Sunday, February 27, 2011


Destinati a perdersi
In spazi troppo piccoli
In pezzi che non puoi riappiccicare
Suppose none of it is real. Robin Moore's new build Playground of Love, which opens at Arte Libera on March 3rd, shows romance as a fun fair, yet wonders about both - the fun, and the fairness. Hearts don't do virtual, they just are, and this thoughtful install, built in collaboration with Prajna Seetan, runs rings around ideas of commitment, seduction, trust, and change.
Love as a merry-go-round; a Heath-Robinson build - Storm P machines, to Danes like Robin - it is full of poses and moving parts, none of which take you anywhere except back to yourself again; even the stairs, with their embossed promise of  'Love, Live, Learn', lead into a sky from which the birds have flown, leaving only their shadows, and an empty moon. This is no fairy-tale romance, but a reminder that, unlike our intentions, all we have done is a memory somewhere, and actions have a way of running full circle.
Meanwhile, at Maya Paris' Veparella, fairy tales have been stitched together seamlessly, from Rapunzel to Red Riding Hood.
Surrender to the Veparella kit; it is as essential to the story as Once Upon a Time. Turn up the mischievous music by March Macbain
Like Playground of Love, this is a joyful build, with jolly music and a sense of fun, full of poses. Here, choosing has consequences, mostly of a particulate kind, but beware, every click counts. Your head in calipers, and wearing your mother's stilettos, you get to be the heroine - not just Veparella herself, running with scissors, choosing, spiralling upward; suppose you can be all the Princesses of the story books. Find them for yourself.
If Playground of Love explodes the myth of real commitment in virtual relationships, it does so with bland serenity. It's all a game, where you come to please yourself, living the moment, confident that nothing and no-one around you has more substance than their pixels, so no harm done. Snapped memories float down gently, cushioning even the heavy hammer in one corner. Nothing matters, it's all happened before, and will again.
 Veparella suggests consequences somewhat spikier than that, one would suppose.
A classic tale.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Blue Place

Tonight is the preview of new art on sim Originalia. There will be work by Em Larssen, RAG Randt and Eliza Wierwight  on show, but this is a story about Scottius Polke's build. It has other names but I've always called it the Blue Place.

 “Well, you were right,  it’s nothing like Maine, or even the Mediterranean, said Dana, and she threw a piece of roof tile in the general direction of the sea. “It’s just – blue.” 
From the terrace, the two women watched the stone make a gentle arc through the damp air, and disappear into the marsh grass a few feet short of the water’s edge.
“And you’re really OK about living out here alone? Good grief - it’s my idea of hell. No, wait. Limbo. My Blue Limbo!” Dana offered up her  iPhone to the sky. “That’s a good one! I’d tweet that, but I can’t get a signal.” She looked at Laura with almost real concern. “Typical Dickie, buying this place sight unseen, and then expecting you to organize everything, while he plays the part of the tortured genius back  in Chelsea.”
“It wasn’t sight unseen. We saw loads of photos online, and so did you.”
“Still, all that stuff about Hemingway and Picasso. Classic internet hooey. You’re really telling me that Ernest and Pablo, and the rest, came up on this roof, sat in that shack, and got inspired?”
“Why not? People have to be somewhere, why not here? It's a great spot, only an hour or so from the city. That reminds me, where’s the agent? He’s supposed to give you a ride back. Don’t let him leave without you, otherwise you might have to stay.”
“Not funny."
“In the meantime,” said Laura, pushing an untidy curl behind one ear, “How about you give me a hand with the storm doors on this ‘shack’, as you call it, so we can take a look at the studio? Who knows, maybe there are some unfinished masterpieces inside.”  Dana contemplated her manicure, without moving.  Laura, unsurprised, turned her attention to the weather beaten shutters. The oak shrieked as each panel folded back to reveal a quintet of delicate glass doors, and behind these, a dim interior that smelt of ancient turpentine.
“No, only a coil of rope. It looks new. How odd.”
“I dunno, maybe Hemingway was into bungee jumping.” Dana checked her phone again.
