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The Shadow

So, what happened to the story? The fairy tale, the “maerchen”? When did narrative become so “un-cool” then?

I think it happened in the aftermath of the second world war, after humanity came too close to the edge of the abyss and saw the “Shadow”. The Dadaists still had it, the narrative, as did the early Surrealists. A narrative that originated from the subconscious mind, that sprang into being in the collages of Max Ernst and the poetry of Paul Eluard. But there inside the subconscious, right next to the fairy tale and the beautiful poetry and the mesmerizing collages also resides the “Shadow”, present in each and everyone of us. No one is exempt. And, when humanity faced its own “Shadow” at the end of the war it turned away in a shock of recognition. It was simply too hard to acknowledge, too unspeakably cruel to deal with – so we hid behind the impersonal, the non-narrative. Art became non-narrative. It was easier that way. Space became impersonal, a shrine to minimalism. Beautiful in its generic nudity, functional – and resolutely silent, non-narrative. The cold cold climate of political correctness, the safe boundaries with which we try so hard and so desperately (and with such futility) to circumscribe the abyss and the “Shadow” – there inside all of us. The death of humor. The endless loops of flickering video art of the “now”, stubbornly refusing to tell stories. Because the “story”, the “maerchen” comes from a place that is just too close to home, too close to the abyss and to the “Shadow” waiting therein. Stories lead to imagination and imagination leads to the abyss.

No coincidence then, that it became unpopular to tell Grimm’s fairy tales to your child. A bookshelf full of literature in a friends house on the correct way to raise children – grounded in educational toys and realizm. No violent toys, no guns… Little picture books where little rabbit goes out and sees a little butterfly and then… Nothing… “Hello Butterfly!”… “B is for Butterfly”… And then it gets to be night and little rabbit goes home to sleep. No stories… please no stories… Much too dangerous. The roots of narrative reside in the abyss.

Second Life has given me back my childhood. But children are cruel. They stand too close to the abyss with their imaginative little minds turning broom handles into magic swords to… kill! And yet here we are, a horde of children, testing out the waters of narrative, once again. And cruelty is already here, already implied, in the neko merchandise. In the blood soaked wings. The neko crime scene kit. The bloody bandage outfits. The countless spike collars and braces and leg wraps. The troublemaker belt with its paw handcuff. I buy them. I look at them. The fish grate necklace – obviously I must have eaten the fish at some point and now its remnants hang from my neck like the scalp of an amazon warrior. The teddybear hat. Except that the bear is holding two sticks of dynamite in its round little paw. Narrative is cruel. It resides in the land of the “Shadow”. And the “Shadow” is the price paid for imagination. I embrace the teddybear – dynamite and all.


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