The Second Life installation begins with Bryn's work. It tells the Abraham and Isaac story, but setting it in modern times. We see Abraham caring for Isaac as an infant; later, his television gives him an order from God to sacrifice his son. The mountaintop to which the original Abraham took Isaac for sacrifice becomes an apartment building. On its roof, Abraham pulls Isaac onto his lap and, horrifyingly, puts a gun in his mouth. At the last moment, an angel stops Abraham, as God is now convinced of his faith. In the final scene, accessed by a teleport hidden in the rooftop stairway, Bryn shows us Abraham trying to ease his terrified child. One wonders whether the boy could ever forgive his father. One wonders how the original Issac ever did; many interpretations evade the question by saying he was a willing sacrifice.
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Just before these two last scenes, we come to a bot performance created by Jo Ellsmere. It is linked artistically to Bryn's portion through the appearance of the angel in a grouping to the side of the bot performance. That group, created by Bryn, consists of God surrounded by a lion, an eagle, an ox, and an angel – the symbols of the Four Evangelists (Mark, John, Luke, and Matthew, respectively, although the angel here is female). In this part of the installation, we shift from the Old Testament to the New. The 24 bots, arranged in two rows, represent the 24 elders in Revelations, the last of the New Testament books. The elders, however, seem quite bored as they wait for something; they shift their bodies, stretch, or read to pass the time. The thematic connection between Bryn's and Jo's sections lies in the fact that the Abraham and Isaac tale prefigures the New Testament story of God's sacrifice of Jesus. In addition, one at a time each of the elders in the first row rises from his chair, walks over to God, and bows, kneels or supplicates – bodily enactments of Obedience.
There is an additional figure, Colubrum – the name means "snake" or "serpent" – played by two different avatars who merge and transform into each other. From time to time he steps into the scene with Abraham about to kill Isaac and the setting with God and the elders. His name associates him with Satan, in one of his two versions he has horns, and he frequently hulks, crawls and crouch-walks. I haven't quite figured out why he's there, but he introduces a strong dynamic note into the scenes; when he watches the scenes he appears less a figure of evil than of skepticism, willing to question both the lessons we should learn from the story of Abraham and Isaac, and the elders' rote obedience to God the Father. He himself salutes God.
The entire performance is fascinating, even hypnotizing (as Jo's work so often is), and one must watch it at least long enough to see both versions of Colubrum, if not many times after. Also it's richer with details than first meets the eye. Examine the elders' skin: each one has a different pattern, which shimmers or moves. They wear golden crowns adorned with religious and secular symbols. Beneath their feet, rows of letters in apparently random order slowly scroll downward; the letters are G, A, T, and C, which represent the four main components of the DNA molecule. (In this regard, consider the fact that in many cultures, snakes represent life or the birth of the universe.) And in both parts of Obedience, there are globes or astrolabes, which in this context serve as symbols of God's dominion over earth.
Click photos to enlarge(Arguably, since this part of the installation concerns the New Testament and its connection to the Old, a representation of the crucifixion as the image of God sacrificing his son would underscore the parallel; but it would surely raise pointless hackles because of the possible impression of proselytizing, it could make the theme heavy-handed, and the section is quite successful without it – probably more so.)
Obedience makes some technical demands. Visitors are asked to use a particular windlight and adjust a few other settings in order to create the enveloping darkness; Firestorm is implicitly the preferred viewer. In addition, visitors should turn on shadows and projectors. People who don't have powerful graphics may have difficulty operating with the shadows/projectors setting. If at all possible, try to work with it because the light and shadows contribute enormously to the installation's aesthetic effect. But if that's simply impossible, at least apply the windlight and other small adjustments, for those are crucial. It's also extremely important to set sound levels as high as possible. Unfortunately the recordings were made a low volume, so I had to set not only the sound slider to max, but also the master slider, and sometimes even my computer's. When watching the bot performance, I recommend turning name tags off (in Firestorm, you can do this either through the Preferences–General tab, or through the Quick Prefs button if you have it).
Also, visitors in the RL installation are able to see the SL installation and walk through it using avatars named Isaak001 (male) and Ishmael001 (female). So you may see those two avatars when you visit LEA1, but you won't make much headway if you try to chat them up.
There are machinimas of the installation by Bryn and Iono Allen.
Obedience runs through 13 September.