Does a person’s identity in the virtual world necessarily reflect their identity in the physical world? Margherita Hax tackles this and many other questions in her debut exhibition at the Nitroglobus Gallery.
The virtual world can be a strange place. It is a world where everything is real but at the same time fake. It is a world where a person’s identity can be anything and everything at the same time. It is a world where it is often easy to forget that behind the beautifully constructed avatars is a living, breathing person much like us who controls them. So, the question remains, in a virtual world, how do we judge what is real and what is not?
This simple idea forms the basis of photographer Margherita Hax’s first ever exhibition in Second Life. I deliberately use the word photographer here because she firmly believes that her photographs turn into art only when a viewer feels the emotions which she attempts to pass through her model’s face, gaze and other chromatic effects she uses to enhance the image.
On my visit to her exhibition – “Virtual Identity” – at the Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, I had the pleasure to chat with Margherita. And what an enlightening chat it was! I could feel the enthusiasm in her words along with her incredible passion for photography.
Although this might be Margherita’s first ever exhibition, she certainly isn’t a newcomer to photography. In fact, she has been cultivating her photography skills for the past nine years now. She actually started as a reporter during SL evenings, but always used to focus on people’s faces, rather than the background. Over time, she learned to use filters and graphic programs to emphasize the depth and expressiveness of her portraits.
As we sit down for a chat, Margherita tells me that she has always been curious about the possibilities that the virtual world offers to those who live in it. In a virtual world like Second Life, the possibilities are endless and a person can freely take on the identity they want to live. This world can be freeing in some ways as a person can rise above social stigma, peer pressure or any kind of traditional restrictions and live the life they want.
In this virtual world, one can make friends, have relationships and even create a mini-universe of their own within. However, with this liberty also comes the danger of false projections. In “Virtual Identity“, Margherita highlights this danger through a series of seven images which form a simple story of heartbreak, which most of us have lived through at some point. The L-shaped structure of the main hall of the Nitroglobus Gallery offered her a great opportunity to create this story through seven images which can be found in the arm extending eastwards.
Margherita starts with a comparison between Narcissus and Eros. Narcissus, according to mythology, was a hunter from Thespiae who was known for his beauty. He rejected all romantic advances, eventually falling in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and staring at it for the rest of his life. Margherita refers to this as fake love (which is common in the virtual world). The love between Eros and Psyche, however, is eternal and legendary; Margherita calls this true love.
Through her images, Margherita depicts a couple going through an SL relationship. It is interesting to note that in each image, she deliberately uses a slightly different avatar for both persons involved in this relationship. Through this, the artist emphasizes on the fact that everything in the virtual world is customizable, including avatars, faces, hair, clothing and almost anything else.
The last two images are noteworthy. “Failure” depicts the point where the relationship has reached its conclusion. Both individuals are shown facing different directions. Margherita makes really beautiful use of shadows in this particular image to highlight the tone of the photograph. The last one – “Comfort” – shows the individual who has broken up, finding comfort in someone’s arms. Whether this end signifies the start of a new relationship or simply the couple admitting failure and coming back up together is left for viewers to interpret themselves.
Through this story, Margherita also delivers a simple message, one that she introduced at the very beginning. Distinguishing between true love and false love can be extremely difficult in a virtual world, where one has no body language to read and appearances can be so easily deceptive. Not being hasty in opening up your heart to someone is perhaps one of the key things one can take away from this exhibition.
The reflective flooring of the Nitroglobus Gallery, as usual, enhances the viewing experience. Sculptures by Nitro Firegaard and Giovanna Cerise beautifully dress up the interior of the gallery and complement the images in the exhibition perfectly. Margherita Hax’s “Virtual Identity” is an incredible exhibition that makes you think, interpret and feel the emotions within each image.
Being Margherita’s very first exhibition in Second life, we are really excited for what is to come. Artist Margherita Hax and curator Dido Haas are both always happy to chat with visitors and make everyone feel welcome within the exhibition space. A visit to this fascinating exhibition about identity in a virtual world comes highly recommended.
TELEPORT TO EXHIBITION
- Nitroglobus Gallery – Sunshine Homestead