Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Arahan Clavaeau vexes me, significantly

This is Part I of three blogposts related in some way to Arthole that I hope to get out sooner rather than later.

Had it not been for "flat art," it would have taken me a lot longer to discover him. Fact is, there are 2D complements to virtual worlds that I adore and they translate into photography and Machinima shot in immersive 3D environments and then displayed on the Web. I generally don't like looking at flat images of anything in-world, with some exceptions: people like Feathers Boa and Douglas Story take 2D photography and breathe scripted life into it. But that's another story.

Arahan, together with Nebulosus Severine, created a new art space called Arthole

That said, Arahan Claveau (aka Steve Millar; rez: 6/28/2005) first sparkled on my radar on November 2007 when I came across this image by him.


With my antennae already on red alert, I was tickled when AM Radio pointed me to this discovery, a very dear, gorgeously rendered story book - appropriately named "Small Story: A Tale Without Words" - featuring a narrative collection of photographs that had been styled and shot within Second Life®.

Arahan cancelled his Flickr account (bother!) a few weeks ago and doesn't publish photographs taken in Second Life anymore. "They bore me," he says, though he does do some Machinima now and then.

By axing his Flickr account, Arahan has deprived me of a source of pleasure and a place I could go to learn about some of the more polemic history of Second Life - so I'm not amused.

"Second Life photography became less and less relevant for me. A lot of it had to do with wanting to channel my efforts into other areas, but it has become overwhelmed by glamour photography and I can't compete with breasts," he added.

Whatever... I'm pissed. That said, Arahan has a grid-wide reputation for artistic provocation. By cancelling his account, he is inciting me and his other fans to stop ooo'ing and ah'ing at his pretty pics and start looking at his other works. Damn, there goes pretty... now I have to look at his gallows .

His photography may be often whimsical and breathtaking but to me, Arahan's installations in-world speak - for the most part - about pain

Since 9/11, I have become increasingly chicken-livered about topics that make me feel pain and sadness. To that end, Second Life is the cadillac of anesthesias: I am able to interact with hundreds of avatars on a daily basis, while rarely having to consider the price of petrol, the latest treachery in political campaigns, or the earthquake in China. That is, unless Arahan's art is about. While he is always polite (when he gets serious he calls me Madame, yikes! This always makes me feel like I need to rise to some occasion), and sometimes playful, he is seriously committed to his vision of art as a tool of revolutionary change.

Take this Injustice installation, for instance (teleport directly from here). Here we have a seemingly innocuous pink room strewn with even pinker balloons. Dead center, a gallows where someone, presumably, has been executed by hanging. The party is over. His account of the story is further explained with the help of Real Life photographs of two Iranian youths about to be hanged and a notecard that explains the men's plight.

In his comments on the Brooklyn is Watching blog, Arahan went on to explain, "(This piece) was originally part of larger installations and was much more of an attack on complacent ‘queer eye’ types. In a nutshell it was saying “listen faggots, there is no equality, we are never going to be accepted by mainstream society so stop pretending. We are being beaten, tortured, murdered and executed every fucking day, get off your arses and fight back now!” When it comes to fighting for our lives there should be no compromise and this of course doesn’t just apply to homosexuals."

More sobering still was a second notecard that shocked me greatly. As wordly as I like to think that I am, I forget what it's like out there, beyond my liberal home in Southern California. Take a look at the penalties for homosexuality around the world. Mission accomplished, Arahan.


Nebulosus Severine / CM Pauluh said...

Perhaps it goes without saying that I am a huge fan of Arahan's art. I'm constantly blown away by both his fun & lighthearted work, and his poignant & emotionally devastating stuff, too.

I was one of the first to learn that he had deleted his Flickr account. Though I was (am) sad to see it go, I understand his reasons and respect his decision.

Yes, he IS provocative, in his approach to both life and art. And that's just one of many reasons I respect him and why I am proud to be his friend.

Anonymous said...

As Nebulosus i am a fan of Arahan's art, even his "flat art" but as Nebulosus too i understand and respect his decision.

He may be provocative, so what? I can't see the problem in that, i see just someone showing us how provocative is life itself, through laugh and pain. How life can be something wonderful or just a pit of shit, becuase life is both things, and most of us are just in some like a "coma" state, in our calm bubble, ignoring that pain and laugh of life.

Anonymous said...

Hiya Bettina,

Although my Flickr account has gone the way of the Dodo, Small Story is still viewable as a Flash slideshow on my website.

It's great if this blog inspires new people to see 'Injustice' and in turn helps spread awareness about the issues. For that I am extremely grateful.

Thank you Madam!

Bettina Tizzy said...

Arahan, like I said, Sir...

"...he is seriously committed to his vision of art as a tool of revolutionary change."

And for this reason I care, a lot, and don't you forget it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bettina.

According to Iranian human rights campaigners, over 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979.

Protest to the Iranian Ambassador:

Tel: 020 7225 3000
Fax: 020 7589 4440

Iranian Ambassador
Embassy of Iran
16 Prince's Gate
London SW7 1PT

If you live outside the UK, protest to the Iranian Embassy in your country, and press your government to break off diplomatic relations and impose trade sanctions against Iran.