There were no lost treasures in the studio, but the view was a masterpiece in itself. The long, thin room occupied the whole north end of the terrace. Inside, three blank walls were daubed in white and scarred with nails and scraps of paper. The fourth was made entirely of windows, and looked out across the terrace and over the low stone balustrade which, like the hedge of Leopardi’s poem, seemed to hide the edges of the infinite;  a vast expanse of rolling hills and sky and soft indigo shoreline. And the ocean, a great cerulean circle of movement and stillness, filling every part of the senses with a melancholy freshness in its scent and quiet roar.
“I mean – are you really sure? You’ve been a little down recently. Won’t this make it worse?” Dana ventured. “Look at it!” she continued with a harsh laugh, “No wonder the house has been empty for two years. And I thought there was supposed to be a lighthouse, and a quaint fishing village, or something.”
“I don’t know anything about a lighthouse,” Laura smiled, “But the village is about twenty minutes away. You can just make out the church tower, and that looks like smoke, although, it might be mist…  see? The other side of this very round hill?”
“They’re all very round. Everything here is soft and round and blue. Did I mention the blue? Even the trees are blue. It’s crazy. I know it’s not for long, but what are you going to do for food? For shopping? For company? ”  And Laura was about to say that the last thing she needed or desired was company, and that the idea of being  alone, owner and sole occupant of this house and the hundred acres all around it was the only thing that had kept her from going mad; but before she could confess,  the fat agent came into view.
He emerged from the stairwell panting. Pale, flabby jowls juggled the twin reflexes of bonhomie and  breathlessness.  The stairs had taken their toll. From his toothy grin emerged a sound part chuckle, part gasp, like the growl of a friendly walrus. Dana looked at him as if she could see every one of  the fossilized cheeseburgers that formed the greater part of his bulk, and looked away.
“You have found the studio! Good!” His voice made Dana think of someone pleading with a cat. “And to think, Mister Dickie, in a few shorts weeks, will be here, under the roof of so many illustrious artists of the past! You know, Miss Hart, that Picasso himself…”
“OK, the next person to mention Picasso gets thrown off the roof,” said Dana. “Let’s have facts, not folklore, please. The only reason I drove down with Laura is so I can tell my brother she’s going to be OK here by herself while she gets the place ready for the summer. She needs supplies, a cleaning woman, a handyman, that kind of thing. A working phone, for example.”
There was a toothy smile. “All under controls! I just checked now, the land line is working fine.  Tomorrow morning Gerta will be here, she is a good worker, she will help with the cleanings and the furniture, and the bringing supplies. Her husband can fix all things, it is all arranged. This house is perfect for art, all kinds of art. It gives the isolation, the privacy, the freedom!” Warming to his subject, the house agent waved a puffy hand out to sea. “The world from this roof belong to the artist. It is his blank canvas, where his imagination can become anything it wants to, in the magic light of this bay.”
“Well, the grass is as high as an elephant’s eye; you’re going to want to do something about that, smirked Dana, staring off into the distance. She opened her mouth as if to say something else, but then seemed to reconsider.
“Let’s go downstairs and sort out the final details,” said Laura.
“You go ahead, I’ll be down directly,” replied the younger woman.
A few minutes later found all three of them in the hall, exchanging final advice and messages and promises to be in touch soon. The agent’s BMW eased out of the courtyard and onto the curving driveway, sheltered by bluish dunes on both sides. The man’s massive gut cradled the bottom of the steering wheel, leaving his chubby hands free to gesture.
“Charming woman, Mrs Hart! Very lovely. Her eyes, the color of the sky! Your brother must paint her many times, no?” He grinned. A soulless, affable smile, aimed at the bottom line. ”He will paint her on the terrace, like Gala!” 
 Dana couldn’t think of anything less likely. She  fumbled in her bag for earpiece and iPhone; that should discourage any more in-car conversation. Yet, as they slid onto the coastal road, Dana caught a final glimpse of the house and blurted out, “How odd the place is.”
“Old? Yes! hundreds year old  house, an antique, it has stood the tests of the time. It was the old docks of the town, here.” He accelerated into the tight curve with a practiced hand. “Long ago a storm came and washed away all the places except the big customs house, made of stone. All the rest,  lighthouse, warehouse, all gone to the sea. The village, they moved it, to a more sheltered place.” 
“It looks like a big square white tooth jutting out of a horrible black gum,” Dana went on despite herself, “Gross. Or not exactly gross, more - incongruous. Like a giant block of Lego dropped on a counterpane. Out of place, and yet, when you’re up there on the roof…”
The agent pointed a short, thick forefinger in the direction of the house. “Yes, on the roof, it becomes like a viewer, you see all, sea, sky, air; all, except for the house. You forget where you are. This is its genius.”
