Cory Arcangel, Composition #7, 2010, installation view, Arcadia University Art Gallery, Glenside, 2014. Copyright Aaron Igler and Greenhouse Media.
"Free Play features work by artists who use games to expose social and philosophical issues.
The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons School of Design at The New School presents Free Play, an exhibition exploring the work of artists who borrow from play and games to expose social, philosophical, and cultural issues. From playground antics to mathematical strategy, the artists in Free Play mine the significance of games, reinventing them to create experiences that often involve the viewer and reflect on the nature of participation in art and art exhibitions.
The exhibition features an arcade of objects, including a version of Guitar Hero by Cory Arcangel, hopscotch by Mary Flanagan, and for the more mystically inclined, a divining game by Allan McCollum and Matt Mullican. Other artists featured in Free Play are Yoko Ono, Ryan Gander, Patrick Bernier and Olive Martin, Ruth Catlow, Futurefarmers, Jeanne van Heeswijk and Rolf Engelen, Paul Noble, Pedro Reyes, Jason Rohrer, David Shrigley, and Erik Svedäng.
Feldman noted that strategies tied to game playing have historically attracted avant-garde artists, most famously the chess master Marcel Duchamp. His every artistic move had his chess partner in mind: the viewer. Games were also intrinsic to the work of war-addled Surrealists and Dadaists, the inventors of the exquisite corpse and automatic drawing, in their quest to upend the bourgeois pretensions of art and free the artistic imagination. In the 1960s and 1970s, the countercultural and anti-war Fluxus group and the New Games Foundation questioned capitalism and corporate culture by staging massive non-competitive games in city parks.
Free Play is an exhibition curated by Melissa E. Feldman and organized by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York. Free Play was made possible, in part, by grants from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, and with the generous support from ICI's International Forum and Board of Trustees." (The New School)
LINK: FREE PLAY
"For twenty years, various forms of artistic, experimental, media-reflective as well as ‘serious’ types of computer games have been developed. New strategies in gaming are based on artistic research in the growing fields of audio-visual media. Computer games reflect and analyze the function and structure of our societies.
The exhibition New Gameplay is comprised of six sections, presenting works of game art ranging from art that has computer games as its subject to computer games designed by artists. Classic media art and video games will also be a part of this engaging dialogue.
The section ‘Homage à Nam June Paik’ reflects on specific works and strategies created by the Korean father of Video Art and analyze them in juxtaposition with works of JODI, the artist couple who presents non-object games by transferring violent ego-shooter into abstract forms.
The ‘Media Art in the Context of Games’ section includes The Night Journey by media artist Bill Viola who translates video aesthetics into the interactive form of a computer game. Chinese artist Feng Mengbo is represented by his work Long March: Restart, a sixteen-meter long satirizing jump and run of the heroic myth of the Long March of the Communist Party of China’s Red Army. Media art pioneer Jeffrey Shaw’s The Legible City also demonstrates the utilization of gaming formats in the field of art. The ‘Hacking/Modifying Technology’ section reflects on Paik’s role as a forerunner of interactive art.
One area of focus is dedicated to independent and serious games, which have distinguished themselves by their particularly innovative game ideas, interesting experimental claims, and unique consciousness of their own means and forms of expression. Categorized as ‘Society and Games’, these works aim to enhance and train the users’ awareness of political structures and processes in their daily lives.
The ‘Urban Play’ section demonstrates the virtualization of the urban landscape that uses latest developments in 3D-modelling and high-resolution immersive environments. The ‘Games and Apps’ section presents fun mobile games for young visitors."
Hugo Arcier, FPS, interactive installation, 2016
FPS is an interactive installation by French Artist Hugo Arcier featuring a soundtrack by Stéphane Rives and Frédéric Nogray also known as The Imaginary Soundscapes. Arcier created the piece as a response to the November 13th, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. As he writes:
"The artist deals with blindness hijacking video game codes, in particular of first person shooter game. The only visible elements are pyrotechnic effects, gunshots, muzzles flashes, sparks, impacts, smokes. All these elements reveal a decor and impersonal silhouettes, innocent persons denied by the subjectivity of the character we incarnate. From dark to light, a blindness is replaced by another one. Gunshots after gunshots a memorial is created before our eyes." (Hugo Arcier)
FPS is currently on display at Fantômes numériques (Digital Ghosts), a new exhibition at Lux-Scène Nationale in Valence, France.
