M Rizal Avib
M Rizal Avib (@mravib) adds this haunting work to his Ocean World Series, carefully balancing beauty and tragedy. Avib uses the immediately recognizable situation of a small child gazing into the pool of an aquarium, their silhouette often used to highlight the wonder and imagination of first-hand encounters with nature. A cursory glance might even give the audience a warm feeling, as we all see a part of ourselves in that child. The rays of light spill in, spreading across the water in a prism of shimmering vibrancy. So close to a picturesque snapshot of a calm underwater landscape, where a polar bear lazily plays amongst fish and rays.
Then we notice the chains, blending in so carefully with the shadows of the water. We suddenly realize the prone position of the animal is not a silly twirl, but is a thrashing to escape, a forced vulnerability brought on by its imprisonment. The chains lash the bear to the silt, holding it in suspension for our entertainment. The uncaring coolness of the clear blue will drown the bear, as it’s momentary exoticness is not valuable for its own sake, but only as a show to a temporary audience.
Suddenly, the girl is not so relatable, but is instead revolting as her gaze lies transfixed on the dying animal. We swell with rage at her perceived calmness in the face of murder. The emotional turbulence continues as the initial wave of anger is followed by logic, and we admonish that the fault goes beyond the subjects. It is not the girl’s fault that this cruelty is paraded as a spectacle, and her hidden face lets us excuse what may be a horrified expression. Instead, we are forced to walk away from the image with the dread heavy in our hearts and with nowhere to point the blame, forever affixed and floating, as the bear in his chains.