GameScenes is conducting a series of interviews with artists, critics, curators, gallery owners operating in the field of Game Art, as part of our ongoing investigation of the social history of this fascinating artworld. Our goal is to illustrate the genesis and evolution of a phenomenon that changed the way game-based art is being created, experienced, and discussed today. The conversation between Mathias Jansson and Daphne Dragona took place via email in January 2011.
"Daphne Dragona is an independent new media arts curator and organiser, based in Athens with a special interest in the game arts field. She has been the Programme Curator of Gaming Realities (Medi@terra, International Art and Technology Festival) which took place in Athens in 2006, the Associate Curator of Gameworld and the Co- Curator of Homo Ludens Ludens , both of them hosted in Laboral Centro de Arte y Creacion Industrial in Gijon in 2007 and 2008 respectively. She has been involved as an organiser or as a participant in different new media events and since 2004 she is also collaborating with the International New Media Collective Personal Cinema." (Daphne Dragona)
Image courtesy of Neural.it
GameScenes: Between 2007 and 2008 LABoral in Gijon, Spain produced a trilogy of impressive videogames exhibitions. You were involved as curator for two of them - Homo Luden Ludens Ludens and Gameworld. How did you get involved in the exhibitions? And what was the background to the exhibitions?
Daphne Dragona: My first contact with Laboral happened in 2007 through Carl Goodman, the curator of the Gameworld show. I must say that I am very grateful to people I have met the last few years in the gaming community. Gameworld was some months after “Gaming Realities”/ Medi@terra festival, organized by Fournos Center in Athens, for which I was working as a program curator and coordinator. During the festival which took place in October 2006 I had the chance to meet a great number of amazing people working on games, either as theorists or/and as creators. One of them was Eric Zimmerman who truly loved the festival and recommended me as a collaborator/ associate curator to Carl Goodman for Gameworld. And that’s how I found myself in Gijon.
Gameworld was one of the exhibitions that opened Laboral back in 2007. It could be described as a big exhibition on the intersection of games, art and culture. It covered a very wide range of games starting from the best examples of the “archaeology” of video games and reaching to distinctive cases of today’s interdisciplinary game world; art games, serious games, experimental games, sound and remixed games were all part of a big playground open for visitors to explore. Gameworld was in a way also the prelude, the introductory chapter to the games trilogy which was to follow with Playware in 2007 and Homo Ludens Ludens in 2008.
Playware, curated by the Museum of Moving Image of New York and the Ars Electronica Center of Linz, aimed to reflect the playful side of technology whereas Homo Ludens Ludens, curated by Erich Berger, Laura Baigorri and me focused more on how contemporary culture is embraced by play. As its title shows, it seeked for the features of the contemporary homo ludens ludens, the player. And I would say that it was quite clear that the exhibition as well as the conference that accompanied it was seen by the curatorial team as a tribute to the joy and the importance of play, rather than of games. For our work, we looked back to Huizinga, to Schiller, the Situationists and the Fluxus and we tried to reconnect their ideas and thoughts to today’s realm.
Image courtesy of Brent Gustafson
GameScenes: How did LABoral decide to invest so much in Game Art? Is Game Art artistically and culturally relevant in Spain?
Daphne Dragona: And we should add here that Laboral’s interest continued by organizing more events on the field, after this trilogy. I don’t know if game art has a strong position in Spain compared to other countries. I guess it does have an emerging scene and a growing interest that was made clear in the last four years. Not only Laboral, but also Media Lab Madrid, Casa Encedida and Matadero supported and presented game culture. I don’t know so well the work of the other institutions but Laboral surely organized an impressive array of events; not only exhibitions, but also workshops, talks and performances. I think they saw early enough that there was a new cultural field to invest in, a new step to take. And they decided to do it, offering thus a lot really to the game art and culture.
GameScenes: How and when did you interest for videogames begin?
Daphne Dragona: I think my interest mainly started back in 2003 when I met the Personal Cinema collective. Based in Athens Greece, they were then working on their later awarded video game “The making of Balkan Wars: the game”, a project on the a vulnerable, interesting and contradictory geopolitical area of the Balkans . With the participation of more than 50 artists and a gameplay based on the very features of the area, the game aimed to critically approach and comment on the mentality and the politics of the Balkans. When I met the team and I realized how immediate and strong the influence of such a work could be –compared also to other art forms it could have taken - I was amazed. I soon became part of the team myself and started exploring more and more the creative side of games, while diving deeper into the research and philosophy of play.
GameScenes: As a curator, what is the biggest challenge you face in presenting Game Art to an audience that does not necessarily understand the relevance of gaming? And what can a museum space add to artifacts that could often be consumed on a screen?
Daphne Dragona: I think one can go beyond the stereotype of the screens somehow. Yes, sure there are games that could be played online or offline at home and one chooses to show them to make them known to a wider public. But there are also other media formats that are worth presenting. Documentaries, installations, performances, interventions, location based games. The list has been quite big already for some years now and it keeps growing.
But yet, the challenge for me is elsewhere. I consider game art an anti-institutional form of art. That is the challenge and the interest. It can profane the sacred aura of the institutions, it can reverse their structures. That’s the power of play and in an institutional context that is what is being tested. This is why I get angry when I see games being exposed as objets d’ art that should not be touched. Games can shake things a bit. They can bring questions and check the institutional limits and interests. I remember the opening of Gameworld …when a big crowd invaded the space and started playing like mad with the games. We had to re-fix half of them the next morning but I guess it was worth it all!
link: Daphne Dragona
Text by Mathias Jansson