Aesthete & Amateur: The Fragile Confrontations of Mistero Hifeng

Critics Eleanor Medier and Heavy Writer are captivated by the Linden Endowment for the Arts sim installation of Mistero Hifeng. Haunting, dramatic, and masterful, the cyber sculptures inspire questions of love, mortality, and the meaning of relationships.

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Eleanor: “This is called ‘Blossom Land. There is water everywhere with flat small islands.”

Heavy points, then reads: “The trees have blossoms. The title of this computer piece is in Italian: ‘Spettator malinconic d felicity impossibil’ In English, I think will be ‘Melancholic spectators of impossible happiness’.”

Eleanor: “No happiness that I can see. There is an implied violence. Some figures have feet like trees and have been shot with arrows. It seems more about death than life. ‘Blossom,’ to me, is life.”

Heavy: “The tree blossoms are at peace, while the humans are caught in all kinds of tragic events.”

Eleanor: “I see figures trying to protect themselves as well as what may be corpses—all victims of circumstances.”

Heavy: “Oh, I found a dead tree too. Hmmm, there has to be a relation between all these pieces.”

Eleanor: “That is the biggest challenge in sim-wide works—holding them together so the whole has meaning as well as the parts. Often the artist assembles smaller works—not that the whole sim is a single work. What ties this together? There is stylistic and thematic consistency.”

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Heavy: “Is it raining? There are so many figures around with umbrellas.”

Eleanor: “It rains here where I am—thunder and lightning too. Come and sit over here in the rocking chair.”

Heavy tears himself away from analyzing the trees, and sits: “We are getting wet. This piece is ‘E rubero’ per te la Luna’ —something like: ‘I steal the moon for you.’ That guy catches the moon in a net and drags it down from the sky for his girlfriend. So Italian— theatrically romantic! If I would be the girl, I wouldn’t buy it. Would you believe a guy who tells you he will give you the moon? And what would you do with the moon if he will bring it to you?!?”

Eleanor: “Well, this moon looks rather barren and even would be trouble to own. Perhaps he is trying to overcome all obstacles?? He is trying to capture the moon in the middle of a storm—as an expression that he will do anything for love. The Atlas complex!”

Heavy: “The 3D is well built, but I don’t get the story line so far.”

Eleanor: “Is there a story line??”

Heavy: “Does this setup tell a whole story, or is it individual pieces displayed around? Is it one big work, or many small ones?”

Eleanor: “Look—this bridge gets us out of the water. We seem safer here but it is still raining. This is like a bridge to no where. Sad, though beautiful.”

Heavy squints and shields his eyes as he looks around: “From the top this bridge, we get perspective over the work on the whole island. There is a bunch of different sizes of women with arrows impaled in their bodies. From where did they come all those arrows? Nobody holds a bow.”

Eleanor: “Figures lie in the water. It seems we are here after the action ended— except for these oddly embracing couples.”

Heavy: “They stand in water and disintegrate— the violence is more than just on a physical level.”

Eleanor: “It may be various forms of psychological conflict. Here are two figures as if dancing, but they react very differently to one another.”

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Heavy: “This artist is Italian— so it is all about love.:)”

Eleanor: “Different kinds of love and conflict??”

Heavy: “See the dead women’s bodies in the water shows maybe is the guy hurts girls.”

Eleanor: “Seems to me there is not much marital harmony going on around here.”

Heavy: “Love betrayed?”

Eleanor: “Well, I think with these two figures, it seems they each want something else. He seems more whole and forceful. She finds his force to be overwhelming.”

Heavy: “Once he gets what he wants he moves on to next girl?”

Eleanor: “But he seems to be destroying this one first. Nasty! These bodies are not reassuring. He is weird—this forceful man has no feet.”

Heavy: “Impossible love, maybe. The artist’s profile has a Tom Waits quote—the bottom line is that reality needs imagination and imagination needs reality. The characters who disintegrate are the product of imagination; the ones who stay solid are the reality. This a mix between reality and imagination.”

Eleanor: “So this is imaginary expression of emotion.”

Heavy: “We have dreams so strong we think they are real, but at some point they simply poof away.”

Eleanor: “Or that feelings we have are not permanent? That both joy and sorrow are temporary? Transitory? Pain is like that: it fades but is not forgotten.”

