By Persia Bravin
On March 11th 2011, the world watched in horror as the earthquake and resulting tsunami ripped apart north-east Japan; decimating homes, destroying lives and plunging the country to the brink of nuclear meltdown. As the catastrophic events unfolded, the overarching, natural human response was to ‘do something’, to get involved, to somehow show the people of Japan that they were not alone and that we were thinking of them. Directly or indirectly, the tragedy of that day affected us all and will undoubtedly continue to resonate in our collective consciousness for all time.
Within mere hours of the disaster, Second Life™ residents were utilizing their various skills to assist the people of Japan via fundraising events, direct donations to the Red Cross and also by creating artworks that would provide a much needed place of quiet reflection and contemplation. Of the many builds that sprang forth in remembrance of Japan, perhaps the most visually arresting and emotive has to be ‘Requiem for Fukushima Daiichi’ by renowned virtual and real life artist Alizarin Goldflake. This gigantic, pyramidal structure with falling drops of fire, a burning seabed and desolate atmosphere actually started life as part of a new build unconnected with the Japan disaster, but as an offshoot project from one of Alizarin’s most famed virtual builds, ‘Acquarella.’
Depicting mankind’s seemingly endless destruction of the earth, Acquarella shows us a frightening glimpse of the future where the human race has destroyed life on this planet through greed, pollution and war. The imaginary goddess Acquarella is moved to repopulate earth by creating safe havens for new life to flourish deep within the oceans, and the build is full of hope for a fresh start for our planet. So how did the Requiem piece in honour of Japan evolve from this? “Right around the time I was finishing the build and searching for a title, the disaster in Fukushima occurred,” Alizarin quietly explains. “I have been grieved and frightened at all the suffering and death caused by the tsunami and the possibility of a major nuclear meltdown. I immediately saw a parallel between the real world disaster and the imaginary one in Acquarella, and because of the sadness of the situation I chose the word ‘Requiem’ for the title, drawing an analogy between the musical form and my visual art.”
Artists face a difficult decision when creating work that is influenced by human suffering. On the one hand, art helps us all to focus on the bare facts, to help us face our frailties and to confront the unimaginable, but to make art without capitalizing from that pain is a delicate balance and Alizarin’s build is the perfect example of a piece of immersive art that is both respectful and thought provoking. It’s testament to her gentle nature – as well as her truly outstanding artistic skills – that ‘Requiem’ manages to both shock and console simultaneously.
As the artist behind this work, why does she herself think people should come here? “I encourage people to visit this build because it combines beauty and tragedy, a poignant mix that gives people a place and a focus to deal with their feelings about the Fukushima disaster,” she says reflectively. “I would hope that visitors to the build would be inspired to say a prayer or make a donation.” As I prepare to leave this build, I listen to the crackle of fire as it scorches the earth beneath my feet, and I realise that out of desolation comes hope. And in any life – we all need some of that.
Many thanks to Jeri Rajha and Kerupa Flow