Dana’s iPhone hummed. At last, a signal, and a message from James.
-         ru ok? Wats ur eta?
-         All good. 11 tonite. Omg house scary. 4get party this summer.
-         not ppl place?
The words glowed from the screen. No, thought Dana,  it is not a people place. It’s a place where people shouldn’t be at all. I don’t believe a word of it, not about Picasso, or the village, or any of it. Talk soon, she texted back, and turned on the music player. To the agent she said not a syllable  more, but when, at last, he pulled up outside Departures, Dana grabbed her bag from the back seat and looked him in the eye. “Laura looks like a pushover, but she’s really not. Tomorrow she’s going to notice what I spotted this afternoon, and then there’s going to be a meltdown. Just so you know.”
The fat man shrugged, patted his breast pocket, and grinned again. Dana slammed the door and was gone.
*   *   *
The next morning the sky touched the ground and wrapped it in cotton wool. Laura woke among the boxes to the sound of Gerta knocking at the door. A focused frenzy of cleaning, unpacking, and moving followed. It was not until late afternoon, when they began carrying stuff up into the studio, that Laura even remembered that there was such a thing as outside.
The fog had risen but not left, and it floated in an arc above the bay, turning it  into a snow globe, part turquoise, part slate grey, with shapes hurrying across its opaque inner surface. Laura rested her burden of canvasses on the balustrade and stared out to sea. 
“I should paint that,” she said to no-one in particular. Why not? Laura hadn’t opened her own paints in years, but, yes, why not now? The studio was perfect, the view inspiring. Why should it only be for Dickie, or - good grief - Picasso? Why shouldn’t she fill this space, fill canvasses of her own? 
“Why not?” she said aloud, and Gerta put down the easel, looked at her doubtfully, and hurried back downstairs.
Alone in the studio, with all the delicate doors open onto the terrace, Laura sensed the world beneath, and herself beyond it. Creative. For the first time in years, she laid out the painting things the way she liked them, the way she had done as an art student. Before Dickie, and all that. Paints, daybed, easel, and chair, cloths by the sink, oils on the shelf, she set it all out for herself,  thinking about the light in the morning, the possibilities for capturing infinite shades and shapes. The blue place was just lying there, waiting for imagination - any imagination - to overlay it with meaning. It was quietly alive, willing, full of promise. 
I should sleep up here, she thought.
She looked down. Between the house and the sea there was a mass of billowing marsh grass, as fine as mermaid’s hair, parted only by a slim, dark line. A path, made of what looked like flat, square rocks. No, they were too regular to be rocks.  
“Where does that path lead to, Gerta?” asked Laura at last.
“Plank road to the sea,” grumbled the other woman, without looking. “You stay on it. When you walk, always walk on the plank road. You step off, into the mud, you can’t always...” she struggled for the word, “You can’t always get back.”
“We’ve done enough for today, Gerta.  I think I’ll take a walk before it gets too dark.”
The view from the studio was remotely enchanting, but the plank path swung her back to thoughts of something more than just a gaze. Laura found boots, men’s waders, but they fit all right, and a walking stick. She fairly rushed out of the back door. From the roof, she had observed the path snake off into the distance perhaps a hundred feet, but at ground level, she could only see as far as the first bend. For the most part, the grass was as tall as she was, soft to the touch, and sticky. It enclosed her.  It’s  like a maze! she thought, and she looked up and back, checking that the real world, in the shape of  the big stone house, was still there. 
The marsh grass grew in wispy, thin layers, flowing and clumping together; the fragile obscuration of the path ahead was like a siren song, while her immediate surroundings, plank path, gouged and worn and corpse-grey, the warm, rubbery boots, and the solid walking stick in her hand, these things jumped into sharp focus, the physical proof of the here and now.  There was nothing to do but press on and through it, living the moment, knowing even as she lived it that there were turns up ahead that she could neither imagine nor guess at.
The noise of the ocean was everywhere; in the wind, in the temperature, in her bones and hair. It seemed to come out of the grass, out of the mud, as if she and the sky and the earth were nothing but particles in a universe otherwise entirely made of sound.  
