It may seem a little unfair presenting two reviews of exhibitions at the same gallery space in such short order, but the fact is the Itakos Project, curated by Akim Alonzo, is currently hosting exhibitions by Awesome Fallen and Akim himself which I personally feel should not be missed. Having covered Awesome’s Simply Dreaming just a day ago (see Awesome Fallen at the Itakos Project in Second Life), with this piece, I’m diving into the what might be referred to as “an exhibition of two halves”, both of which feature collections of Akim’s own work.
You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.Ansel Adams, The Camera, 1980
Ansel Adam’s words have been the foundation of Akim’s approach to photography, and of the Itakos Project as a whole – and this is clearly demonstrated in both of the displays of art he has on display within the gallery at the time of our visits.
Split between the gallery’s entrance level and the floor above, and occupying the Black Pavilion area, Water is a collection of 12 images focused on the titular subject. However, these are not simply studies of seascapes, coasts or similar. Rather, they are examinations of our complex relationship with water. We are conceived into water, life came from water, we are water; it both defines us and stands as something of a metaphorical image of human life and relationships, all of which Akim sums up in his liner notes on the exhibition.
We are Water and we can not live without it. Sometimes we are like islands lost in the sea, or we float in lush archipelagos full of life. Water brings with it the meaning of survival, it is the immaterial substance of the flowing time, it is the depth of the human soul, of the vital emotions, of joy and fear, fury and tranquillity, of solitude and of love. Water moves me, I am Water.Akim Alonzo, note on Water
Thus, through this mix of monochrome and soft colour images we are offered the most stunning of image poems, each of which tells something of that complex relationship. These are pieces of such depth and narrative, they cannot be taken at a single glance; time is required to fully absorb their beauty and hear their myriad whispers. But that said, even looked a briefly, each speaks volumes about Akim’s eye and mind as a photographer; there is little doubting each piece has been influenced by the full breadth and depth of his artistry and all that has influenced it.
The Matrix, the second “half” of Akim’s overall exhibition on display, is located on the floor above the entrance level, within the Orange Pavilion. Its found influence is perhaps more obvious – that of the Matrix movie franchise; however, like Water, it is actually quite complex in foundation and presentation, as Akim again indicates in his liner notes:
These photos are loosely based on the cult movie The Matrix, which I loved a lot. A metaphor for a world of people trapped in a simulated, virtual reality that has many aspects in common with the Second Life world. So I imagined, listening to the Matrix soundtrack, avatars and life scenes in second life revealed in their intrinsic background network … of which we avatars do not realise.Akim Alonzo, note on The Matrix
So it is that we are presented with nine images, again rich in metaphor and narrative. Framed by the ideas of the movies, as given form by the soundtracks, they also encompass an observer’s view of Second life coupled with a user’s innate understanding of the platform, with broader influences such as dream echoes and, stirred into the mix.
As with Water, these are pieces rich in story and interpretation. Within them lie questions of reality and identity, and the riddle of worlds within worlds – the Chinese Boxes to which Akim refers – which not only extend inwards through the images, but also outwards to encompass each of us as we view them.
In this, the reference to the Matrix is taken a stage further: not only are these images an interpretation of the films as layered within the virtual realm of Second Life – they actually reflect the central idea of the film: that were are all in fact unwittingly operating within a virtual realm. We are thus as much a part of each of these images, a further layer, if you will, that is observed from somewhere beyond us, as much as we are observers of each image.
However, there is something else here as well; a more innate statement on our relationship with Second Life itself. Within these pictures is a subtle reminder that, no matter how hard we might try to distance self from character within SL; no matter what the roles we play in-world, the backstories we build, the fact remains that facets of our own natures, our own identities, will inevitably be impinged on those characters; they are, inevitably, and by their very nature, a projection of self into the virtual. What’s more, their daily encounters and experiences within the virtual realm inevitably reflect and inform upon our physical selves. We have a genuinely visceral intertwining between the “real” and the “virtual”.
Together or individually, Water and The Matrix are two absorbing, evocative and engaging selections of art by a master photographer, artist and storyteller.