10 years of exclusive contents dedicated to digital arts and electronic musics, written by a team of professional journalists.
All our issues are bilingual (French/English). Quarterly magazine, available in print and pdf format.
Visit our Website : www.digitalmcd.com
Follow us on Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/digitalmcd
Follow us on Twitter : https://twitter.com/MCD_Mag
In English, en français
View My Blog
Send me a message
Reportage à Vision'R
MCD#70 - ECHO / SYSTEM - "Music and sound art"
MCD#69 | NET ART – WJ-SPOTS #2: Artists take over the network
MCD International digital festivals guide OUT NOW !
MCD magazine: new issue on "Writing machines", OUT on March 15th !
Exclusive article from MCD magazine: Stanley Greene “We live in a throwaway society”
Exclusive article from MCD #65: Hacktivists repaint the town green
MCD#65 The culture of green tech OUT NOW !
Last night in Scopitone 2011
Third night in Scopitone festival 2011
More blog entries
MCD offers you this exclusive content from MCD magazine #64 Game Over Culture !
You can buy this issue on www.digitalmcd.com
Art: Not the final frontier of gaming
As a critical and even subversive outgrowth of gaming, game art has infiltrated contemporary art, indie games and virtual worlds. It’s free, political and tenaciously experimental.
One thing is certain: without the viewer’s active participation, there is no “game art”. In order to write these words, I subjected myself to a few avatarizations, piloted an airplane that was destined to crash, drove a car that would fatally collide, wore a helmet that analyzed my emotions to project “my” movie, was shot at in a corridor of snipers and finally voluntarily infected by a global virus (1).
For game art is unique in that it borrows the immersive aspects of video games to create its own scenarios. Sometimes these scenarios can be funny, for example, when you are the Pong ball (as in Sensory Circus by the Austrian research group Time’s Up in 2004). Other times they can be quite stressful, for example, when clones seemingly void of substance float in limbo, deactivated, as imagined by Kurt Hentschläger in Karma (2004), featuring 3D marionnettes reappropriated from the graphics engine of Unreal Tournament, miming the strange choreography of Angelin Preljocaj’s N.
One thing that is less certain, however, is the existence of a category called game art… Born in the wake of video games, like a sort of critical, transgressive outgrowth, game art de-mechanizes games, moving the boundaries between player and screen and pushing the genre beyond its limits, which are still loosely defined by an industry that is reluctant to recognize its creatives as genuine authors. The pioneers of game art were themselves gamers, such as Invader (see page 80), who transposes the principles of arcade games into urban space, while others attempted to recreate giant games of Pac-Man in the city (2). The Swiss artist Guillaume Reymond (NOTsoNOISY) specializes in recreating classic video game scenes with “real” human extras wearing colored t-shirts, filmed in stop motion and replayed to an a capella fakebit soundtrack. The results are 100% human-generated Tetris, Pac-Man and Pole Position.
