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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Convivial Pursuit

You will still be here tomorrow, Though your dreams may not.
    Cat Stevens

           Back in the golden age of SL, there were so many Italian sims it would take you months to visit them all; an immensely varied galaxy of  nostalgia and extravagant architecture, vibrant communities packed with dance and drama, passion, imprecision, and boundless enthusiasm. Many of those luminous points have gone out, while those that survive cluster together for company, almost orbiting in systems, let us say solar systems, like sim Solaris, which is home to Arte Libera, Pyramid Cafe, as well as the Torno Kohime Foundation, or to put it another way Tanalois, run by  run by Aloisio Congrejo and Tani Thor.
           Pol Jarvinen is there now, with a new show, Chasing Butterflies. No running around with delicate nets though. At first glance, you might mistake the build for a sort of zoo, or aviary. There are painted pine livestock cages at the entrance, the kind of thing they used fifty years ago when it was still okay to scoop animals out of their habitat and drag them off to some civilized country to be stared at. But these boxes don't contain lemurs or parrots. They have butterflies in them; ghostly, enormous and (thanks to the alpha bug) not entirely inside the boxes, either. Spooky.

          Beyond the boxes an avenue of cages opens up; no, not cages, but enclosures. Wander in, and you can hear Pol's words echoing among the phantom bars.
Pol Jarvinen: maybe you can feel the feelings of a boxed butterfly now 
          He's right. A sensation of cramped wings fluttering, fine lines slicing. Cold steel shot through with moving, organic forms, a mere bubbling of moments in the darkness.  And the mind turns to the chrysalis, and ancient metaphors for the soul and spirit, and we, ourselves, our virtual selves, somehow trapped between dull thudding fingertips and a digital hereafter.
             A maze of forms creep out of the darkness, constructed of light and lines scratching at the surface of Pol's imagination, and your own. No two viewers see just the same thing, and that's just what he intends. That is the secret. You are as much a metamorph as the next bug, stumbling through the shadows. Stay close.
             How then chasing? Surely that part is done; the shutters are down, and we, like Rilke's panther, can do no more than pace - and sometimes pierce phantom boundaries and stare up at the quiet waiting forms that might, at a pinch, turn into further butterflies. Perhaps this is the chase Pol means, a mad race through interiors, principally our own world of locked room puzzles. Where, again that question, where are we going? And more, with whom? Like so many of Jarvinen's builds, the illusion collapses if seen alone. It is the intersection of person - persons - and space and form that breathes life into the install.
            And the out, out into the light, not an afterword so much as an afterward to confirm this thesis, a set of avatar-sensitive sculptures await, anatomizing the elements that made up the labyrinth you just experienced.
          There is jeopardy here, too though. You're out of the woods, but here be monsters ready to exterminate you with their crushing, needling beauty.
            Where it leads depends on you. Take a friend.
Pol Jarvinen's install Chasing Butterflies opens soon at Tanalois , 1:30 pm, SLT.

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