I had the opportunity to visit NPIRL artist Bryn Oh’s island Immersiva recently. What a strange haunting place it was! It reminded me of the North of England when the coal mines were still working, with their ugly/beautiful slag heaps and devastated landscapes. Immersiva rises out of a cold, gray sea and strange tracks criss cross the island’s foggy, damp landscape. The fog was so dense I could almost feel it prickling my avatar’s delicate lungs. Figures emerged from the gloom here and there, sometimes these were other avatars, and sometimes they turned out to be eerie statues.
Bryn Oh requests that visitors follow instructions to set their environmental settings so that they can achieve what could be called Bryn Oh smog-light. I followed these instructions, but then I strayed into playing with the settings in an attempt to render a cold winter’s day with watery sunlight. Immersiva represents a post-apocalyptic world, and the fog helps conjure up an atmosphere of lost hope and ruined dreams. Still, I justify my modified lighting with the thought of how brief spells of sunshine can give additional poignancy to emotional and physical devastation!
The uninhabited island is haunted by the Ghost in the Machine, and poems lie carefully scattered about the mournful land. They are written on the curled pages of school exercise books, each poem tells a fragmented story of ill fated love. Is it a tragic tale of the doomed love of two runaway robots? Or, is it a story about a human who falls in love with a robot? Perhaps the poems tell of two humans and one becomes ill, the other thinks she can save her sickly friend by carrying out some ghastly experiment. The poems convey deep longing yet are tainted by an agonized regret that generates more questions than answers…
The artist goes to great lengths to provide extremely precise lighting instructions before abandoning us in the dense fog. (Did you hear that muffled Bryn Oh laugh or was it just my imagination?) I warn you, Bryn Oh smog-light plays tricks on your mind. It is intriguing to be given such specific guidelines, as Bryn Oh has mastered the art of understatement, these initial directions are merely her introduction. She knows how to give just enough poetic information to captivate her visitors. The sculptures do the same, they conceal hidden chambers where secret surprises lurk out of sight. The art of imagination lies in always leaving room for others to bring their own references and questions. Too much guidance and control shuts imagination down, kills it dead. Immersiva is like a strange aquarium where we are held like translucent jelly fish manipulated by an unseen power!
More on Immersiva in my next post. In the meantime, take a look for yourself!