Alexandre Périgot used the same concept for his Synopsis/Catharsis in 1999, which marked one of the milestones of game art: playing with media stereotypes to provoke thought around the issue of violence. The artist asked 30 youths from the Paris suburb of Aubervilliers to re-enact their favorite game sequences. During the performance, Périgot exposed the artifice (flamethrower, foam gun, etc) to produce what he calls “a disillusion in relation to the illusion of the game”. Or, as the curator Philippe Vergne wrote: “The atmosphere is that of entertainment, the signs, those of live performance, the codes, those of arcade games, and the content, cold and smooth violence against emptiness.” (3) The pioneers have exploited the clichés surrounding video games (violence, derealization, personality disorders) to lay down the esthetic framework of video game art. Some craft installations that “incarnate” arcade games (Invader, Reymond, Time’s Up), others build alternate-reality spaces (the collective Blast Theory, whose games are played both online and in physical
space), but most artists aspire to extend the world of gaming beyond its existing categories (FPS, sparring, simulation,
From critical to subversive
Their interpretations are critical, even subversive –with an insolence that often rubs gamers the wrong way. Such was the case with Douglas Edric Stanley’s Invaders! (2008), which superposed the classic arcade game and an image of the burning Twin Towers. Installed at the Leipzig Games Convention, it wasn’t long before the piece provoked controversy –beginning on the blog of an American gamer who was outraged at the gamification of this traumatic event. No need to spend hours with a joystick before offering a deviant reading of this new media entertainment. A number of contemporary artists have gotten their feet wet, such as the Swiss Sylvie Fleury and her 2-meter-high Dog Toys (2003) or Takashi Murakami, whose vibrant kawaii creatures spread like monsters proliferating over the gallery walls. In 1999, for the piece No Ghost Just a Shell, Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe initiated an amusing role-playing game among a circle of artists by purchasing the rights to the 3D character Annlee from a Japanese manga company. Rather poorly finished, Annlee had no real virtual future in the industry. Parreno and Huyghe “revived” her by inviting other artists to cast her in their work and exhibitions, each time giving her a new status.
In the belly of the beast
Over the years, criticism of the trompe-l’oeil effect of computer-generated images specific to video games has taken on a wide variety of artistic forms (sculptures, video installations, video games, etc). This criticism liberated itself from the game medium in the early 2000s, in Switzerland, Germany, France and the United States, manifesting itself in exhibitions
such as Game On, Game Art and Jouable. Amidst this effervescence, the pioneers were soon joined by other artists eager to decode games. The game art landscape is now divided into three large domains: strictly contemporary art, experimental indie games and virtual worlds.
On the art side, gaming references are still present, but the infatuation seems to have passed. The adventures of Kolkoz (Benjamin Moreau and Samuel Boutruche), who earned their reputation by cloning figures from the art market and integrating them into gory scenes using the Quake game engine, are dated. Martin Le Chevallier, whose Surveillance 1.0 (2001) has become a classic of the genre (players denounce malicious civil acts from a Sim City-like bird’seye view), is now more interested in making films. It’s in the belly of the gaming beast itself that art is the most ebullient. While experts are still debating whether indie games should be considered art or simply part of the gaming ecosystem, artists are offering their own responses. It was the Israeli- American pioneer artist Eddo Stern who made the first political game about the Waco siege (Waco Resurrection, 2004), where the player is the Davidian guru. Stern was also the one who, with Vietnam Romance (2003) and Sheik Attack (1999-2000), inaugurated the first machinima productions: “I’m an artist and I happen to be obsessed by video games,” he explains. Today, Stern is a teacher (he directs an independent game lab at UCLA), consultant for IGF and Indiecade festivals (references in the gaming industry), and organizer of the Fantasticfest Arcade in Austin. But that hasn’t stopped him from making game art, such as the sensory-deprivation Darkgame (2007-2010).
In France, Antonin Fourneau organizes Eniarof, a sort of faux funfair of the new arcade. He describes it as an “Arte Povera of video games”, not far from the artisanal esthetics of Babycastles (see page 54) in New York. His temporary arcade, open to participation by artists (Eniarof is a pure offshoot of Lars Von Trier’s Dogme) is yet another form of “irreverence” toward video games –more irreverent, says the organizer, than developing independent games… The border between art games and indie games is ever shifting. Fourneau recalls how, at the Duplex gallery in Toulouse, France, a group of rather atypical adolescents loved his installation RR but failed to see the irony of two players wearing mop wigs and shaking their heads like heavy metal fans to trigger the sounds of bass, drums, guitar and voice. Another twist on the genre is Benjamin Nuel’s Hotel, whose exasperating gameplay features bored soldiers playing volleyball. Natalie Bookchin had already experimented with incongruous sidesteps to destabilize the player in The Intruder (1999), an online narrative based on an arcade game. Cory Arcangel is also an amateur of disorienting mechanics (see page 92), as is Pierre Giner (see page 88), whose works are metaphors of video games: Some Crashes is a racing simulation game that “reduces interactivity in order to introduce a space for reflection”, says Giner; I-Dance stages virtual dancers contemptuously eyeing the player, who is frustrated by the clones’ failure to perfectly synchronize.
