GameScenes is conducting a series of interviews with artists, critics, curators, and gallery owners operating in the field of Game Art, as part of an 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 Marcel Van Eeden and Mathias Jansson took place in November 2011 via email.
Born in 1965, Marcel Van Eeden is a Dutch painter educated at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. Van Eeden participated - with three other artists - in “A Split Second”, a three-year research project initiated by the Stedelijk Museum and the gamestudio Submarine Channel. The project had the ambition to explore the concept of artistic authorship within the context of video games by fostering cross-disciplinary collaborations between visual artists and game designers. In October the Stedelijk Museum arranged an event called “Do it! Load it!” where the artworks were exhibited. Van Eeden created Sollmann (Part 1: The Harbour), his first videogame experiment, currently on display at the Intitut Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt. For additional information about the exhibition, "Marcel van Eeden, 'The Darkest museum in the World'" (November 13 2011 - February 19 2012) click here.
GameScenes: How did you get involved in the project?
Marcel Van Eeeden: Marten Jongema, curator of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, called me about two years ago with the question if I was interested to co-develop a game, based on my drawings. He had the idea that a game would turn out different, if someone from outside the game world would participate in the making of it. Also he thought the game could be an interesting art form, that was not developed yet. For me it was interesting because it could be a complete new technique to use in my work. I make narrative work, mostly drawings, but also sculptures and short films, and a game could be an interesting extension. It is too bad Marten Jongema died for a few months, so he did not see the finished projects.
Marcel van Eeden and Jorrit de Vries, Sollmann – 3D Mystery Game, in-game shots, 2011
GameScenes: Did you have any previous experience with videogames?
Marcel Van Eeeden: My experience with video games is rather limited. Basically, as a father of some players, I had the chanche to be exposed to the medium. I believe that video games are not fully developed yet, they have not reached their peak... They are currently in the same state of film in their Silent period. At the same time, I believe their potential is huge. Artists can play with the possibilities that this medium has to offer.
Marcel van Eeden and Jorrit de Vries, Sollmann – 3D Mystery Game, installation view, Intitut Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt, 2011
GameScenes: Sollmann (Part 1: The Harbour) features a character that appeared in your previous, non-interactive artworks. Who is Sollmann? What does he represent? Where does he come from? Above all, where is he going?
Marcel Van Eeeden: My work features four different characters. They all play a role. And they reappear in every series. Sollmann is one of them. He is an archeologist, an assassin, a spy, a famous writer, and much more. In one story set during the Second World War, Sollman is travelling on ship to Africa, to buy Grunewald drawings. The game takes place just before his departure. All the stories are connected somehow. The game adds something to the main narrative. It bring that level of variation, of difference, of impredictability that static media cannot offer.
GameScenes: Stylistically, your charcoal drawings are reminiscent of the film-noir period. Was it challenging for you to translate your art in a 3D game environment? How about applying game mechanics to linear media such as painting and drawings?
Marcel Van Eeeden: The translation of my drawings from paper to a 3D environment was mostly done by Jorrit de Vries who works for Submarine. My job was to make a lot of drawings of the spaces and locations featured in the game. The most challenging aspect for me was the relative lack of freedom: I had to make sure that the drawings were exact and identical, which made the procedure quite boring and repetitive at times. It is like creating commercial work, so to speak.
GameScenes: Do you plan to keep exploring videogames in the future? Specifically, are you planning new Art Games?
Yes I would like to continue exploring the artistic possibilities of this medium. I would be nice if there was a possibility to craft more complex games. Even if the work itself is boring, the result can be very exciting!
Link: Marcel Van Eeeden
Related: Do it! Load it!
Text by Mathias Jansson
Editing: Matteo Bittanti
All images courtesy of the artist