LINK: Hugo Arcier
A short documentary on circuit bending created by Greg and Tim Andresen of Greater Sirens with Nick Petterson and Thomas McColskey for one of their classes at Expression College. It features interviews with Dmitri SFC, Derek Sajbel (a.k.a. Dr. Rek, circuit bending documentarian), Erin and Mark Pauley (Sounds Beyond), and Reed Ghazala (The Father of Circuit Bending). Music by Dr. Rek, Dmitri SFC, and Gannon.
Transitio_MX 06: Cambios Compartidos
National Arts Center
Av. Río Churubusco No. 79 (on the corner of Calzada de Tlalpan)
Col. Country Club. Del. Coyoacán
Mexico City, Mexico
Cambios Compartidos (Shared Changes) is the theme of the sixth edition of Transitio_MX, Mexico's largest festival of Electronic Art and Video. As Artistic Curator Ricardo Dal Farra explains, the festival critically explores both the bright and dark sides of play:
"The pleasure of play. Happiness and fun, entertainment and escape. But games can also be used to manipulate, to alienate. TRANSITIO_MX 06 could be an excellent laboratory for proposing a different approach—one that lets us experiment with the possibility of learning from our errors and then sharing what we know, in search of dynamic, rich, creative, ethical and aesthetic balance in the largest of all multi-user gaming networks—our society.
Somewhere between illusion and reality, through games we cross borders as we explore our sensorial selves and challenge our understandings. We develop specific skills and achieve levels of concentration not present in other activities we undertake.
Games and the electronic arts have been hybridizing, flirting with one another for some time. In an accelerated world, where it would seem that if we do not run we cannot win, games often spur that acceleration, but at other times they help us to reflect and take time out. They can help us sharpen our wits, exercise memory and explore new paths."
The Festival is accompanied by a massive International Exhibition featuring six events in total and dozens of artists from all over the world, including Paolo Pedercini, Joan Leandre, Arcangel Costantini, Eva and Franco Mattes, Paolo Cirio, Yoshua Okón, Gonzalo Frasca, Lucas Pope, Lisa Ma, COLL.EO and many more:
Puntos de Fuga curated by Maria Bello;
This is, by far, the most diverse, daring, and intriguing Game Art exhibition of the year and it also features a series of Playable Debates organized by Leonardo Aranda, Eurídice Cabañes, and María Luján Oulton and a Symposium curated by José Luis García Nava.
P-NG is an interactive installation developed by Espadaysantacruz Studio and Daniel Armengol Altayó with the aid of Processing and Arduino. A multiplayer game inspired by Pong, P-NG features one of the most colorful interfaces I've seen in a long time. Check out these amazing controllers:
Up to 8 players can play simultaneously. The results can get out of control...
The project was commissioned by Pull & Bear.
Daniel Armengol Altayó is the director and founder of GIF ME. He works at the intersection of technology, art and design.
Espadaysantacruz is a creative studio specialized in generating new interactive and visual experiences. Based in Madrid since 2008, Espadaysantacruz comprises three members with different backgrounds in the fields of information technology, audiovisual creation, photography and cultural management: Miguel Espada (b. 1977, Barcelona), Juan Santa-Cruz (b. 1979, Murcia), and Nerea Goikoetxea (b. 1979, Bilbao), with several more collaborators. Their work has been presented at international exhibitions including FILE (Brazil), Share (Turin), and Platine (Koln, Germany).
Espadaysantacruz had previously developed Pentapong (2013), a multiplayer 3D game built with Unity3D in which virtual objects coexist with physical objects by using projection mapping techniques.
Submitted by Matteo Bittanti
From the press release:
“NO NAME” [that’s the way the cookie crumbles]
Curated by Roberto Borghi
Theca Gallery. Arte Contemporanea, via Tadino 22, Milano, Italy
April 30 - May 13 2015
"Theca Gallery presents Marco Mendeni’s solo showcurated by Roberto Borghi. “NO NAME” [that’s the way the cookie crumbles] is the first solo show of the artist in Milan. Marco Mendeni investigates the present relationship between New Media and the contemporary society by moving unstably between Milan and Berlin. The artist develops an avant-garde research transforming the video game into the initial expressive medium for a critical reflection about what is real and and what is digital, about simulation and dissimulation. Two areas of interest are investigated: video and substance. The show is articulated in three separate moments.
