08 January 2017

Penumbra & lacrimioare

Now open at Berg by Nordan Art, curated by Kate Bergdorf and Tutsy Navarathna, are a pair of installations: on the ground, Penumbra by Meilo Minotaur and CapCat Ragu, and, in the overhead gallery space, lacrimioare by Huckleberry Hax. Penumbra (top four images) presents a fabulously mysterious woodland world filled with tree creatures, caterpillars, cocoons, sounds, and hidden surprises. Amid a forest of nearly identical trees, all evenly arranged in an "X" formation, we observe wooden bodies stretching from the trunks — although one figure stands fiercely detached (background right, third image) — and, at the far end of the scene, a boy seems to run from them, as if in terror (fourth image).

The misty and atmospheric Penumbra seems to have been inspired in part by a quote from Antonio Gramsci, as the artists state in the exhibition notes: "'The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.' This is, usually, the quote we most see attributed to Antonio Gramsci, the Italian theorist, politician, and freedom fighter. However, this is not the true quote. In Italian, what Gramsci wrote in Quaderni del carcere (Prison Notebooks) was: 'La crisi consiste appunto nel fatto che il vecchio muore e il nuovo non può nascere: in questo interregno si verificano i fenomeni morbosi piú svariati.' This would more accurately translate to: 'Crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born, in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.' But Prison Notebooks suffered several translation mutations, such as: 'Le vieux monde se meurt, le nouveau monde tarde à apparaître et dans ce clair-obscur surgissent les monstres.' This mutation was carried over to Portuguese translation: 'O velho mundo agoniza; o novo mundo tarda a nascer, e, nesse claro-escuro, irrompem os monstros.' Back to English, this would translate to 'The old world is dying, the new world is slow to appear and in this chiaroscuro the monsters arise.' The word 'penumbra' exists both in English and Portuguese. It means partial illumination, a chiaroscuro, the dusk. Going back to the original quote, this penumbra, this forest, is the interregno, mutated by the flux of words in translation, adding poetic resonance to Gramsci's pragmatism. Beware of the 'morbid symptoms' you might embody!"

Meilo and CapCat may be best known to many Second Life residents for their sim entitled Delicatessen, home to the Meta_Body project, which provides dozens of free artistic avatars. (Read here from 2013.) And several avatars are available at Penumbra by clicking on objects: the various cocoons, the tree person, and the caterpillars. (Transparent textures positioned throughout the build may interfere with clicks, so it may be necessary to get quite close to some of the objects for your clicks to register. Meilo and CapCat request that recipients be respectful of the license agreement provided with the avatars.)

Local sounds are an essential element of the installation, with voices by Rita Eustáquio, Luís Eustáquio and Catarina Carneiro de Sousa, and with sound capture and editing by Takio Ra. Wander near the tree people, and you might hear phrases in English and presumably in Portuguese: "Mom?" "Mom, it's dusty," "There are no monsters," and so on. The cocoons, which also emit sounds, are functional as well, providing an opportunity to curl up in protected spaces. (As with the avatars, you may need to get fairly close to the cocoons to enter them.) Shown here is Penumbra's default windlight setting — London 2026 — a hazy brown.

Above the ground level, the intimate gallery space at Berg by Nordan Art hosts the exhibit of works by Huckleberry Hax, lacrimioare, meaning "Lily" in Romanian (images above and below). These minimal but gorgeous photographs — subtitled "The new absence of someone loved" and, surprisingly, the first shown by Huckleberry in a gallery setting — explore contrasts in color, light and shadow. Both installations will remain on display through March, when the curators plan for some substantial changes in the Berg by Nordan Art presentation series.


  1. Thank you very much Ziki for visiting the gallery, for your fantastic photos and for the beautiful write up :)

  2. Thank you Ziki, incredible pictures as usual!