In 1995 Max Moswitzer and Margarete Jahrmann launched Konsum Arts_Server, by setting up a Linux server connected to a local network of servers in Vienna. The Konsum Arts Server is today the host for works as LinX3D a 3rdWeb MultiUser game on ASCII loginfiles datavatars. Jahrmann’s interest for Game Art was first discovered, as many other artists, at the Synreal exhibition in 1999.
Image: 2002 Jan Sprij
GameScenes: When did you start playing videogames? And why did you decide to use them for your artistic interventions?
GameScenes: The “Synreal: The Unreal Modification” (1999) exhibition was the starting point for many artists experimenting with Game Art. Can you tell me some about your experience?
Margarete Jahrmann: I started artistically to work with games with Synreal. The game I made - was called "superfem" sth. It was playing with textures of different operating systems and aimed to establish a sort of "identity" by showing the login screen surfaces of the machine you started your application on. It was quite sophisticated already- involving multiuser- based on Unreal engine. For example if you came from a Unix system, or Windows or Macintosh system you could shoot your surface on to others. Synreal was a very rich experience- especially one night when we invited non art people for a tournament- to play in artists levels. I was moderating live on stage, like in a boxing ring, this night together with Hans Wu, a Viennese journalist, who with his Asiatic long hair looked like a real game nerd. It was an interesting experience that players said artists levels are unplayable ;) Later I made LinX3D in collaboration with Max Moswitzer. This was then integrating the question of the Interface already- exhibiting it with a retro style console- because we noted the problem of the adequate exhibition mode for game based works.
GameScenes: Your artworks have been displayed in several European museums and galleries for the past ten years. Did you notice a change in attitude toward Game Arts? Are critics and visitors reacting differently to your ludic artworks today compared to the early days of Game Art?
Margarete Jahrmann: Museums need certain logics of arts and public display to be fulfilled. But for me this was always a positive challenge - to quit the boring pure virtuality and to make it more dirt by integrating the physical body, the art coded installation. Ars Electronia at OK Center Linz in 2003 was a very great opportunity- we built a player generated architecture of a shooter game- only the carved out shapes in human size- a complete room of about 60 square meters was filled with that- that was wonderful!Also the experience at V2 lab Rotterdam at the Las Palmas exhibition space and at Gallery Mama in 2003/04 was perfect. We also had the opportunity to build a circular screen of about 12 meters for a real immersive experience - combined with a living room situation...to seduce players to send out anti-war mails by shooting. ... and showed an art coded print out of the game architecture- the generative architecture of course - in a vitrina like a modern
So the attitude of the art public and critics was that Game Art was hard to understand for both sides-because gamers were surprised that we were still working within the logics of arts and in the arts world it was still not recognised as art work and appeared as too nerdy. Maybe today that has changed- I don’t know. The last show was in Aarhus in a big museum AROS- and it was a gamework- among classical media arts works- and was at least received very well by a big audience. Link
Margarete Jahrmann: I think this is quite normal.... because due to market mechanisms only a few people can deal with art market. The playfulness is the main focus of insight- a method from my point of view. This is expressed in works as the very recent "toygenosonic". Urban Plays as interventionist art play critically address the surveillance dimension of electromagnetic topographies in present time’s urban space. The “invisible city”, which is in the sense
of Italo Calvino (1974) a narrative lived space, becomes a materialist topic and play field. While users were playing a game in urban space, namely those of competing to each other who would find the most accessible hot spots in an urban environment and documenting this by a photo, the awareness about the invisible topography layered over the existing visible city was made clear. A side effect of political explosiveness was the fact that by entering and scanning such points each player leaves traces. This was not topic of urban play as Objects of Desire 2008, Blitz Play Bergen 2007 and Toygenosonic 2009, which were realised with different collaborators under the label Ludic Society. However the mentioned arts projects have in common, that also a non-art audience is touched by the performances and play in public space, networked media, where the dissemination of the play takes place.
GameScenes: Tell me about the Nybble-Engine project. It reminds me of The Matrix, an engine whose goal is to showcase the hidden information of the net and construct an architecture made of bits...
Yes - you got it pretty well. But in our case it was not ONLY textures- it was really a total conversion of the engine, which fully integrated commandos of a Linux server as working function into an game engine. So your REALLY could start commandos from inside the game - as NS look up traceroute, send mail, receive mail- only by shooting or bumping into objects.
We introduced a second text layer, which displayed all that feature live in real-time inside the engine. This was developed during a three month residency at the V2lab in Rotterdam and supported by them.
Margarete Jahrmann: Well - it is more integrated into art world may be - young artists quickly get invited into shows, if they label their work as "game art" - and then parallel also designer games are more art like nowadays. There is a whole strain of authors who creates mini games which are award winning - this is a big difference to the team work based big games. I don’t see the return of the author very positive in this concern. I am a too old fashioned idealist artist I know ;)
All images courtesy of the artist.
Link: Margarete Jahrmann
Text by Mathias Jansson
GameArtworld: The Early Years: Interviews