providing the way to the event space mentioned above.

If I’m totally honest, I’d have liked to have experienced poses within the various vignettes Terrygold provides that are more in keeping within each theme. But at the same time, producing custom poses is no easy task, and its not as if this diminish the content of  Horror Museum nor the fact it is an engaging installation. When visiting, do make sure you follow the instructions at the landing point to set your environment correctly.

1. Yes, you’re allowed to shout “bah! humbug! at me for saying this (even if that does belong to the end-of-year season!).

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Terrygold’s Empty Chairs: remembrance in Second Life

Solo Arte: Empty Chairs by Terrygold

Empty Chairs is a new art installation by Terrygold that opened on September 1st, 2021. It is perhaps the most personal installation Terry has created in Second Life, although its central theme – that of loss of a family member – is a subject many of us can particularly relate to in the current times, given so many of us have had to deal with the loss of loved ones as a result of the current pandemic.

It’s note directly indicated if Terrygold’s own loss was direct result of the COVID situation as I’ve not had the opportunity to discuss the installation with her. However, given the context of the final part of the installation, I am admittedly assuming this to be the case. But even if not, there is no denying the power Empty Chairs has to speak to all of us on the matter of loss.

The installation can loosely be split into three parts. The first presents a series of images together with words by Terrygold that contextualise the feeling she has been experiencing on the loss of her father in a deeply personal, but utterly understandable way; one that particularly speaks to anyone who has lost a close family member, regardless of our relationship with them., and Terry wears her heart on her sleeve in talking about her father and her impact on her.

I Don’t have good memories of my Dad, he was certainly not a good father. But I remember that one day he took me on a trip with the scooter, a different day for me; I thought he could change… I look at his empty chair at the table. Now the last memory of him is this loneliness. Will this sadness ever go away?

– Terrygold, Empty Chairs

Solo Arte: Empty Chairs by Terrygold

These are not easy words to read, and I know they were not easy to write; but again, regardless of our own relationship with those we have lost, the loneliness – the emptiness – Terrygold brings to her words and these images will be familiar. The manner in which their absence gives rise to that loneliness in the oddest of ways, from a chair now sitting empty, to sights and sounds we encounter as we strive to resume our own lives, the memories that, long filed away now come back unbidden…

There are so many ways in which such memories can be triggered: the empty chair, a walk that brings us into contact with a sight or object they would have appreciated and the realisation it is something they will never again see or we can no longer discuss with them, and so on, all of which are reflected in these images. Also, the use of dark tones and shadows within them not only reflects the fact they are dealing with matters of grief but also offer a metaphor for Terrygold’s relationship with her father.

At the end of the walk is a set of pieces that are brighter in tone, and which might be said to be the second element of the installation. Here a trees grows and forest birds flutter beneath its boughs, and the images speak of the point Terrygold hopes to reach; where the darkness and loneliness have given way to warmer thoughts; when memories of her father no longer revolve around unhappy memories or the emptiness of a chair or room, but rather allow her to recall those happier moments like the ride on the scooter. Here, as well, is a doorway into the final element of the installation: a street scene crafted by Terrygold that appears to speak directly to the loss the pandemic has brought on the world.

Solo Arte: Empty Chairs by Terrygold

Within this scene are many more chairs, all empty, sitting along the street and scattered through the little park, each representing those who have been lost. Among them are boards questioning the cause of the pandemic and our ability to truly live as a part of the world around us, rather than apart from it. Again, the tone is dark – but the thoughts and feeling it presents are ones we can all recognise – perhaps with a sense of familiarity. And here too, at the end, tucked behind the little row of shops is a message of hope.

Visualising and giving voice to grief can often be cathartic- and I hope this is the case for Terrygold. Speaking as one who has been through similar loss as a direct result of the pandemic – and while my own relationship with  the one I’ve lost was far closer, I think, than Terry’s with her father – I will say that visiting Empty Chairs was moving and offering a further sense of release from some of the memories that still give rise to confusion and hurt. But even without my personal experience, I would have found Empty Chairs richly poignant and with a remarkable depth of content and context.

Solo Arte: Empty Chairs by Terrygold

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A Walk in the Darkness in Second Life

Terrygold – Carla: Walk in the Darkness

Substance abuse – be it “hard” or “soft” drugs, misuse of prescription drugs or over-indulgence in alcohol, to name but some of its forms – can be a difficult subject to represent. It can come about due to a variety of means and reasons, often with the person or persons caught in the cycle either trying to hide their dependency or deny it. Circumstance often plays a role in misuse, and that circumstance can vary widely.

With her latest installation, Carla, Walk in the Darkness, Terrygold attempts to weave a story of how substance abuse can grow out of the simplest of situations: peer pressure coupled with parental pressure.

Terrygold – Carla: Walk in the Darkness

Though a series of written chapters presented in text, interlinked by a series of 3D vignettes and photographs, the installation traces the story of Carla, a young teenage girl who is apparently content with her lot: school and studying to be a dancer – until she runs into some of her peers into smoking some cannabis.

From this seemingly innocent start, Carla’s life spirals – kicking back and just enjoying the heightened mood associated with cannabis, then skipping dance lessons and rebelling against her family’s concern / pressure that gives her a need to seek “freedom”, which itself is a further opening of the Pandora’s box of needing to recapture the comfort and escape of that first high through every more damaging ways – damaging to both herself and members of her family.