This itching-powder approach eventually found its audience among gamers –witness the furor over Fur’s PainStation (2001), a Pong table that shocks, burns or whips a player’s hand every time he or she misses the ball.
Some festivals had to limit playing time after certain gamers continued playing until their hands were raw and bleeding… As with the Gamerz Festival in Aix-en-Provence, which gains in audience each year, the lines between art and gaming continue to blur. The gaming industry, however, clearly sees artists as uncontrollable troublemakers. Convincing the App Store to publish a particularly jarring application is never an easy affair. It’s even worse when, like Shu Lea Cheang, you evoke post-Blade Runner sexuality with tactile gameplay… The post-porn, pro-hack Taiwanese artist may have spelled it out on the I.K.U. website (“This is love. This is not sex.”), but level 2 of this viral, sci-fi, Rez–like music game was developed in media labs rather than by industry professionals. Such is the freedom claimed by the artists of virtual worlds. Second Life has been their playground for expression ever since the 3D world has been online, with the particularity of allowing residents to create their own environment. They came en masse, from the Chinese artist Cao Fei to the French filmmaker Chris Marker, from architecture students to individuals interested in exploring online identities. Following the same path as machinima filmmakers (see page 106), they set out to create new 3D open-source worlds, while Linden Lab gradually tightened its control over SL. L’Ouvroir, the virtual museum where Chris Marker and the cat Guillaume-en-Égypte spent most of their SL time, was cloned using OpenSimulator, an open-source server platform for hosting virtual worlds. Agnès de Cayeux, an artist who specializes in meta-worlds (4) and is actively involved in Open, the first festival of virtual stages at the Paris-Villette theater last June, explains: “We chose to leave Second Life in order to realize this project of virtual scenographies and dramaturgies, because renting one or two lots from Linden Lab is financially indecent.
We chose to join another, free community –the community of OpenSim developers. Since then, life has been a lot simpler for us and our bots.” Bonjour Monde has become the “grid” (virtual territory) of several projects, from one about Walden forest by Jean-François Peyret to another by students of decorative arts in Strasbourg and of scenography in Paris. This is one of the positive aspects of this emancipation of artists from virtual worlds and the real industry: experimentation thrives. Between
the art school of Chicago and the Locus Sonus lab in Aix-en-Provence, for exemple, New Atlantis is another virtual world under construction, which explores the acoustic capacities of intangible spaces.
This proliferation of initiatives and artistic forms is no doubt the best picture of the state of game art. Or, let us simply conclude with Martin Le Chevallier’s Chicken Bench (2007), in which a plague of chicken “attacks” the Kolkoz Computer (5), progressively degrading sound and image… until it bugs.
(1) In order of appearance: Le Bruit des avions and Some Crashes by Pierre Giner (2005, 2002), Lilith (Brain-in-the-Machine) by Pavel Smetana (2006), Fin de siècle by Malachi Farrell (2001), I.K.U. by Shu Lea Cheang (2009-2011).
(2) The precursors of Pac-Manhattan (http://www.pacmanhattan.com) in 2004 have proliferated around the world.
(3) Preface of On Tour, éd. de la Voûte, 1997.
(4) She directed Second Life, un monde possible, éd. des Petits matins (2008).
(5) Exhibited in “Playtime” in Rurart (near Poitiers), France.
Picture: “Anywhere out of the world”, video by Philippe Parreno (2000), part of the project “No Ghost Just a Shell”, by Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe
BUY THIS ISSUE
AGENDA anne cecile worms art I. P. C. Jason Cook mathieu lehanneur Mur Water PCB Natural History of the Enigma Object Avatar Peter William Holden publication Publications videogames by
More information about formatting options