Damiano Colacito, live performance, 2008
Damiano Colacito is one of the most prolific and interesting artists working with videogames today. His remediations of first-person shooters like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom have been exhibited all over the world, and deservely so.
Damiano loves to surprise the viewers by introducing videogame objects and artifacts into real-life scenarios, blurring the boundaries between reality and hyper-reality, history and fan-fiction.
Point in case: Wolfenstein Halftrack (2005), which documents the inherent colonizing power of gamespaces. "Face of Doom" (2007) uses HUDs and interfaces as political tools: here, a gigantic image of the DoomGuy is projected onto the ruins of Hotel Europe in Sarajevo. Background info: "The once majestic hotel was heavily damaged during the war. The "Face of Doom" video shows the changing states of Taggart Flynn, also known as "The DoomGuy". As the energy level decreases from 100% to 14%, Flyn's expression becomes increasingly tormented and anguished, a metaphor for a city that suffered so much destruction during the war. Luckily for Flynn, the video ends with the energy level restored to 100%. The 'game'face', like Sarajevo itself, is the proverbial phoenix that rises from its ashes". Or so we wrote a few years ago.
The good news is that Mr. Colacito is still playing with first-person shooters. Obsessively. This is why he was selected for "Subverted Genres", an art exhibition curated by Gabriela Galati and Rebecca Mirsky at the Sue Scott Gallery in New York" (May 5 - June 16, 2009). His "21st Century" still lifes recreate objects from video games. Through his sculptures, Colacito materializes virtual reality into actual reality. Uncanny? Not really. Powerful? Yes.
Colacito was also the star of "Drill Down 01 Damiano Colacito 3 Thoughts", a personal retrospective @ tha NTArt gallery in Bologna, Italy in February 2009. The event featured two videos and one performing act. Here's more information from NTGallery:
"Drill Down 01 opening on Wednesday the 18th of February 2009 at 19.30 with Damiano Colacito 3 Thoughts, a project involving the showing of two videos and the representation of an acting performance of varying duration.The artistic pursuit of Damiano Colacito has many different facets, which can refer to many other reflections. There are numerous questions that instinctively the work asks of us, or rather we submit, but all constitutionally us to focus point, the core of the formal and, at the very concept of perception of reality.The video titled West Wolf Carousel, whose subject is the representation of Hitler as presented in the first version of the 1992 video game Wolfenstein 3D, based on its efficacy of a scene which is on a continuous loop. The viewer of the video, as an active user is given responsibilities at the choice of the artist not to formally make the player the murderer Hitler in first person, since they do not play, nor do they handle commands directly or physically wield a weapon with which in the original game the player was able to commit murder. The weapon itself is not included in the video, its not to be found in the gaming environment, its invisible. But this was a conscious decision, which seems conceptually striking, but it is not further proof of the power of perception, in which reflection is extrinsic, emotional and not intellectual, in which the loop emerges us. The enemy par excellence, Der Führer, shoots with abnormal wickedness, his eyes injected with blood, the ferocity is palpable, but he did not harm us, by contrast, he kills himself and is reborn. From this representation shows the duality between active action and quick action, which highlights the distinction between our involvement in first person as builders of the scene and the fact that the repetition inherently in the nature of the reality of video games, makes it possible to act and undergo the action almost simultaneously. Hitler dies and is reborn, the sequence finishes then starts again, the carousel is charging and everything starts again. Satisfaction and frustration but there are not offset. How many times can he be killed? Hitler always returns to life. In the world of video games, the victory is tantamount to the end of the game. But as you can win / finish, the reality of the game is still there, ready for a new game, ready to rise again, to be recalled and relived physically and perceptually at any time, with lots of variables. Although Wolfenstein 3D, was not the first first person shooter in the history of the games for the PC, but it was the first to obtain huge commercial success and a widespread use. The loop, the ringing bells and music of this is repeated as if it were the voice of Hitler himself - all the audio files come exclusively from the network - allow us to live inside the video, to live a perceptually an experience totally simulated, however, it has very little simulation. In fact, the reality of the game is not virtual or synthetic, or even fake, in the exact moment when it becomes possible to interact so profoundly. The boundary between tangible and intangible is not situated in the realism of the experience? We know that this image of low definition is just a representation, but the degree of "physical" involvement that it causes is perhaps not completely real? The act of contemplation, despite assuming both attentive and perceptive characteristics, in itself is static and therefore passive, in which case the work itself presents a dynamic opportunity to play, therefore, contains values such as interaction. But the very fact that they are the result of the possibility of interaction and not the means to award the portion of the game to the rank of ‘a work of art’, but make the video a reflection on the linguistic dimension of perception of reality.