She loved it. “And to think,” she said, perhaps out loud, “That all this is mine!” Well, at least until Dickie came, and – who knew? Maybe he would change his mind and stay in the city, or follow some piece of skirt to a proper beach with palm trees, and forget all about Picasso and the house. Well. Either way, for now,  all this was hers. She took a long deep breath, as if to pull inside herself the entire experience. The  marsh grass opened up a little at the next turning, and the path split, running off either side of a tree, leafless, dead, its black branches like tines raking the sky.
‘A fork in the road!” she whispered, and smiling, chose what seemed the path less traveled. The ocean was louder. She looked back at the big stone house. It was gone. 
The grass became shoulder height, waist height, thinned and died out, exposing the denim-coloured mud and the occasional oyster shell. There was the sapphire sea. For all its noise, it  seemed quite still. The sound must be coming from deep below. Laura Hart took in the curving beach, and the inky rocks, and the hills across the bay.

“Living in the cabin? No.” The agent’s voice crackled on the line.
“Yes! Definitely someone living in there!” Laura’s voice echoed around the kitchen, just short of a shriek. She tried not to tug the phone from the wall.
“No, Mrs. Hart,” said the agent, and she could hear that toothy, equable grin in his voice, “It must be a mistake.”
“No mistake! I’m telling you, someone’s living in that cabin by the water’s edge. Now, today! I was in the place, less than five minutes ago. The stove was still warm, and there are nets and books and pictures…” She was still out of breath from her run back up to the house, made clumsier by the boots, and heavier by the disappointment of her discovery.
“You went inside?” He sounded startled.
“Of course I went inside! It’s part of the property, isn’t it? And now I find there’s a squatter on the land. And please don’t tell me you didn’t know. I went inside, there was food, nets, carpenter’s tools – and outside,  there’s some sort of construction, on the old jetty. Two – things. Demonic looking things.”
“What is jetty? The docks, you mean? You should not go on the docks, Mrs. Hart. I think it is very dangerous for you to walk on the docks. Your husband would not like it.”
Laura was incandescent. She reached out, running reassuring fingers over the bolt on the back door, on the window fasteners. “I didn’t walk on the jetty. There’s trash everywhere, there are inner tubes floating around in the water, rotting wood, - it’s a total mess.”
“Maybe it can add local color.” He chuckled inanely. “But, you know, it does not disturb the view, Mrs. Hart. From the house, the view is unblemished.”
“There is more to life than the view! The point is, there’s someone living on the beach. Mr. Hart and I bought the property in good faith - beach, house, and hillside, it’s supposed to be ours, free and clear. As you said yourself, the whole point of the house is its extreme isolation. My husband has many high profile friends who he plans to invite down here, what will he say when he finds there’s someone lurking in the vicinity. Not to mention the…” and she trailed off, unwilling to admit her second fear. But the agent had evidently thought of that, too.
 “I assure you, Mrs. Hart, you are quite safe,” HIs voice dropped a little. “There is nothing to fear; I shall myself personally call Mister Dickie and tell him…”
“You’ll do no such thing. I’ll take care of this myself. But I can promise you this, there is someone living in that cabin, and you will be hearing from my lawyer.”  It was an empty threat, but it had the ring of a goodbye, and she wanted time to think. The kitchen was almost completely in darkness. 
“God,” thought Laura, “ I bet Gala didn’t have to put up with all this.” A pale light glowed in the window for a moment, and was gone. Glowed, and was gone.
Well, I can’t just sit here. No time like the present, she kept repeating to herself. She couldn’t find a flashlight, but there was an old lantern on the step, and she lit it easily. The ocean breeze had stiffened with the coming of the night. The marsh grass was luminous, chiffon against ebony, but the path had lost  its magic, the second time around. Now it just led from A to B.  On the foreshore, she stopped. Her hands were rather full, between the stick and the lamp, and now that haste had worn off, she felt rather a fool. There was the shack, a dark square against the horizon. A buttery light poured from the windows onto the uneven deck, and Laura Hart could make out a tumble of  lobster pots, and a couple of old rocking chairs.
Better to come back in the daylight. She faltered. For a moment the deck was lit with a different, paler glow, perhaps a moonbeam, although she saw no moon. Glow, and was gone. Glow, and gone. There was someone sitting in the rocking chair. 
