Cica Ghost’s work will sometimes be described as whimsical. A lot of what you see in her exhibits and in her shop is just plain sweet and fun. One of my favorite early experiences from Cica after Dreamers closed was to go to an exhibit entitled “Strings” by Cica Ghost. It was a blast. The sim was a sweet little thriving European village whose citizens looked on as an attentive pianist and string quartet played for them. A young girl smiled and clutched her balloon. Visitors could explore the rooms of the village homes and see signs of vibrant and joyful life. I soon found I could click on little stone cellos located around the build and I would start graceful ballet in time to the music (This got me hooked on Second Life Ballet, and it is still mostly what I dance, whether I am listening to Stravinsky or Pink Floyd at the time). There is a nice little memory of Strings by Cica Ghost at the following link.
I ran and danced through Strings as a new resident of Second Life with the unrestrained joy of a child grabbing up Halloween candy. And like a young child, I had the naïve sensation that such places would last forever so I was shocked when I arrived one morning to find all the villagers, building, and music were gone. I miss Strings and Dreamers, but the joy of these places remain strong in my heart.
But Cica is not always sweet and whimsical. She can also have a cutting edge. Sometimes there will be a lonely longing in her work, sometimes an unrestrained terror, and sometimes she combines the two to grip you in the embrace of a hushed yet powerful disquiet. Her surname is Ghost, and sometimes what she has done will haunt you long after you have left. Her exhibit “Prisons” was such a place. The exhibit was introduced with the following warning:
“In this prison, all the doors will open for you, and you’ll be able to escape at any time. But you won’t feel like going away. And even when you finally leave, you will want to come back.”
You arrive on a barren platform under a sky the color of quiet darkness just before it overtakes twilight. I stood a long while in front of an imposing wall of metal bars and grates. Would I really be able to leave if I entered? Eventually I made the large metal gate slide slowly upward and walked inside. As I worked my way through the maze of metal bars, the only adornments I found were an occasional lonely chair and a black leafless tree that struggled skyward.
Thinkerer Studios has made a nice remembrance of Prison by Cica Ghost that you can find at the following link:
It was difficult to leave. Flying was disallowed here, and you had to wait patiently for long sequences of doors to open and shut to make your way outside the walls. Inside there was nothing to do but sit and be alone with your thoughts. Groups of smiling crows were perched everywhere above me, smug in a secret mocking knowledge. The thought that these bemused blackbirds could fly while I had no choice but to stay earthbound amplified my sense that the world pressed down on me. One of the first contraptions I had ever bought from Cica’s lovely gallery and shop was an antigravity room. I would spend hours of time just floating to music while I did Real Life paperwork and such. The weightlessness would give me a sense of freedom and a pleasant lightness of being. The contrast of now only being able to sit on a chair in Cica’s prison, unable to ascend skyward, served to tighten the walls of her prison around me. I could not open my antigravity room in her prison, that would have brought sweet relief, but it was not allowed, so I attached it to my avatar, causing my antigravity room to clap down on top of me adding another layer of bars. It felt like a prison within a prison.
Of course I could have left at any time. It was as easy as clicking the teleport button. But Cica was right. I did not want to leave, and when I did leave I wanted to come back. Sometimes it is nice to just sit and meditate, and that might have been part of what would draw me back to this place of simple mazes and disquieting stillness, but I think that is only part of what kept me there. Sometimes we remain locked within the confines of a certain circumstance or thought because freedom can bring its own type of terror.
Dream of Lona – Another Prison
Judging from the house and the bedroom I was in when I woke up, I had the following dream about a decade ago, and it remains a vivid memory:
I am sitting on a bench in a circus tent, and a tall man dressed in black is giving me a strange and exhilarating sales pitch. He is dressed and looks like Mr. Dark from the 1983 movie “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” He is pointing with a cane at a screen that shows a series of beautiful women. The first one is wearing a green flowing dress and the face is framed by golden hair. “You can be her” he says.