Marco Mendeni, r lightTweakSunlight, machinima, 32.24 minutes, 2013
The first room hosts three multimedia works: a projecting video based on the practice of online slot machines hacking; a LCD display presents the loop video FOV02 (machinima, AVI 3.28minutes, 2012); an iPad with the all-involving video r lightTweakSunlight (machinima AVI, 32.24minutes, 2013) where Marshall McLuhan’s voice envelops the visitor involving him/her directly into the work.
Marco Mendeni, r lightTweakSunlight, machinima, 3.28 minutes, 2012
The next room presents a new material work: Memory of the clouds, realised specifically for the show. It consists of plaster and concrete works realised by CNC machines. On their surface the artist represents online video games mod as Day Z. All his works mix the digital component to the material one, in so creating a perceptive unicum that combines the immaterial aspect of the video gaming to the organic degradability of the artworks formats. A number of concrete works, SimCity and GameOver, belonging to the first period conclude the exposition together with new works such as the series Google. In these latest works the material aspect further emphasises the transience of the digital contemporary society, usually considered as infinitively transmissible and imperceptible. The whole exhibition is conceived as a deep immersive experience the visitor is asked to live in the middle of the trans-media installation realised by the artist. The show will be open till the 13th of June."
LINK: Marco Mendeni
PREVIOUSLY: Interview with Marco Mendeni
Submitted by Matteo Bittanti
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 this peculiar Artworld. Our goal is to document and discuss both the origins and evolution of a phenomenon that changed the way game-based art is being created, experienced, and discussed today.
The interview with Hungarian artist Loránd Szécsényi-Nagy (b. 1984) aka SZNL concludes Season Five.
GameScenes: Gamers play games. Artists play with games. What is your relationship to this medium? What do you find especially stimulating, appealing or unique about videogames? What role did they play in your life as you were growing up? Do you consider yourself a "gamer" today?
Loránd Szécsényi-Nagy: A fundamental feature of videogames is that they all function as systems, that is, each videogame is a closed operating system with predetermined rules. This framework cannot be overruled out-of-the-box, so to speak. For example, in Tetris the tetrominoes plummet from the "ceiling"; in Pong, the ball bounces back and forth, in Space Invaders, if an alien spaceship or a missile hit your cannon, it's game over. A gamer plays a game, and therefore must deal with these insurmountable constraints. Digital games fascinate me because, as an artist, I can overcome, change, and rewrite those apparently non-negotiable rules. As an artist, I can discover or invent new paths, trajectories, and ways to circumvent the designer's original vision. This, to me, is the meaning of playing with games.
Growing up in Hungary in the 1990s, videogames represented a playful entry into the world of computers. For me, games were a kind of gateway into a different kind of reality. I was obsessed by classic titles such as The Secret of Monkey Island (Lucasfilm Games, 1990), Civilization (MicroProse, 1991), and SimCity 2000 (Maxis, 1994). One of my early pieces, Nuclear Bomb Test in the World of SimCity (2009), explores such fascination:
Another is Sid Meier's Civilization 3D Globe, which I developed this year:
For the past twenty years, I have played intensively the most diverse games. But I am especially intrigued by vintage titles. This is because my perspective is informed by a media archaeology framework. I am interested in the "magical" nature of such rudimentary games. They appear so primitive by today's standards, and yet they work fine, for the most part. What is their secret? What is their true message? I believe that only art can answer these questions.
GameScenes: Very few artists have turned their experiments with the GameBoy Camera into full projects. You, on the other hand, have explored lo-fi aesthetics with 0.43 Megapixel. Specifically, you have used the camera's limitations as a starting point to investigate the meaning of post-photographic practices in the videogame age. What led you to tinker with this technology?
Loránd Szécsényi-Nagy: At the beginning of my career, I was involved in experimental photography. Later on, I began exploring a wider range of technical media linked to different forms of imaging, their potential and limitations. Before developing 0.43 Megapixel, I had already created a project based on a Nintendo’s console; I hacked the Super GameBoy adapter cartridge of a Super Nintendo in such a manner that it could overwrite the possibilities coded into the games, creating a kind of special God Mode generator. I was experimenting with a Super Mario Land cartridge which, in addition to Tetris, was the kind of game that I love to play as I was growing up. Even though I did not own a Game Boy as a child, this little wonder machine had a huge impact on me. I thought it contained a micro universe. To me, the Game Boy was a mobile world that existed on its own. By hacking this simulated reality, I managed to create non-existent enemies, and also succeeded in condensing the elements from different game tracks into the same space. When I developed 0.43 Megapixel, however, I was much more interested in its aesthetics, in the visuality of lo-fi games, in the imaging possibilities of this tool.