'Injustice' can be seen on level one of the Arthole gallery. Details and SLurl here.

Prokofy said...

Arahan is a violent extremist, he supports griefers like w-hat and the PNs in SL, and his work is obscene in the sense that it has no redeeming art value. It's self-referential, infantile, and facile, and I'm not surprised Bettina is gurgling over it.

If Arahan cares about gay people in Iran, or for that matter, any people whose rights are violated and who suffer terribly in Iran, civil society activists, lawyers, pacifists, Bahais, unbelievers, etc. then he should think harder about how to solve the problem of Iran and Iraq. But, like so many infantiles on the internet, he can only lament the war in Iraq, hysterically claim invasion of Iran is planned, and highlight only the plight of gays -- when in fact the entire country's population is at risk from a government that oppresses and kills its own people.

Brooklyn is hardly a place where gays are beaten; let's not be silly here. Arahan's "art" depends utterly on narcissism and exaggeration of his fake victim status, and all of this distracts from real victims.

Nebulosus Severine / CM Pauluh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harper Beresford said...

I addressed this same "provocation" in my blog in early May. I don't care if he canceled his Flickr account personally. I wasn't looking anyway. I did look at one of his installations and saw something completed in 2001 and probably made in the 90s that is very similar at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Is he provocative or simply derivative?

Anonymous said...

@ Harper:

It appears that you are but another of the sheep who jump on a bandwagon without learning any facts yourself. It also comes as no surprise that you missed Arahan's Flickr art, you are but another fashion hack who goes around insulting other designers in the name of customer service for RFyre.

No one cares that "YOU" posted some drivel back in May. Again I see a person attempting to get into the limelight for a few seconds on the backs of others, and at any cost.

Perhaps the best plan of action is for you and all the others who would libel another's work to band together and do something worthwhile. Either that or go back to watching the fashion feed and rushing out to get the next Nicky Ree release. said...

I'm confused how one can be called a "violent" anything in Second Life where any potential violence is mitigated by the fact that the ability to completely deny a person's existence is within reach of a simple mute button.

I'm also confused as to how one could be called a "violent extremist" when anything having to do with Voted 5 or W-Hat is contained to a simple thread where Arahan merely took snapshots of one of their events.

Also, unfortunately, homosexuals are harassed everywhere, from the liberal streets of NYC to backwater towns in Alabama. To act as if there's any haven is irresponsible and, according to the statistics of many urban LGBT outreach organizations, incorrect.

Even recently here in NYC, where I live, a drag queen was beaten nearly to death in the East Village- hardly any place unfriendly to homosexuals.

Similar attacks happen constantly in London or San Francisco; this is reality. To deny this is impossible.

Finally, Arahan is a brave individual willing to speak about issues that most aren't. Many gay people live in a blissful denial that our rights have been won, that the fight is over, that we have equality. I am consistently amazed and impressed with his artwork because it conveys in such a simple manner what lurks beyond the rose-tinted glasses of most of my peers. While many of them have left the battleground, thinking their work is done, the truth is it's far from that.

Arahan speaking out about the unfair and immoral situation of homosexuals in the Middle East is in no way diminishing the plight of their citizens at large. Speaking about one injustice doesn't invalidate others. I personally thank Arahan for bringing these issues to light, and every individual who is otherwise educated about the situation that they didn't know before is one individual closer to things finally improving overall.

Anonymous said...

These two individuals are pursuing personal vendettas and I will not rise to the bait as it will only distract from what is important.

I have no doubts about my integrity or motivations. Luckily, people can see the work for themselves despite these crass, slanderous attempts at sabotage.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the Iranian case, the information given out to visitors at the installation contains the following notecards -

*Homosexuality laws of the world (listing individual policies and punishments).

*Homophobic violence (statistics and examples from around the world, including my home town of London).

*Pink Triangle (the history of the Nazi symbol and it's subsequent use by the gay rights movement).

I use the 2005 Iranian executions as one example as it is a very effective way of getting the wider message across. The age of the two youths involved and the rare, shocking photographs that were published are brutal and shocking,and help highlight what is a global problem.

Viola said...

I asked Arahan to make his work he did for the SFHC again, now in SL Amsterdam, during the artproject voor de Dutch Kunstvlaai, reaching approx 10.000 FirstLife visitors.
The reactions were overwhelming positive. In Amsterdam, last year, there have been several attacks on homoseksuals walking hand in hand. The Second Life exhibition, including Arahans work, Ichibot, Edo, Nebulosus, SLfront, turned out to be one of the best elements of the festival. My respect and deep compliments for the artists again.

Anonymous said...

A video of the installation that I was invited to create for Planetart/Kunstvlaii can be seen here.

The live audio interview with questions from festival visitors in real-world Amsterdam can be streamed here. We discuss a wide range of topics, including censorship by Linden Lab, global government policies on homosexuality and even the future of virtual worlds.

The KunstVlaii Festival is a very credible and established event and it was an extremely worthwhile and positive experience that reached out beyond the confines of Second Life.