The story is set out in a series of descending rooms, starting from the uppermost, where a general introduction to the installation can be found, together with information on how best to view the installation. Spiralling downwards, each room offers a piece of the story, the physical descent from room to room clearly a metaphor for the descent into the darkness of substance abuse / dependency. Following the path down can be a little difficult in places, – so just cam around if you feel your are stuck; there are clues in places – green triangles on the floor or roses spread across them.

It is ultimately a dark tale that does not end happily – as one might expect – and the ending is made that much starker because after it, we get to see what might have happened if, instead of succumbing to a need to be accepted by peers, Carla had uttered a simple word.

Overall, the story is well told; the words of the story have in places obviously been carefully chosen to have maximum impact, and the individual vignettes (some of which may have interactive elements, so be sure to mouse around them rather than simply passing through) emphasise the key points of the tale. That said, there is a risk some might find the story a little too artificial in structure (long has been the debate around whether medicinal use of some drugs can lead to a need / dependency on them or carry a person into the realm “hard” drug abuse). However, as I’ve noted, this isn’t a subject that is easy to represent or broach; as such some license in the structure and outcome should be allowed.

Terrygold – Carla: Walk in the Darkness

Carla: Walk in the Darkness officially opens at 13:00 SLT on Saturday, January 4th, 2020.

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Art vignettes at Solo Arte in Second Life

Solo Arte, September 2019

Currently open at Solo Arte is an art garden created by Terrygold and MelaniaBis that features the work of invited artists displayed in a series of pods. At the time of my visit, the garden featured the work of CioTToLiNa Xue, Dekka Raymaker, Annalisa Muliaina, and Terrygold, together and an exhibition of art by Magda Schmidtzau. These are individual exhibits, rather than a combined installation – Magda’s art being the most recent addition. As noted, Each artist has their work displayed in an individual pod, with the the pods either placed on, or close to, the garden’s lawn.

In this, the setting has something of a feel of the Explore and Enjoy exhibition from 2018, also designed and curated by Terrygold and MelaniaBis (see:  Solo Arte: “explore and enjoy” in Second Life), albeit on a more modest scale. I have no idea if further pods will be added given the available space, although there appears to be room for more, if required. As it is, the four available at the time of my visit made for a contrasting group of 2D and 3D displays.

Solo Arte – Magda Schmidtzau (l) and CioTToLiNa Xue (r) – September 2019

Truth be told, I don’t have too much to say about the individual exhibits, as they all tned to speak for themselves. CioTToLiNa offers New Trips, which carries something of an echo of her piece from Explore and Enjoy, while Terrygold presents  a piece from her 2018 installation, Rusted Farm (see: A Rusted Farm in Second Life), while Magda’s 2D art is, as always, captivating in it richness of avatar studies.

However, the reality is these are art vignettes that should be seen for themselves – and in the case of Dekka’s, tried, as it is interactive – so I’ll leave you yo pay them a visit.

Solo Arte, Dekka Raymaker – September 2019

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Terrygold’s Oxygen in Second Life

Terrygold: Oxygen

Oxygen, with the subtitle The Suffocated Planet, is the title of a new installation by Terrygold, which officially opens at 13:30 SLT on Friday, January 25th. As with The Rusted Farm (read here for more) before it, it offers art with an ecological theme.

As with The Rusted Farm, Oxygen focuses on the myriad ways in which humans are systematically poisoning our own planet. But where the former dealt with the ruining of the world’s oceans and lands, Oxygen focuses on the manner in which we are slowly destroying the very air we breathe.

At its core, the installation provides a story, told it words and pictures, of a woman born in 2030, a time when the atmosphere has become so polluted people are unable to live outdoors without the aid of a respirator, which to her feels as suffocating as the deadly mix of gases in the unfiltered air. She longs to witness first had the world she has never known; a place where the sky was as blue as her eyes, and where plants and flower grow in abundance.

Terrygold: Oxygen

Her world appears to be that of underground habitation; a place of concrete walls, floors and ceilings, of passages and vast rows of tanks used to sustain our race. But even here the air is not fresh or clean, and the ever-present respirator imprisons her. There is only one place she can escape the cloying grasp of the mask, and then only briefly – and it brings forth all the longing she feels for the world that has passed, together with a renewed hated for the mask she’ll all-to-soon have to return to wearing.

My weekly hour in the municipal greenhouse is almost over; I’m already wearing my mask and in a little while I’ll be back into that fog. 59:55 … 56 … 57 … 58 … 59 it’s here. The Noise.

That “noise” is the sound of her own confined breathing, the beat of her own heart, reminders of her imprisonment.

Through the story, we follow her attempts to find peace, or rediscover all that humanity has lost. These attempts lead her to a truth: that nature is in fact stronger than we might think. While our own foolishness may bring about our own end, Nature herself will ultimately survive and recover, healing the wounds wrought by humanity in our foolishness.

Terrygold: Oxygen

Throughout the installation, the story is told through words seemingly painted on the walls of the drab halls of living spaces, and through self-portraits of Terrygold wearing the all-encompassing mask, a heavy, ugly affair. Through these images we witness her longing, her desires and ultimately, her discovery.

This tale is in many ways dark and sad; even the outcome is tinged with shadow as well as hope for the future or the natural world. However, the message is clear: should we not work with Nature, to cease our wilful destruction of environments, poisoning of water and polluting of the very air we breathe, in order to ensure the continuance all of this fragile ecosystem in which each and every one of us is born and depends upon? Or are we going to continue along a path in which, while it is true Nature through her hardiness will eventually survive and recover, will nevertheless leave humanity’s mark on the world akin to that of the dinosaurs, our passing marked only by the bones of our towns and cities?

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  • Oxygen: Solo Art (Casvian Caye, rated: Moderate)