Neo-Surrealism Takes A Virtual Turn Down ‘The Path’

The Inventor, created by Colin Fizgig.

Last night I took a journey with a group of rather extraordinary people, following the trail of a rather odd inventor who seemed rather uncertain about the direction he was headed. You see, it seems that while working in his lab, he discovered a glowing hole, and, like a white rabbit, it beckoned him through… we followed…

But in fact, it wasn’t this fictional inventor leading us, but a virtual one… The Path we followed was one begun by Bryn Oh.

Bryn Oh leads us down 'The Path': (in background, left to right) Maya Paris, Scottius Polke, PJ Trenton, Marcus Inkpen, Quan Lavender, Rose Borchovski, Rowan Derryth, and Desdemona Enfield.

The Path is an unique new exhibit opening today (14 October) at 2pm SLT and sponsored by the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA). Curated by Bryn, the series of installations is based on the concept of “The Exquisite Corpse”, a creative game played amongst the Surrealists in the 1920s and 30s in which one person starts a narrative text (or drawing), then passes it along to the next only partially revealed, for their continuation. In its text form, the game was originally called “Consequences”, however the Surrealists adopted the new name for it based on a phrase from their first game: Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau. (The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.)

'Cadavre Exquis' by Man Ray, Joan Miró, Max Morise and Yves Tanguy

The Path narrative was crafted in this fashion, as Bryn explains:

I invited eight artists whose work I admire, some have worked in SL for ages and are well known, while others less so but equally talented.  Each artist was invited to stand on a coloured box and once all were ready I rezzed a chart which listed the sequence of scenes in a narrative by colour.  Not sure if the Surrealists cared about the random start but it seemed like a good idea.


In fact, ideas of chance and randomness were at the very heart of Surrealism as well as Dada, roughly the precedent movement in which many Surrealists such as André Breton (who was amongst the first to play “The Exquisite Corpse”), Marcel Duchamp, and Tristan Tzara also participated.

Bryn’s experiment was slightly more controlled in that each artist was able to read the entirety of the previous contributor’s idea. As well, random chance turned to fate: the first artist in the sequence was in fact Bryn herself. As such, she began the tale of the strange Inventor (created by Colin Fizgig and, one cannot help notice, remarkably resembling Dalí) and his unusual journey.

Experiments go awry in Scottius Polke's contribution to the tale.

Joining her in crafting the tale are some of the very best narrative artists on the grid (or anywhere, in my opinion). In their random order, they fell:

Beginning with Bryn, and ending with Rose – is that enough to let your imagination run wild?

Rose Borchovski's surreal conclusion would make Dalí proud.

I couldn’t wait to see the results, and Bryn very kindly allowed me, PJ Trenton, and fellow blogger Quan Lavender to tag along on last night’s artist walkthrough (you can read Quan’s account and see her lovely pics here). It was, as expected, a rather hallucinogenic adventure with many fun twists, turns, and surprises… and I do not wish to spoil those here! But as Bryn has stated on her blog:  “We did a walk through last night and the variety was wonderful. I really think this may be something people talk about for a long time. I personally couldn’t pick my favourite scene last night as each excelled in some area or another. And that to me is a very good sign.”

Detail of the Inventor's lab by Bryn Oh, which kicks off the tale.

I wondered if the other artists felt pleased or daunted that Bryn was up first, and so asked them…

“Some of us are grateful she went first,” smiled the otterific Scottius Polke.

I laughed, “She is a master of narrative…”

“Oh no I am not really,” said Bryn with her usual humility.

Marcus Inkpen chimed in, “She’s a great way to set the mood and tone and all. Yeah- me likes.” Then, Rose Borchovski added, “I think what was great was that she chose such a great variety of artists and brought us all to a happy and constructive end, it was a very nice and good experience.”

Marcus Inkpen's dizzying corridor shows his usual mastery in fantastical building.

One of the things I MUST comment on, however, is that these installations are not merely visual: one of the most impressive aspects of The Path is the sound. Each work has an auditory component, many of which were designed by the artists themselves, such as the eerie tones in Marcus Inkpen’s maze-like corridor. As well, Douglas Story and Desdemona Enfield have again joined forces to make an interactive media piece, which includes a track from an excellent voice actor which really enriches the effect. Make certain to have your sounds on for a truly immersive experience.

Our motley crew wanders through Douglas Story & Desdemona Enfield's installation.

The artists have done a wonderful job with the continuity of the tale, while at the same time each build bears their own unique artistic signature, complete with references to their more familiar work. Rose has included a Susa in her piece, while Scottius’ chemicals and purple goo harken to his builds like mushROOM and Lunamaruna. Maya’s is full of quirky surprises as usual, and claudia222’s is made from the rich golden organic textures seen in recent works like her Burn2 piece Sacrifice.

claudia222 Jewel added a more primitive-looking scene that is full of secrets to explore.

Outside of the sheer fantastic builds, I was just as impressed listening to these artists, who obviously have a great deal of admiration for each other, collaborate. As they were putting on the finishing touches, they were asking each other for objects/details which would make the overall story more cohesive; sharing feedback, ideas, praise, and the excitement was infectious.

While wandering The Path with those that created it, it didn’t escape me that for all my past wishes that I could have been at the gatherings of this or that group of dead artists, that I was perhaps walking amidst the new greats… certainly not dead, and yet… living? Yes, even if pixellated.

Swinging with Rose, Scottius, and claudia222 in Maya Paris' subconscious trip.

This is an exhibition not to be missed, and amongst the first of many to be sponsored by the LEA (for more on their exciting plans, see this post).  Try to make the 2pm opening Friday to catch the artists and chat with them yourself. This is contemporary art at its best – taking a seed from the past, and reinventing it in a medium so cutting edge, the art world isn’t even aware of its importance yet.

Which is of course what Dada and Surrealism did as well. Go see The Path and enjoy art history in the making.

Curator and mastermind Bryn Oh.

Special thanks to PJ Trenton for the photographs.


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