Quite different, but definitely similar in genre to Paradisi is in a universe of well-defined experiments, on the border between the historical narrative and linguistic research. Even for the younger people it’s impossible not to immediately recognize the famous music that accompanies the viewing of images. The "Toccata" by Pietro Domenico Paradisi has been for many years an advertisement theme tune for Rai, thus providing the main narrative support and making an endearing moment from an empty television screen which thanks to popular not folklore, had much to give. Alien from all nostalgic sentimentality, this video follows in some respects the educational intent, which had pictures of the most beautiful places in Italy shown during intervals. In fact at that time, whenever there was break for technical problems or there was an interruption of any kind in the broadcast, viewers tended not to change channels - even given the small choice of channels - but continued to watch, usually with interest broadcasting breaks. The knowledge through interval filled the gap of lack of direct travel and represented for many people, especially women, the only way to explore the boundaries, allowing an awareness of the imaging area, the geographical area a well-defined locus of culture. The artist’s work is not so dissimilar. Colacito shows photographs of places that exist in a well-defined digital environment. Video games are the most diverse derivatives of these, but each of those photographs depicting an environment that the artist has visited in a specific historical moment. Within the reality of the game not only is space altered but also time. All dimensions, both physical and intellectual meet the need to make the person able to make a living entirely consistent with the dynamics they decide to choose. This exploration is the result of a social intervention, which represents a wide scope, whose boundaries exceed those of a simple nation. This proposal is not a reflection on the semantic non-place; quite the contrary the main characteristic of a non-place is the depersonalization of the individual who becomes an anonymous member of a category such as a mass consumer, customer, and user. While the places that Colacito shows reinforce the identity and personality of one individual who visits these places. A specific place becomes packed with subjectivity. Anyone could discover a new part of the world without physically moving there. There seems to be a split reality without losing credibility. Ironic, but flawless at the same time, the comparison that looks at both formal and content, between television and digital interaction, which allows the artist to bring themselves and their actions within the images. In 1960 Colacito smokes a cigarette on board a plane, visit hell in 2145, the Reichstag in 1945 and 1964. Interaction unifies the concept of vision and the journey, allowing us to take action within a three-dimensional space-time definable.
The performance entitled the 90th Minute gathers the intent of the educational video while deepening both the conceptual and experimental aspects. The typical bar in a town is rebuilt and we are invited to sit down at a table, put on headphones and watch TV. We are facing a match. A typical match. From time to time, randomly, the famous symbol of the "90 minutes" takes us back to memories of football, on Sunday afternoon, championship evenings, the feeling of team spirit. The artist, present but hidden, visible but not too much, challenges himself in all respects.
Colacito shows us a glimmer of reality doubled and duplicated, in which his individual sitting on their chair, their elbows resting on the desk, wearing headphones and dressed in their own clothes - all faithfully recreated and transported into the gallery -- you will play a game in multiplayer mode in Battlefield 2142. This mode allows multiple people to simultaneously play the same video at the same time using different terminals connected to each other on the Internet.In this case the player is not alone in front of the TV, but interacts through this, and related technology, with other players, physically distant from each other and located in different geographic locations. As in a game of mirrors that reflect each other endlessly, this performative act is able to multiply the perceptual reality countless times.
Players are physically located in a place, in front of their PC, while at the same time in another reality of the game. Split realities for everyone, two simultaneously lives, two realities interacting among themselves and with the outside world both physical and virtual. The number of variables that can change the reality has the opportunity to increase exponentially. Colacito provides his subjective view to us, the estranging which allows the observer to see what the player sees, to do what the player wants, but without the knowledge of the action or control. Our perceptions are completely replaced with new ones from another person, making the participation passive and active at the same time, unbalance our cognitive ability to immerse ourselves in the realities of others.It deals with a match, live, between two teams - two clans, each consisting of ten people -- that challenge each other. The metaphor of football is distorted, but respected, and the war is only a pretext for dialogue between the players, the reason why aggregation and empathic communion exists between people. On account that the performative act is not distorted, none of the participants in three sessions of the game realizes that they are being recorded and listened to by third parties, so that the spontaneity of the language and the sincerity of the act is almost complete. The role of the artist does not take the upper hand compared to the event, his presence is visible, intuitive, but the person is both physically and conceptually moved a different level to the representation. They are situated low down, in a symbolically different place, they are there, but at home, metaphorically, and their presence allows us to spy on a fragment of reality game otherwise hidden from our eyes, that we can only imagine. Colacito’s decontextualisation of the signals origins makes this event educational by allowing us an insight into behind the scenes, creating the futuristic dream of teleportation, which is no longer a real moving subject, but an emotional translation of a cognitive ability of experienced individuals. The grammar of war games is set to bare all its parts, whether online or offline. The physical anxiety, empathy, collaborative spirit, the sense of community become apparent in the sportingly direct participation, interactive, intertextual, subjective and objective of the game. " (NTArtGallery, 2009)
Damiano Colacito, "Paradisi - 1945 - Reichstag - Berlin" (2008)
Damiano Colacito "Paradisi - 1960 - Flying - Mid Atlantic" (2008)
Photo gallery on flickr [All images: @ Damiano Colacito]
Damiano Colacito: "Face of Doom" (2007)
Damiano Colacito, an interview (2006)
Damiano Colacito, a profile (2006)
Submitted by Matteo Bittanti