“No” I say, “I can’t.”
The screen changes to a dramatic looking woman with dark eyes and ivory skin wearing a black silken night gown.
“How about her?” he asks. I feel like it would be great to be her.
“No” I answer.
He gives a slightly mocking smug smile and twirls his cane. “Now this one, this one is you.”
The screen now shows a pretty girl with black hair and kind eyes. The lips are a sweet dark red and they form a wry smile. She spins happily and twirls a soft red dress, and faces me with a gentle chuckle. I recognize her, I recognize me, she is me. But I am terrified.
I simply shake my head no. I can’t, I would lose everything. Mr. Dark is laughing at me now, pointing and teasing me with his cane. The screen is empty except for a swirling blackness.
When I awakened, the dream remained clear and vivid. First of all I was annoyed that the Mr. Dark looked like the one from the movie instead of the book. But more importantly I had the feeling that my desire to be a woman was strong and demonic. At that time it was a dark feeling of which I was very ashamed. Mr. Dark had seemed to tell me that all I had to do was to choose, just make a choice and I could be free. But I would lose all that I have. As Sara Bareilles sings:
“love is a cage, these words on a page they carry the pain, but they don’t free it.”
Lose what I have, or lose what I am? Is there a difference when what I have includes loving relationships that I hope will last forever? I loathed myself, however, for wanting to be a girl, and made a clearly conscious choice to push those desires deeper. I would work harder at not feeling that way, stay busy, stay distracted, run, run, run. The walls of my prison tightened around me, I could leave, but I also did not want to, and in my dream when I did leave, I wanted to come back. Who was I anyway? I pushed the question into the hollow of a blackened leafless tree. I went out into the house and hugged my wife and got ready for work.
Dream of Sterne – The Starling
Okay, Okay, I know this post is going on WAY TOO LONG. (Harvey nods in agreement). I have to impose one more dream on you relevant to my struggle to leave my prison of interalized transphobia. This step occurred a few years ago when I found an account of a “daydream” of Laurence Sterne about a starling. (Harvey looks up with some interest at the mention of a starling, I make a mental note to refill his kitty kibble). Sterne wrote these words in reflecting on his 18th century tourist inspection of the Bastille on his journey through France. I am simply going to close this post with his words from A Sentimental Journey.
“The mind sits terrified at the objects she has magnified herself, and blackened: reduce them to their proper size and hue she overlooks them—’Tis true,’ said I, correcting the proposition—’the Bastile is not an evil to be despised—but strip it of its towers—fill up the fosse—unbarricade the doors—call it simply a confinement, and suppose ’tis some tyrant of a distemper—and not of a man which holds you in it—the evil vanishes, and you bear the other half without complaint.’
I was interrupted in the hey-day of this soliloquy, with a voice which I took to be of a child, which complained ‘it could not get out.’—I looked up and down the passage, and seeing neither man, woman, or child, I went out without further attention.
In my return back through the passage, I heard the same words repeated twice over; and looking up, I saw it was a starling hung in a little cage—’I can’t get out—I can’t get out,’ said the starling.
I stood looking at the bird: and to every person who came through the passage it ran fluttering to the side towards which they approached it, with the same lamentations of its captivity—’I can’t get out,’ said the starling.
‘God help thee!’ said I, ‘but I will let thee out, cost what it will.’ So I turned about the cage to get the door; it was twisted and double twisted so fast with wire, there was no getting it open without pulling the cage to pieces—I took both hands to it.
The bird flew to the place where I was attempting his deliverance, and thrusting his head through the trellis, pressed his breast against it, as if impatient—’I fear, poor creature!’ said I, ‘I cannot set thee at liberty.’
‘No,’ said the starling—’I can’t get out—I can’t get out.’ “
All rights for text reserved to Lona Gynt. July 2017. (except Sterne’s words which have since escaped to public domain).