Artists Re:thinking Games, edited by Ruth Catlow, Marc Garrett and Corrado Morgana, 2010, FACT, ISBN: 981846312472.
"Artists Re:thinking Games” is a collection of essays edited by Ruth Catlow, Marc Garrett and Corrado Morgana in collaboration between FACT and Furtherfield.org, published in connection to the exhibition “Space Invaders: Art and the Computer Game Environment” which opened 18/12-09 at FACT Liverpool. The exhibition will soon reopen at Netherlands Media Art Institute, 28 August – 6 November 2010.
For this anthology, artists and theorist have contributed with articles and interviews examining games that push and expand the boundaries beyond the realm of entertainment. In the introduction, Corrado Morgana frames Game Art in the context of art history, comparing it with the Situationist practice of détournement, i.e. overturning of the established order which “overthrows conventions to create new meaning by appropriating and juxtaposing”.
The relative scarcity of critical texts about Game Art and art games makes Artists Re:thinking Games a welcome contribution to the field. The book provides a good introduction and overview of the contemporarary Game Art scene, featuring the works of such artists as Tale of Tales, Jermey Bailey, Alex Galloway, and Bill Viola. The interview with Viola is particular interesting in this context since Viola began his artistic experimentation with television, in the Fifties, and gave a significant contribution to a new form of artistic expression in the Seventies known as video art. Viola turned the popular video mass medium into an established and well recognised art form. In 2010 Viola released “The Night Journey” an interactive art game developed with USC that allows players to explore a virtual landscape. Viola is now contributing to the field of Game Art. In his remarkable interview, Viola states:
“Over the years we have been creating "The Night Journey" it has been very rewarding to see a new generation of artists emerge and take on videogames as a creative medium of personal expression. It is now time to expand the scale, scope and historical reach of games as valid art forms on par with the great works of the past” (Bill Viola, 2010: 25)
Text by Mathias Jansson
"In this agile, yet dense book, critics Ruth Callow, Marc Garrett, and Corrado Morgana provide a brilliant overview of Game Art today with a little help from some friends, contextualizing the work of leading artists within the frame of Situationism and hacker culture. In his contribution, Morgana elucidates the meaning of often misunderstood terms like Game Art and artgame. The latter is defined as:
"An independent or commercial game which expresses its "artness" through its play mechanic, narrative strategies or visual language. An artgame may employ novel interfaces, non-mainstream narratives, retro visual language, experimental gameplay and other strategies. An Artgame may be any interactive experience that draws on game tropes. Artgames are rapidly detourning mainstream game expectations, although wheter designers specifically use the term whilst producing transgressive and novel independent games is a moot point" (Corrado Morgana, 2010: 9-10)
While Game Art:
"[D]oes exactly what is says on the tin: it is art that uses, abuses and misuses the materials and language of games, whether real world, electronic/digital or both. The imagery, the aesthetics, the systems, the software and the engines of games can be appropriated or the language of games appropriated for creative commentary" (Corrado Morgana, 2010: 12)
Morgana wisely observes that "there are continual cross pollinations, and Artgames and Game Art co-exist happily in gallery contexts and other modes of presentation" (ibidem).
The list of contributors includes Mary Flanagan, whose recent book, Critical Play (MIT Press, 2009) remains one of the most interesting contributions to date on the topic of art/game interaction. David Surman writes about the role of cheating in gameplay and artistic production while Heather Corcoran and Bill Viola discuss "The Night Journey". Marc Garrett and Ruth Callow talk to Alex Galloway and Jeremy Bailey while Emma Westcott examines the reconfiguration of Gothic themes and imagery in the context of artgaming, specifically in Tale of Tales' "The Path". Anne-Marie Schleiner provides a clever analysis of gamespaces in an illustrated essay. Mathias Fuchs investigates the notion of "ludic interfaces", evoking the concept of interpassivity while art critic and curator Daphne Dragona raises a series of relevant questions regarding the status of Game Art today. Specifically, she wonders:
"[H]ave we already reached the time for another institutionalization of an art form? Although the passage from a marginal, parasitic act to one embraced by institutions is not so uncommon for art, in the case of game-based art, a new oxymoron is developing, this time around play. Can games be presented in institutions? Do they become "object d'art"? What kinds of relationships are being formed between games, artists, visitors and institutions? Even if the opposition between artists and institutions is old in art, new encounters and questions emerge when playfulness is involved" (Daphne Dragona, 2010: 27).
The variety and quality of the contributions make Artists Re: thinking About Games a must read for anybody interested in the evolution of game-based art in the 21st century."
Text by Matteo Bittanti
sample pages from Artists Re: thinking Games