She turned on her heel.

 “You not get much sleep, Mrs. Hart?” said Gerta, when Laura drew the bolt and and let her in. Gerta’s black, beady pupils scanned the other woman’s face with curiosity rather than sympathy. “Your eyes are dark today. You should maybe rest, stay inside.” She shook out her coat. “Ah this weather! it is fine now, but you will see, by afternoon the fog will come in. It waits in the hills, so.” And she pointed at the pale haze hanging above the blue scoops of soft, mossy rock that ringed the bay.
“Today will be a little different, Gerta. Here is a list of things to do. I’ll leave you to get started, by yourself, OK? I am going down to the water,” she said firmly, as she picked up the walking stick. “I won’t be long.”  
On the door step, Laura looked up into a back-lit sky, filled with veils of washed-out navy and Prussian blue, flowing and clumping together, forming a fragile but determined obscuration of the sun. It might have been dawn or twilight, the day did not care for such distinctions. It was simply blue.
It was her path now. In her head, it was her plank road. She had passed this way only twice in each direction, but she felt confident of every twist and turn as if she had been born in the house. Perhaps that was what made it worse, when she got to the fork in the road, and saw the shape on the path up ahead.
She couldn’t really see what it was; except: bulky. Rounded. Indigo. Solid among the ephemeral stalks of marsh grass. It couldn’t have seen her, at least, she decided she was too small and insignificant to register with something so big. Big? It did not stand taller than the reeds around it, but she felt as if it were crouching low on purpose among the soft stalks, crouching, and perhaps waiting for her.
 “It is just my imagination,” she said out loud. Or almost.
The other path went to the water too, she would walk the shoreline up to the cabin. And then? Then would take care of itself. She darted down the unfamiliar pathway, catlike, as if afraid the boards would creak under her weight, not looking backwards exactly, but casting a sideways glance through the reeds. But all she saw were  the will-o'-the-wisps floating above the marsh grass, caught  in the silken breeze. 
 “You won’t find it.”
Afterwards, Laura remembered with pride the way that she had swallowed the girly scream before it came out of her throat.
“Whatever it is you’re looking for. The mud has a way of making things disappear. Unless you just dropped it, which I don’t see how you could have, because you only just got here.”
“Are you the man from the cabin?”
“Are you the woman from the house?”
“I’d like a word with you.”
“Why don’t you step into my office,” he said with a grim smile, and turning on his heel, he led the way. He wore a ruddy waterproof and a soft hat with fishing flies in the band, black waders and mud colored pants, all of it wrinkled and  too big for him, as if he had fallen asleep fully dressed, only to wake up in a body two sizes smaller. 
He walked into the cabin without waiting to see if she would follow him. She hung back in the doorway, taking it all in, man in his mansion. It was a one room, ell-shaped affair. Blankets hung down from the bunk bed directly over a huge work table littered with pieces of net and timber. Imagine sleeping down here, she thought. The place smelled of coffee and fish. It was not a good mix. He fussed over the stove. Laura turned her gaze outside to the old dock. In the morning light it seemed harmless enough. There were two -  how to describe them? Figures? Towers? One large, one small, they were like skittles, or dolls, a long tapering body with a round head, and arms; strange, twisted arms, with hands like boxing gloves, or rattles,  turning like the sails of a sinister  windmill. The sea was a tangle of dull white caps.  Laura Hart tried to think how to begin.
“Do you know who is the best figure to encounter in a dream? “ he said, pouring a coffee for himself and drinking it. “The devil. If you don’t wig out and hold too tightly to Christian belief, you can learn something. Still, you gotta be careful, he’s a crafty one. Can trip ya up.”
“What are those things on the dock?” 
“What do they look like?”
“I’m not sure.” She looked more intently at the faces of the figures on the dock. “Almost like… perhaps like old-fashioned court  jesters? Like in King Lear or Robin Hood, or something. But mocking. They have hard eyes. I can’t tell if they’re amused or angry. Slightly evil,” she said, adding the ‘slightly’ to save his feelings. “Is that right?”
“They are what you see. It’s art. Do ya know much about art?”
“I’ve come into contact with it, over the years,”  she said dryly. “What I don’t understand, sir,” she coughed, “Is why you’re making your art here.”
