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. Mathias Jansson spoke to Iranian artist and game designer Ahmad Zolfagharian - whose work "Under Deconstruction" (2009) was featured on GameScenes in December 2010 - via email.
Ahmad Zolfagharian was born in Iran. After Graduating in Print Media at the University of Art in Teheran, he enrolled in an MFA program at Royal Institute of Art (KKH), Stockholm, Sweden. Ahmad is member of /a:t/BrE performance art group. His work has been presented at Mohsen Art Gallery and at Contemporary Istanbul betweeen 2010 and 2011.
Gamescenes: When did you interest for video games begin? How are you incorporating game-based technology in your work?
Ahmad Zolfagharian: There are several artists working with video games as a medium of expression. However, in the Iranian art scene, video games are still relatively new and the critics don't take them seriously, they tend to dismiss them as "trivial". Moreover, because copyright laws are somehow vague, there is no market for this medium. In short, for many artists, games represent a mere exercise, a form of exploration. They would not be able to make a living, so to speak, thus few game-based artworks are actually shown in galleries.
Ahmad Zolfagharian: "Under Deconstruction" is a remake of Gorillas, a game made in 1988 which could be played on DOS 5 operating system. It is one of the first game that I played and grown up with it, I began playing this game when I was just seven years old. I can remember reading about the struggle between Israel and Palestine around that time. During Israel's invasion to Gaza, BBC Persia showed images of Israelis rejoicing in their successful bombardments of Gaza and crying in joy each time a rocket hit the target. At the same time, Iranian National Television broadcast scenes in which Palestinians were throwing rockets at Israelis and crying out in rejoice. So, I just find a DOS version of the game, and then I tried to remake it by using Actionscript. I changed some specifications of the game, for instance I added Israel and Palestine flags and animated them. In the original game, when one of the opponent kill the other, he does a little dance. In this game when one of the player destroys a city skyline, both players will dance, and if one of them kills the other, he will dance. I used the idea of wind directional arrow to show the mass media inclination about this issue.
Ahmad Zolfagharian, "Life", interactive game, 2009
"At the beginning of the game, the player is informed that his task is to find an object which is located somewhere in a labyrinth. However, this information is incorrect and the game actually ends (i.e. reaches 'death point') when the duration of the game equals an accidental amount that the programme each time defines At that point, the labyrinth fades and the path the player has moved along becomes visible." (Ahmad Zolfagharian)
GameScenes: What about "Life"?
Ahmad Zolfagharian: At the beginning of this game, the player is informed that his task is to find an object located somewhere in a huge and complicated labyrinth. If he can find that object he wins the game of "Life'. Depending on the time of your life, the objects in the labyrinth will change. There are six levels: infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood and maturity. However, this information is incorrect and the game actually ends (i.e. reaches 'death point') when the duration of the game equals an accidental amount that the program randomly defines. Then labyrinth fades and the path taken by the player becomes visible. This is inspired by an orientalist idea that the meaning of life is about the path not the so-called "goal".
GameScenes: Art and videogames are closely interwined in your work. Will you continue to explore this connection?
Ahmad Zolfagharian: Game Art's relationship with moving images and video could not be stronger. By adding interaction to my artworks, I'm looking for the audience to spend more time than they would generally spend in a gallery. As an artist, I want to make an audience to have a deeper engagement with my artworks. I can say that interaction between game art and its audience is like a performance art as the audience is part of the artworks. I am still looking for a way to develop a stronger connection with the audience... To me, interactive art and Game Art are the best solution, at least for now. I will definitely continue to explore this area more. As a matter of fact, I am working on a new interactive video game which will soon see the light of the day.
Link: Ahmad Zolfagharian
Text by Mathias Jansson