London Junkers’ Hero in Second Life

The Eye Arts: London Junkers – Hero

In the United States (where it also known as African-American History Month) and Canada, February marks Black History month, an annual remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora (also observed in the UK and Ireland, but in the month of October). Given this, it is fitting that February should also see The Eye Arts host the latest 3D installation by London Junkers and which celebrates the life and work of a great American heroine – Harriet Tubman.

Entitled Hero, this is another installation by Junkers that is both marvellously understated in form but powerful in its content and depth. Rather than offering multiple scenes depicting Tubman’s life and work, London instead presents two gallery spaces that simply and directly encapsulate the major factors of her early life and work as an abolitionist, supported by the words of a poem also penned by Junkers.

Born into slavery in 1822 (as Armanda Ross) in Dorchester County, Maryland, Harriet Tubman was routed exposed to violent beatings and whippings as a child, and received traumatic head wound when a heavy metal weight thrown by an irate overseer struck her, leaving her with bouts of dizziness, pain in the form of headaches and hypersomnia throughout the rest of her life. As a result of this injury and the visions it gave her, Harriet became devoutly religious – and determined to escape her bonds.

In 1849, Tubman finally realised her goal to escape slavery, thanks to several factors combining – her belief in the Old Testament’s tales of deliverance for enslaved people; the discovery that her current owners were ignoring a stipulation the her mother would be manumitted (freed by her owners) at the age of 45; and thirdly that the widow of her owner might actually break up her family be selling them off.

The Eye Arts: London Junkers – Hero

However, a first attempt, made with her brothers Ben and Henry, ended when her siblings opted to return. A few months later Harriet tried again, this time making use of the so-called Underground Railroad – a network of former slaves, those still enslaved, abolitionists, and other activists – to reach the relative safety of Philadelphia. But she did not rest on her laurels.

I was a stranger in a strange land. My father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were [in Maryland]. But I was free, and they should be free.

– Harriet Tubman

And so, spurred both by the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 which imposed heavy punishment on those aiding escaped slaves, together with the news that members of her family were to be sold off, Tubman started working to bring her family and other escaping slaves out of Maryland and, thanks to the threat of the Fugitive Slave Law making it harder to find places where escapees could be kept safe, she would lead them as far north as British Ontario (Canada), the British Empire having abolished slavery altogether. Over the course of 11 years and 13 expeditions, Tubman directly guided 70 slaves to freedom, and assisted an estimated 50-60 more in their efforts to find freedom.

All of this is captured with Junker’s words and installation. In the first hall, the poem is set upon a pedestal alongside a fire roaring in a hearth – the latter suggestive of the warmth and comfort of a place to live free from the rigours and terror of slavery. Click the poem to get a HUD version for ease of reading, if required, for the words are beautifully crafted, telling Harriet’s tale in freeing herself and then seeking to free the rest of her family and others. Within in it we find not only a reflection of her life and work as a practical abolitionist, but also personal touches that bring her to life, such as the name Minty awarded her by her family or that of Moses, the name given her by those she freed because like him, she led her people from bondage.

The Eye Arts: London Junkers – Hero

Either side of this poem and its warm, safe fireplace sit railway tracks and little wagons, personifying the idea of the Underground Railroad and to the idea of slave labour (the wagons resembling those used to haul coal, rock or other fruits of manual labour). Both of these tracks angle towards a stone arch that leads visitors into woodland clearing at night.

Here a single track of rail line points to the towering figure of Tubman as show towers like an angelic protector over a pregnant woman and two young children  – one of whom carries the yoke and chains of slavery -, figures that represent all those she guided to safety from captivity. Around them, the Moonlit woods stand as a reminder of the covert nature of journeys Tubman took with her wards, travelling by night and hiding by day. Within the setting we also witness the dangers that hunted them by day and night: the baying hounds that tracked them, leading torch-bearing, angry men promising the threat of recapture or even death from a bullet or at the end of a rope for having the temerity to attempt to seek a life of freedom.