“This is its place. A place for everything, and everything in its place. Surely you’ve heard that before.”
“But this… this isn’t your place,” she countered, as clearly and politely as she could. “It’s private property. You may not have realized, but the house was sold this week; the house,” she went on, noting his skeptical gaze, “and the land around it for about a hundred acres. Including the waterfront, and this cabin.”
“And the sea?”
“Umm, no.” 
“If you own the land, why not the sea?”
“You can’t buy the sea, it’s not the same thing at all.”
“In what way?”
“Well, it’s never the same two days in a row, to begin with. And then…” She tried a different tack, glancing at the pictures on the cabin walls.  “I heard there was a lighthouse here, once. Before GPS, I suppose. Is that where they come from? The statues - the Jesters, I mean? Are they a sort of warning?”
“Ya don’t know much about this part of the coast, I see,” he replied.
“I only know about the house, and Picasso,” she confessed.
He laughed, and passed out through the door, dropping his compact frame into one of the rocking chairs. “There used to be a ferry here. Did you know that? From the docks over to the headland, where there was a fort. A wooden fort. It’s long since rotted into the ground.”
“When was that? In medieval times?”
“A little longer ago than that,” he smiled. “During a time of invasion.” He swallowed more coffee. Laura eased herself tentatively into the other rocking chair.  
“You’re right,” he went on, looking out over the bay, “The sea is always different. Oh, the rocks don’t move much, except when there’s a storm, but each high tide throws the seabed up a bit differently, and no two tides are quite the same. Tide’s low, now. You can see the sandbank from here, can’t ya?”
A spit of land stretched out across the middle of the bay, perhaps a mile offshore, perhaps a foot above water level, underlining the sparkling sea.
“It was on a day like today, I suppose, with the mist hanging above the hills, just as you see it now. Couple of soldiers come along, a captain and his man. They had business at the fort. Promised the ferryman gold, if he’d get them there before dusk. Ferryman says yes, if ya pay me now. Soldiers show him their swords and say: first take us, then we’ll pay. And off they go.” The man frowned a little. “The fog comes down pretty quick when it’s ready. People around here are used to it. Ferryman keeps rowing. He’s done the trip so many times, he could do it blindfold, ebb, flow, or slack water, makes no difference to him.  Sure enough, they arrive on shore, quicker than the soldiers expected. The fog’s thick now. Out they jump, glad, keen to get up the hill to the fort. All they can see is the water’s edge. ‘Just follow the shoreline a little way. You’ll find the beach sentry soon enough’, says the ferryman, and they pay him double for making such quick time. Off he rows, into the mist. Off set the soldiers, walking the shoreline, calling out in the fog for the sentry.”
“After a while, the tide turns. The soldiers keep walking, calling out to the sentry, but he doesn’t answer. And the sea rises, licking at their feet. Finally, fog or not, they stumble inland to get to higher ground. But, of course, there isn’t any.”
“He left them on a sand bank. That’s a cruel trick.”
He shrugged. “Then come the wreckers, years later. Setting their light to trap passing ships. Into the bay they’d come, fat cargo ships, lost in the fog. They’d get fouled up on the flats, and then...”
Laura shuddered. In the blue, you could almost taste it; the dense bewilderment of fog, and then the rush of relief bound up in the welcoming wink of the light, then the sickening jar of the ship run aground, and worry turning to horror, as the wreckers came aboard. “So it was a lie, about the lighthouse, then.” 
“Oh, there was a light here. It’s not the thing, it’s the intention, you see. Signs and signals. You read between the lights, and you think it’s a promise. Black and white, it must be true, right? But who’s behind it, see?”
“That’s a horrible thought.”
“Aground or adrift, most people are one or the other. The ones who are adrift wish they had an anchor, and the ones who are aground wish they had a tide. And all of them in a fog. Haven’t you seen that?”
Laura didn’t reply. Just below the deck where they were sitting,  there was a low fat row boat, almost a coracle, and near it a man’s wader floated between two broad rocks. On the closer of the two rocks, someone had left a coil of rope and a lantern, still glowing yellow against the cobalt stones, and between them, in the water, the boot turned slowly in the eddy, turning and turning, going nowhere. 
“Whose  is that?” she said, suddenly cold. “Whose lamp is that?”  She could not bring herself to say boot.
“How do you know it isn’t mine?”