Heavy: “No I don’t think so: The guy in the left is trying to figure what he wants—the perfect women for him. What would she look like?”

Eleanor: “He is trying to form this face? To bring to mind her features?”

Heavy: “I told you—Italians are all about love. So he thinks and thinks till he materializes a shape in his imagination.”

Eleanor: “He is contemplating yes, but he does not seems to be happy about this—as if perhaps he lost her.”

Heavy: “Yes—he lost her so long ago that he must make an effort to recall her face.”

Eleanor: “This cube is curious. It repeats the thinking figure but there is a whole lady sitting on the top.”

Heavy: “Yes, I think that lady on the top is the product of imagination too.”

Eleanor: “Maybe that is another attempt at remembering. Almost like a dream. They are well done, but the figures are as if made of wood. They are not articulated realistically but more like mannekins.”

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Heavy: “It is all about reality and imagination. Some images are real, some just live in imagination. Those in our imagination die because we change our dreams; we jump from one thing to another.”

Eleanor: “The figures fade or even dissolve in imagination. Time has its effect. It is almost creepy the way they fall apart.”

Heavy: “The clocks everywhere all work, but each shows a different hour. I think people who carry the umbrellas had dreams and have been hurt through the loss of them. The umbrellas they carry are like shields.”

Eleanor: “Yes hurt is one of the realities here.”

Heavy: “We can get hurt by our own imagination, I guess. As well as we can get hurt by reality too.”

Eleanor: “Yes we can— that reminds me of worry: 90% of what we worry about never happens. We can hurt ourselves by our perceptions. Are the characters in this sim dreaming? Or might this be after death? Might this be us remembering life after we are gone??”

Heavy: “Imagination is like a refugee. Most of us like to imagine cool stuff.”

Eleanor: “We imagine our fears too.”

Heavy: “Perfect love, for example. We fall into the seduction of belief. But when we are forced back to reality, that perfect love doesn’t exist there. That’s how we get hurt.”

Eleanor: “We mourn the loss of perfection. It disintegrates.”

Heavy: “I like that piece where the chess pieces fight. Queens are dead and kings still fight—for what do they still fight for? What is a kingdom without a Queen?”

Eleanor: “That sculpture is powerful. Remember we saw this piece at the UWA show?”[link to review] Most of the figures in this sim are distressed.”

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VARIATIONS ON A THEME

Eleanor: “There are several visual techniques to ties all the pieces: the figures with umbrellas. And, another running theme is time. Clocks, sprinkled around, sink in the water. Is this the aftermath flood of a catastrophe—and each of these sculptures represents a different kind of coping, or transformation, or even coping with the various repercussions?”

Heavy: “The clocks each have the word ‘dreamtime’ on display. That’s why they present different hours— because we each have different dreams.”

Eleanor: “Is this one person’s dreams or many?”

Heavy: “Who knows? It can be either. Some get trapped in imagination too much, like this poor guy in a cage. Others can be tortured by their own imaginations too— when you loose the balance between imagination and reality, all dies, even the trees. You loose your mind. You can’t tell anymore where is reality and where is imagination…”

Eleanor: “This guy in the cage is miserable.”

Heavy: “Yes, he is trapped in his own thoughts. He has no hope to get out of that situation—I think that is insanity—when you can’t distinct between real and imagination.”

Eleanor: “He seems to be in the worst situation of all. These faces that fragment really express the loss of mental control— and dreams are that. Hopefully some have a chance to get it together again.”

Heavy: “Yes, most people get over hurt and move on. They learn to carry umbrellas.”

Eleanor: “But they have troubles too. Some of their faces are fragmenting. Some don’t have feet. There is no safe situation.”

Heavy: “Look—all are walking towards this corner. All walk towards insanity.”

Eleanor: “Are they doomed?? Can they be walking towards hope?”

Heavy: “Or maybe this corner shows what happens when we are old? The guy in the water has regrets. The guy in the cage has only memories. We are doomed to get old… Yeah, I think that’s a better interpretation. Even the trees are dead here in this corner. So the guy in the cage is old and alone living with memories.”

Eleanor: “In this corner there is a lone piano, with no one playing it. This reminds me of an object left after someone dies.”

Heavy: “The one in the water is old too but he is insane (dementia comes for many old people) or he is full of regrets. Well, if it has a logic, I’m happy. I think I have figured pretty much what is going on here.”

