There is something remarkable that has happened on LEA 10. The installation Metamorfaces, by Art Oluja. I haven’t been as impressed by a LEA exhibit in a very long time. The opening is on Thursday, September 24 at 7AM SLT and you really don’t want to miss it. This is the work by one courageous woman who used creativity within Second Life as a process to transform. I met with Art tonight and she was kind enough to walk me through her installation. She eventually revealed to me that she had a while back unexpectedly suffered severe facial palsy. Here is Art’s comment from the note card available at the exhibit landing point: One morning, I woke up to troubled dreams, and realized, I was in a state of metamorphosis. Like a spider trapped under skin, paralysis slowly crawled across my face, suffocating the sensation in my lips, then taking away my ability to taste, swallow, or speak normally. For the following months the distortion continued; I couldn’t smile, frown, laugh or cry, and had become hyper-sensitive to sound. At night, I would tape down my eyelid to sleep, and think about how to accept my new face, my new mask. I had to learn to express myself despite my lack of facial expression. I had to learn to be me, transformed. (…In the meantime, I was quietly wandering SL’s landscapes, exploring and observing the loss of prims in SL, a transformation that resonated with me, as more and more prims faded away, and the grid’s face also went through a phase of distortion as it was gradually injected with more and more Mesh.) My face was a Bonsai tree, raw and torn out of place; submitting to doctors, to technology. Organic roots shifted, branches pierced with wire, twigs tamed, leaves refined. 6 months of drugs, electric therapy, and facial exercises later, I began to heal. Now, almost two years since I woke up on that Kafkaesque morning, I present Metamorfaces as a metaphor of my story, my journey of transformation.
One initially teleports in to a landing point and stands in front of a long corridor, an optical illusion of sorts. A heads up, before starting to walk; there are whispers and all kinds of sounds throughout the installation, make sure to turn on sound (all voice narratives and sounds have been created by Art as well) and also don’t forget to click objects as you wander through. Teleports are small green boxes. There are several destinations, the first one is the bedroom. Art explained to me that this is where it all started and prompted me to click on the book on the bed and a quote by Franz Kafka (The Metamorphosis) emerged; One Morning, as Gregor Samsa awoke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed, into a monstrous vermin. In the bedroom, and throughout the installation, are blackout writings by Art that correspond with the sounds and the environment. When clicking the large painting of the two female faces in the bedroom, a door slides open and one finds oneself in front of a large green prim landscape.
This is the first of many transformational experiences when one somehow feels transported from one state of mind to another. This effect is achieved by optical illusion as well as a sudden change in environment and sound. Integrated are also Art’s writings, quotes by her favorite authors and many symbolic representations of her mind-blowing experience of her facial physical transformation. Art speaks of the green prims as a metaphorical landscape that were part of a transformational experience just like she was. One enters from the green prim-landscape a room named Illusions, consisting of large white columns, in which silhouettes of faces can be seen. I had a hard time noticing them at first, but when I eventually did, I was stunned (just think of the familiar illusion a vase/two faces and they will emerge). There are soft voices whispering in this room and the blackout writings on the wall are echoed in the sound.
The journey continues to the places Shattered, Stroke of Luck, Still Life, Skin Cells, and, the final destination, Heal. I could go on and on about this incredible installation, but will stop for now (below see images of Still Life and Heal). Let me just mention here also that Art has never before used mesh, scripts or animations before she put together this work. She revealed to me finally that she has now thankfully completely recovered from her facial palsy and that the exploratory creative Second Life experience of putting together this installation had in many ways probably been instrumental in her recovery. Bravo, Art.
Photographs by Kate Bergdorf