“I have to go, I lost track of time, they’re waiting for me back at the house.” Behind the cabin, the marsh grass flexed glassily in the breeze, and Laura knew that the shape was still there, waiting on the path. “Look,” she said, the brisk broom of propriety in her voice, more for herself than to convince the man, ”I appreciate that you’ve been here a while, but I’m afraid you really can’t stay here.”
“How do you mean?” he said, flatly. His half closed eyes seemed absorbed by the two strange statues on the dock.
She stood up. “Well, I don’t expect you to leave today, of course. And your - your art, we won’t interfere with that, I can promise you they won’t be interfered with. I’m sure we can come to some sort of arrangement, maybe we can help you find a place in the village...” Laura’s mind ran only a little faster than her tongue, “I hope you understand, the house is no longer empty, and, well, you just can’t stay.”
He laughed, a low chuckle, not unlike the quiet roar of the sea. “Staying. What is that? To stay healthy, or in love, or alive... no-one stays these things. You are, simply are, for a period, and then you’re not. The rest is promises.” He stood up too. Laura’s mind was split between the sea and the devilish shape in the grass. Part of her mind looked in at the window of her consciousness, and almost laughed. If it weren’t for that - thing - on the path, I’d be afraid of this man, she thought, and yet here I am, on the verge of asking him to walk me home. Any port in a storm.
“Would you like to see the jetty, before you go?” He put his coffee mug down on the sill. 
“It looks a little dangerous.”
“It is.” He led the way, stopping to help her up the slippery steps onto the dock itself. Under her feet the anonymous grey wood rocked a little, neither here nor there. The man gestured roughly toward the statues. “Watch out for the arms, they move with the wind,” he explained. “Make an allowance for the breeze; it never stays the same.”
“They’re different, when seen up close. It’s beautiful work,” she called, for even to her own ear, her voice sounded as delicate as the marsh grass, raked thin by the ocean breeze. “All your hard work - aren’t you afraid that they’ll get swept away by a storm?”
“That’s the coast in you speaking,” he answered. “To be beside  the sea and on it, now that’s two different things. They’re as different as watching a play, and being in it. The coast  reacts, but the water acts.”
She walked down the jetty, carefully avoiding the arms of the smaller statue. As they moved the dull mid morning light, it was hard to see what they were made of. Something glassy, like the marsh grass seen from far away. For a second, they seemed filled with a glow that was there and then gone; glow, and then gone. At least the eyes are less alarming, she thought, when seen close up. Whatever mockery they saw was far away. She felt impelled to walk to the end of the jetty, past the bigger statue. 
“So, by your reckoning," she shouted over the sound of the endless waves,  "If the shore is the spectator, and the sea is the play, what's the dock, then? The curtain? a box?” The breeze snatched her chuckle and carried out into the bay.
He couldn’t hear her. 
Laura Hart’s eyes turned from the jesters to the wood of the deck itself,  grainy and cracked. Now she could see that the greyness of the oak was made of a thousand shades of blue, every hue of mud and sea combined. 
It’s a shame, she thought, that you can’t see it from the studio. I should like to paint it all. I shall paint it all.

She did not scream, she only gasped, looking up at the snow globe sky. The shapes moving across the opaque surface seemed more like faces now, looking down on her, cold and indifferent in the blue.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Statement Tips

Bitchy little cliques, money-grubbing hacks and opening night lag are three hallmarks of the SL art scene, but of course, there's much more to it than that! For example, there is the Artist's Statement. Nothing short of a meshnami will resolve the problem of the former, but the latter is a different matter.
As he slipped a commission script into each of your masterpieces, your friendly gallery owner probably told you that writing an Artist's Statement is 'How To Sell Your Stuff 101' in all worlds, virtual or not. He's right, of course, but that doesn't mean you have to make a fool of yourself while attempting to rake in the Lindens.
Three things.
Show you're brief.
If your statement does not fit in the default window of a new notecard, it's tooo freeeeaking loooong! Less is more, more opportunities for people to ask questions and start a dialogue, more chance  your note will be read  and remembered, which is what you were hoping for, right?
