Sunday, December 19, 2010

Getting personal: Sayumi's first reflections on some December entries

It has been a while since I have written here. My work in that other world we sometimes must visit has kept me extremely busy lately, but the knowledge that the wonderful world of SL art awaits me has inspired me and freshened my morale when the going has been tough. I am a little afraid that 2011 will see me dragged further away from SL by the demands of my other-world career, but that remains to be seen. For the time being I can enjoy all that SL has to offer, and it offers much! While in this UWA blog I will confine my comments to works associated with the UWA 3D Open Art Challenge, I am starting to become aware of the vast range of galleries and collections of artworks in SL, and hope to sometimes reflect on visits to these in my own blog.
I am also right now just a little struggling to keep it all together between RL and SL and keep my head in the right place, and so I'm a little afraid that my slightly scatty state of mind isn't allowing me to reflect or to write quite as effectively as I would like. If some of this seems a little inane (not, there's NOT an 's' missing in that word! hee hee!) please forgive me.

This time I will simply offer some reflections on a few of the pieces already entered in the December round of the UWA Challenge. I have enjoyed touring the platform this week, sometimes running into friends and making new ones, but I will admit that some of the pieces have been quite personally confronting - not in a bad way, but making me realize that it is sometimes going to be difficult to comment honestly on a piece without making myself a little more vulnerable in the process. This is not necessarily a bad thing - the artists make themselves vulnerable in every work, of course. So... it will be interesting!

I began at one side of the platform the other morning, and the four pieces I will comment on this time are all displayed in one row at that point. The first piece was Spirit Radikal's 'Owned'. This piece was especially confronting for me, given a past which has included time in the world of D/s (Dominance & submission) together with, as part of that, some exposure to Japanese 'tentacle sex' as portrayed in some anime and manga works. Having encountered some of that in SL's darker corners, it was quite surprising to come across, in the very first December work I randomly approached, what seems to be a quite clear expression of submission in the form of a very dominating, tentacle-wielding being. Standing beneath the slowly turning tentacles, for I can give them no other name, I found old emotions returning, emotions which I had thought suppressed and controlled. I knew quite quickly that these tentacles were innocuous, that their threat was to my imagination only, and a viewer who has not experienced submission to SL's weirder flora will likely not identify with my reading of this piece at all. But the piece is called 'Owned'... and I have been, though I am no longer and will not be. Therein is the lesson that we bring to each piece we view, not only our intellectual or aesthetic appreciation of the work, but also our own past and our own deeper tendencies. I have to admit, just now I can write no more about this piece, even though I feel that I have not covered it adequately.

Spirit Radikal Owned

I moved on from that first encounter to a form which I instantly recognized as being the work of Kyra Roxan, whose 'Urban Girls' I had so admired last month. The familiar curves of her sensuous execution of the female form in a dark polished granite-like texture leapt at me with a cry to the naughty elements of my heart, and I was somewhat incredulous to have this occur with the second piece I was viewing also. I pushed these thoughts aside in the interests of a more dispassionate approach to the work. However, objectivity proved impossible with this piece too. Two nude female figures are entwined on one another inside a cocoon of flimsy gossamer curtains blowing in the constant gentle breeze; the curtains hang from a small shrine of decidedly Greek appearance... ancient, perhaps Archaic, Greek, as of some Aegean island in the era of Hesiod and more particularly Sappho, and one can imagine that at times these drapes are swept by the tempests which earlier battered Odysseus on his quests. Then, as the viewer moves inside the curtains, intruding on the quiet intimacy of the two dark friends, one is suddenly confronted inescapably by the realization that these women are no simple friends, but lovers. The right hand of each thrusts unashamedly between the thighs of her companion, and one starts to feel that the sound on the breeze is more than mere rustling drapes but includes the low moans and whimpers of these passionate girls. At that moment, one particular Aegean isle leaps into one's consciousness, the isle of Lesbos, and the viewer wonders if maybe one of the women may not be a Sappho herself, at least Sappho as imagined since Victorian times. Why is the work called 'ILS'? After some touring of internet disambiguation pages, I will offer 'International Lesbian Solidarity', but I am probably wide of the mark. Again, I have to shake myself free from this piece and move on quickly, unable to remain in its spell for longer if I am to treat it as an artwork and not be entranced by its siren call.

Kyra Roxan ILS

I promise the reader that, in this piece at least, there will be no more sensual revelations, but that does not mean that the other works did not also appeal to me deeply. The other two that I will comment on today are those by Anley Piers, separate works but linked thematically by their treatment of humankind, technology and progress in the built and natural environments. Well, that's a summation of my reading of these twin pieces. Both pieces are 'powered', both in the literal and the artistic sense, by electricity, which has avowedly been the driving force of a technological society since the late 19th century. The first and smaller of the works, 'Human Energy', is at first glance a simple piece - an incandescent light globe forms the head of a humanoid figure which is about to connect itself to a power socket which my research shows me to be of a French-style 'Type E' design. It does not immediately strike the viewer, perhaps, that the light globe is glowing despite not yet being connected to the power source; but I am sure that this is the key to Piers's point, in that the humanoid figure contains its own power source independent of any man-made grid. I am sure there is something deeper here, but it as yet escapes me; the components of the limbs are of a piping which I know I have seen in some context, but that, too, will need to be teased out by another commentator. I move on dissatisfied with my own penetration of this work, wondering if its twin piece will yield further clues.

Anley Piers Human Energy

'Travel in the shadow of technology' is a much more complex piece, bringing together built and natural elements, and some which are ambiguous, inside a black ovoid which serves as a backdrop to highlight the mainly white components of the work. Here we have, again, light globes, together with a fan and also a computer USB cable, combined with plants, a bird and a low ground-hugging fog as natural elements. The light globes, as in the first work, are atop elements which are natural in origin - in this case, lively plant stems, which I admit I impulsively thought of immediately in terms of the story of 'Jack and the Bean Stalk', though I could take this metaphor no further. Three umbrellas, apparently of an antique design, mysteriously circulate within the scene; and climactically the astute viewer notes, despite an explicit invitation, that s/he is intended to become part of the work by 'posing' and then circulating among the elements - ideally, bring a friend to view this work, and participate together! One senses that the 'travel' suggested by the title is not only through space, as the movement implies, but also through time... progress from 19th century to 21st century technology is represented here. The work may have a warning message, I admit to being unsure... but participating in it for a short time does have a calming effect, and one may exit reassured that, despite all that we hear about the dangers and environmental damage caused by modern technology, there may yet exist a harmony and 'peaceful co-existence', to draw on a Cold War phrase, between humankind, technology and the natural world. I interpret it as a positive and optimistic work, despite the lack of vibrant colouring, and yet in offering this interpretation I am desperately afraid that I have missed the point and the artist intended something quite different.

Anley Piers Travel in the shadow of technology

So I end my tour of this small corner of December a little less sure of myself, having been confronted and puzzled, soothed and challenged, but looking forward intently to seeing more and thinking more on this month's growing volume of offerings. Yesikita's Coppola's wonderful machinima of the November winners reveals to all of us the beauty of the range of works we are being privileged to enjoy each month, and December looks set to continue our pleasures.

[I took multiple photos of two of the works discussed here, and the full set of photos for December where more than one photo was taken is in this album on Picasa]

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