Harriet Tubman’s life and work was remarkable; not only did she do much to free those enslaved  directly by physical efforts, she also worked alongside abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and John Brown and working in support of the Union cause in the US Civil War (where she was directly involved in an action that resulted in the freeing on 750 slaves), and then in later life worked to promote the cause of women’s suffrage. Within Hero London offers a just honouring of Tubman and her endeavours and a fitting exhibit for Black History Month – do be sure to pay it a visit.

The Eye Arts: London Junkers – Hero

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Admiring InPerfección in Second Life

The Eye Gallery – Kubbrick, July 2019

Currently open at The Eye art gallery, curated by Mona (MonaByte) is a most intriguing exhibition of digital photography and art by Kubbrick, entitled InPerfección.

Kubbrick describes himself as “a sailor of the virtual seas and an artist [who] captures images in the physical world and transforms them through software and pictorial techniques in a search for the beauty of shapes and colours.”

The Eye Gallery – Kubbrick, July 2019

One the ground floor of the gallery space, for example is a series of studies -of water and bubbles. These include photos of all or parts of the human body in the water, some in clear focus, some blurred, with applied lighting and contrast that marvellous utilise colour and reflection to explore our own relationship with water.

This can be seen within Al Calor de la Flama – “the colour of flame”, and through the dynamics of motion in water shown through Nadadora de Aguas Profundas  – “deep water swimmer” and Escape en el Agua – escape in the water; mixed with these images are thoughts even on the nature of rain on a window with Paisaje (“landscape”). However, for me, Escape en el Agua is particularly captivating; within it there is a wonderful displacement of air through the water that’s given birth to clouds of bubbles, and these naturally lead on to the remaining images in this part of the gallery, which in turn offer fascinating abstractions on bubbles.

The Eye Gallery – Kubbrick, July 2019

It is perhaps “abstraction” that most applies to Kubbrick’s style, and this is further demonstrated in the digital pieces to be found on the upper level of the gallery.

These offer a rich mix of art, colour and form, all beautifully dynamic, some apparently created purely through digital means, others utilising “everyday” objects – the roof of what appears to be a gallery or stadium, the humble engine block, gears and chains, all combined with with digital techniques – to produce finished images that have an incredible feeling of being purely fractal in form. These all stand as captivating images in their own right; however, they also draw the eyes inevitably to Enfrentamiento (“confrontation”), a piece that appears to capture  in mirrored form a piece of wall art.

The Eye Gallery – Kubbrick, July 2019

My one regret with InPerfección is that I did not drop in sooner. The exhibition opened on June 28th, 2019, and so may not have much longer to run. So, if you do want to witness it for yourself, I would recommend a visit sooner rather than later.

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Rofina Bronet at The Eye

The Eye: Rofina Bronet

Currently open at The Eye art gallery, curated by Mona (MonaByte), is a stunning exhibition of avatar photography by Rofina Bronet. And it is a quite extraordinary collection of images.

Featuring what might be termed “traditional” style studies focusing on the head and face, these are pieces presented in the most marvellous of digital colour and backdrops: celestial skies, iridescent clouds, futuristic grids, and – in places – soft-focused “natural” backgrounds.

The Eye: Rofina Bronet

In addition, rather than presenting individual portraits of avatars, in places Rofina offers multiple images of the same person. These, together with the selected backdrops and digital elements against which they are posed adds considerable depth in capturing the personality of each study.

Also found within the gallery are media TV screens offering slide displays of the images on offer (click to page through the images), thought with other that may not be offered in large format on the walls. Larger, wall-mounted media screens feature You Tube recordings of some of the individuals featured within the exhibition, and offering further depth to the still images Peeter presents.

The Eye: Rofina Bronet

All of this makes for a remarkable and deeply engaging exhibition of art and photography, which words alone really do not do justice a visit to The Eye to see them first-hand is strongly recommended.

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