Self proclamations
Delusions of grandeur are a lot like farts. We all get them sometimes, but good manners dictate that you avoid sharing them with others. If you can't get over yourself, then try to fake it. Don't write 'Brilliant painter, sculptor, poet, this, that, and the other, plus I am in a band'. First of all, you're not that brilliant. You're talented at one thing, fairly good at a couple of others, and the rest is kindhearted people lying to your face. (Almost certainly about the poetry.) Second of all, if  you are a Renaissance genius (and again, let me stress that you're not), have the grace to let us figure it out for ourselves.
You know that complete list of every show you've ever participated in, the one that proves you're a sought-after, experienced, happening artist? Yeah - we don't want to see it. Much better to state the number of shows you've been in, mention a few of your most impressive outings, and offer a 'full list available on request'. The same applies to the dreaded 'Influences' section - we can't see the mood for the trends when the list of your art heroes exceeds eight or ten people. Mix it up a bit. Add links to the names you drop.

The fee for this advice is 500L each. Feel free to tip me inworld. No equivalent-value art, please.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tuning oona

It seems like a lost town, a HiFi wilderness of circuits mysteriously broadcasting, and old signals leaking out of valves and scratchy needles. The little girl in the Test Card shivers a blank smile across the decades. There is nothing on TV... or is there? Are we just on the wrong wavelength, would a touch of the dial make it all spring to life? Among the shadow-filled carcasses of old speaker cabinets, the wire in the voice coil sings a hissing song of rare earth returning to earth, and the ghost of life and light glows in the valve glass darkly. Full of gaps and static, this is a whispering temple  to the age of analog, a far cry from the pure sound of the digital, poles apart, like the difference between teleporting and walking. The modern journey of sound has been truncated, perfected, but here among the hiss and scratches, we are reminded that in all refinement there is loss, that getting there is half the fun, and that is perhaps what makes us human.
This is Live! oona Eiren's new build which opens tomorrow at Dividni Shostakovich's  Split Screen Installation Space.
oona Eiren: Valve amps have the sweetest sound. I like to use lots of scratch in my sound work. Digital seems to want to do the opposite, to clean sound. The inspiration for this build was some vintage Hi Fi record players and TVs. They have history. I have records that jump in the same place they did when I was growing up, I love it, and old cassettes have it as well, they get stretched and warp.  I have software that's very good, but it all begins with hands on recording.
Oona jumped at the opportunity to exhibit at Splitscreen, a space she's sharing this time around with Misprint Thursday's  install White Sheets. It was a great opportunity for oona to try her hand at a bigger build, and over four weeks, the radio and televisual ensemble came together, both visually and with improvised sounds, starting with an image of an old TV and a ten second loop of sound that she recorded while out walking. As you move around the build, touch the objects and listen to their sounds.
oona Eiren: In RL I sometimes do illusration work, but work more with sound making installations and working with dance companys - and then theres a bit of film making thrown into the mix! My next move in SL is to try machinima. I've been playing with that a bit, it's fantastic, to build sets like this and then have a blast filming them!
Under the fun, though, there's a serious, purposeful side to oona's virtual work ethic.
oona Eiren: When I first got here, I had no idea how to use it but am slowly getting a handle on what I want to do. Now, I'm very excited about what I'm achieving, and I hope it's a launching point for my career. I want to show work I'm doing here at venues and places in RL, too. There's lots of places to show stuff, and I want to my feet in RL, not get lost in the SL whirlpool. I had a gallery in Avalon - that was my first public outing, but I always wanted to do bigger stuff. I do think people are missing out on a lot if they just stick to 2D. I must say the real artists for me are the great builders here - that's the way to go. I like what you can do if you layer, say, three or four ten second loops and play around with them.
 oona Eiren: Sound is so important!  Imagine watching a David Lynch movie to a soundtrack from some random band. It would ruin the experience. I'm a fan of Lynch. You should watch 'Fishing for Ideas', a video where he talks about his process of creating. Great stuff.
Among all the melancholy crackles and pops, a single, timeless, living image stands out in the build.
oona Eiren: That's Elsa Lanchester, the Bride of Frankenstein. I love this image, because she is strong. She rejects the monster. She is looking away, like she's saying  - No, you don't just build me to be someone's bride!
Oona a paused.
oona Eiren: I'll do a happy tune next I think - after all this doom and gloom :))) Maybe even a tune you can hum along to!
Live! is at the Split Screen Installation Space from tomorrow Sunday, February 6th at 2 pm SLT.