Thursday, 17 May 2007

Virtual Museum of Art

A couple of months ago, in the days when there was only about 4million Second Life accounts, I made brief mention of an island called VMOA. Information was somewhat thin on the ground, and the mighty Google proved to be all-but-useless. The best it managed on that occasion was "Very Mixed-up Orangutans in Antarctica" - a site it now steadfastly refuses to find. However, I can now reliably inform you that this is the Virtual Museum of Art, dedicated to the work of Austrian-born artist, Gottfried Helnwein.

Those of you into certain forms of metal music may already be familiar with his unsettling images, as his output includes covers and artwork for both Rammstein and Marilyn Manson. He now has an island on which to showcase his work in Second Life.

The Museum dominates the island on which it stands, rising to 3 storeys, and stretching across the full width of the sim. Inside it is dark and cool, and the display is large and well constructed. There are several galleries, featuring different phases of Helwein's work. I have taken a large number of pictures, which should give you a good idea of the content.

Many of the pictures may give you a sense of unease and discomfort; they are not "easy viewing." I asked a few friends to take a look, and in their responses, they were even more uncomfortable than me. The unease could perhaps be dispelled if there was information available, explaining the context and purpose of the images. Otherwise one is left to draw one's own conclusions.

The most disturbing images relate to children. Some bring to mind wartime photos of dead children: dusty faced; eyes closed; a deathly pallor. In others a girl with a bandaged head is shown - a vulnerable innocent - in a number of threatening situations. With the recent focus on child pornography and Second Life, these images are given an extra dimension of discomfort. I will state that there is nothing pornographic here - but the symbolism apparent in the images makes for challenging viewing.

I found the exhibition both interesting and thought-provoking, and many of the images are quite stunning. Here is a sample so you can judge for yourself:

I have chosen not to include the more troubling images.