Sunday, June 15, 2008

Elevator Angels

Alpha Auer is becoming a regular and very welcome blogger here, as she continues to explore the Garden of NPIRL Delights and relate what she sees there. Alpha's eye is an educated one. She is both a professor in graphic design and art/computer science, as well as a PhD candidate. She is also the creator of a favorite sim of mine: Syncretia.

by Alpha Auer (aka Elif Ayiter)

Setting out to create an artwork composed almost entirely of floral patterns is a challenge: just one step too far, one petal too many, one color off-sync and you rush past terms such as "pastoral" and "romantic," and end up in that most dreaded of all artistic wastelands... the land of "cute." The word "beautiful" has also become a “no” word, as has the word "soft." True, there are a number of highly acclaimed women's gender art pieces out there that use objects associated with the feminine, such as floral patterns, fabrics and the like, in order to adopt a critical stance vis a vis gender imposed roles and society.

four Yip's installation, Elevator Angels (teleport directly from here), is remarkable in that she has not shied away from what is beautiful, soft, romantic and feminine. And furthermore she has not attached any socially critical implications to these either. They proclaim to be exactly what they are, and are proud to stand in their own right. Lush overlays of flowers encircle a wonderful tree hung with avatar photographs.

That tree immediately reminded me of a thing called the wish tree that exists in many cultures, including mine... or used to exist anyway... all replaced by Tarot parlors and Reiki outlets residing in suburban Istanbul shopping malls these days, I’m afraid. Essentially, this was a tree upon which you would hang a picture of the thing that was your heart’s desire and then it was believed that your desire would materialize.

When I spoke to four (who incidentally, is every bit as delightful as her work is) I mentioned the “wish tree” to her. Much as she liked the idea it was new to her. She told me that her tree was actually an avatar family tree: you hang your picture there to join an avatar family line. Somehow the “wish tree” and this idea of creating an avatar genealogy have ended up converging in my mind. After all, isn’t our biggest wish in Second Life just that? To become part of an avatar family?

Elevator Angels reminds me of William Morris’ investigations in textile design. His bewilderingly complex formations of flowers upon flowers also found reflection in the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, particularly those by Morris himself and Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Now, it may not be terribly fashionable to say this but I am increasingly drawn to the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Pre-Raphaelites in recent years. There is something to be said about nature and beauty and I do not think that we have the nerve to say it quite in the same way that Morris and his friends said it back then. They seem to be the last ones who have pulled it off, too... that adulation of beauty, of natural form.

And now along comes Second Life®, ebullient with flowers. A very good sign this, I would say… However, sadly one is also compelled to add that all too often Second Life flowers don't manage to stay on the right side of the fence between what is “artistic” and what is “cute,” unlike four Yip’s installation which stays firmly planted on the side that William Morris seems to have also resided on: she stays there through the grace of elegance; through warm, soft, loving narrative manifest in deep, multi-faceted metaphors, and ultimately through a beauty that rests itself upon strong visual principles such as color harmonies, balance, focus, direction and motion.