GameScenes: Your fascination for vintage game technology is evident in another project of yours, The Invader (2013), which focuses on Space Invaders (Taito, 1978), a game developed before you were born. Why are you fascinated by "ancient" game technology? What do you find so remarkable about Space Invaders?
Loránd Szécsényi-Nagy: The very first computer game I played with as a child on an orange monochrome PC AT was a clone of Space Invaders. I remember being completely mesmerized as I sat in front of the screen to “fight” something that I did not know. I didn’t really understand how the device could respond to my inputs, my moves, and my decisions. Space Invaders was a true epiphany: for me, it represented the encounter with an alien, unintelligible technology.
The Invader stemmed from the desire to reinterpret and subvert the original narrative and goal of the original game. I did it by turning it upside down - literally and metaphorically. In this case by exchanging the invading forces from outer space with the player’s spaceship, thus subverting established roles (Good and Bad characters), we - Human Beings - become the aggressors, invading an “innocent” planet and ruthlessly attacking its defenders.
GameScenes: Virtual Memory Space (2011) is a fascinating project. It confirms, once again, that Kinect was made for artists and not for gamers. What makes your piece especially interesting is the idea of integrating glitches and visual distortions as placeholders for misaligned, deficient memories. Can you discuss the idea behind Virtual Memory Space? How long did it take to recreate Budapest in digital form?
Loránd Szécsényi-Nagy: The starting point was an apparently simple question: What happens when we mix game-reality with "Reality" using a technical medium that can scan real spaces in 3D, free from any creative influence? What happens when a machine, rather than a human, records, scans, and recreate the world?
Kinects creates a unique form of reality. However, due to the inherent limitations of technology, we also encounter flaws, glitches, mistakes that it produces. We trust the fidelity of the scan, but the outcome is a far cry from any recognizable “reality”. Nonetheless, these imperfections rhymed well with the original intent; they represented the gaps and holes in my memory. Things that meant so much to me at one point, faded in my mind as I grew older. The glitches are therefore metaphors, allusions, illusions. Moreover, I look at faults and imprecision as positive, constructive factors of any creative process. I like the randomness they may create, the abstraction of the unplanned, so the speak.
To develop Virtual Memory Space, I used the Kinect 3D camera. The process was relatively straightforward: the device projects a grid of infra points on the surface of the target. Using the distortions on the surface, the camera calculates the distance from the object. In addition, an RGB camera also records the object responsible for the texture of the surface. The visual range of the Kinect infrared camera is very limited, just ten meters, and in strong sunlight it does not work at all. These constraints caused considerable problems as I began working on the project. I operated the Kinect from a 12 volt lead acid battery while trying to walk round the target objects with a laptop in my hand.
Because of the limited amount of time available, I could only "film" for one and a half hour per day. I worked mostly at dusk. Unsurprisingly, the scanning process required several days. For this reason, only adjoining places could be “digitized”. Next, a mesh structure had to be generated from the point clouds. This process proved to be harder than I expected. When I was working on Virtual Memory Space, in 2011, using Kinect was a relatively innovative practice; there were no standards, best practices or well known techniques to achieve the desired results. It was a process of bootstrapping, for the most part. Everybody was trying to figure out how to hack this thing. Understanding the workflow and optimizing the results took me several weeks. The whole process - including research and testing - lasted between three to four months. I spend two months for pre-production, two weeks for production (i.e. the actual scanning process), one month to process it on the computer, and three days to put it together in the game engine.
GameScenes: How would you describe the Hungarian Game Art scene? Are there many artists using digital games as a tool, a medium in their creative practice? Is there a community or an established network?
Loránd Szécsényi-Nagy: To be honest, I don’t really know any other artists who only or mostly work with games. In our country, Game Art is not very common. There are few experiments here and there, but the practice is relatively underground, and not connected to any institutional framework, so we cannot speak about an established, recognizable Hungarian Game Art network.
LINK: Lorand Szécsényi-Nagy
Text: Matteo Bittanti
Images and videos: courtesy of Lorand Szécsényi-Nagy