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Eleanor: “You think so? You think the end is sad?”

Heavy: “Well, all old people advised me to never get old because it is not much fun. I don’t think this is sad, just natural.”

Eleanor: “Yet we are lucky to become so—better to grow old than not be here.”

Heavy: “I agree, and while we will get old, virtual worlds will be so developed that we will never feel we are old. In virtual worlds we can stay young till our heart stops beating!”:)

Eleanor: “That is a benefit here. We can be what we wish.”

Heavy: “It is boring to become what you wish as easy as we can do it in SL. It is like living in the Garden of Eden.”

Eleanor: “No, I don’t think it is boring because even here, we can’t escape who we really are, or its consequences.”

Heavy: “That’s not much of a challenge.”

Eleanor: “It is a challenge to confront oneself.”

Heavy: “Adam and Eve got bored. That’s why they started to eat apples. They wanted get out.”:)

Eleanor: “They were curious.”

Heavy: “And I don’t think they ever wanted to go back. We just assume they wanted back.”

Eleanor: “I would’t call being curious the same as being bored. Adventure is good.”:)

Heavy: “Because we have never been in the Garden of Eden.”

Eleanor: “If I can make one major criticism, the placement of some of the pieces make them hard to see. They are delicate and to distinguish how the forms fragment needs a simple background. This piece is placed in front of trees with their own level of detail, making the foreground harder to see.”

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Eleanor moves to the next segment: “This piece looks spiritual with the light. It is as if he is trying to save her, yet she is falling apart.”

Heavy squints: “It has a little bit too much glow for me.”

Eleanor: “I think the artist is saying that life is very difficult if you are a sensitive person.”

Heavy: “Dreaming is difficult if you are sensitive.”:)

Eleanor: “So are expectations. And power struggles—like in this piece, “Come fosse…niente…,” where one figure has defeated the other. The character that is decapitated is lost.”

Heavy: “Yes— a dream that didn’t become true. Both people lost. Neither dream came true. Maybe she is still dreaming. It is like when we scrap a project we had for a long time. It didn’t come true or we couldn’t make it happen. Each time we quit on a dream, we lose something from inside us too. That’s why both figures here have parts disintegrating.”

Eleanor: “But we also can find new dreams. If you only have old dreams, you can’t have new ones.”

Heavy: “Yes, we find new dreams but scrapping an old dream isn’t easy.”

Eleanor: “No it is not— there is pain involved. But time marches on. It is relentless.”

Heavy: “Time is the only certain aspect of our lives. No matter what we do, time goes on, and at some point we end in that corner where we all get old and all around us dies. Rich or poor, happy or unhappy, all goes in same direction.”

Eleanor: “Life is at least fair in that way.”

Heavy: “Water is the crib of life. That’s why is so much water I guess: first life forms on earth were in water.”

Eleanor: “Water destroys too— like this clock disintegrating by the piano.”

Heavy: “Maybe that says sometimes we die young. Not all of us make it to that corner, so for someone the clock has stopped in the way.”

Eleanor: “It does describe a cycle. Oh, true—we don’t all make it to being old.

Heavy: “Still there is a perfect working piano—like each person leaves behind a tune, a little story. We live as long someone remembers us.”

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Heavy: “This is what makes it fun— trying to figure out someone else’s mind. This experience was particularly fun because we didn’t find any notecard or direction arrows telling us what to understand and how to travel.”

Eleanor: “I love that! Words are not needed at all.”

Heavy: “Yes. I always said a good work doesn’t need notecard. I prefer to discover and find my own sense.”

Eleanor: “I could not agree more! We say words are not needed and then we write about it— lol.”

Heavy: “Even if is not the ‘right’ interpretation, it is always better to come up with one than be given the intention on a silver platter via a notecard.”

Eleanor: “Most of what we do as critics is question—not try to take the place of visiting the work, or describe the artist’s intentions. The work must speak for itself. If it can, then it is our job to figure out what it says. Great art has many interpretations, and all are valid if based on what is seen.”

Heavy: “Art is to make us think. If I were an artist, I would want that: ‘Go ahead—question my work, interpret my ideas, or find other ideas.”

Eleanor: “If we don’t question, can we think?”

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Liane Sebastian wears an editor’s hat, designer’s coat, and artist’s shoes.

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