"Brody Condon (born 1974, Mexico) is an American artist currently based in New York. Condon graduated with an MFA from the University of California San Diego, and attended residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Rijkakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in the Netherlands. His solo and collaborative work has been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial 2004, Pace Wildenstein Gallery and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Santa Monica Museum of Art and Machine Project in Los Angeles, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and KW in Berlin. Concerned with the over-identification with fantasy in contemporary culture, Condon’s work often finds its final form in performance, sculptural installation, and video. Following periods of historical and sociological research, the work often re-contextualizes and then modifies existing pop culture, historical events, as well as other artworks. Steeped in dark humour and a unsypathetic gaze into his own unreliable post traumatic memories, the work directly engages with various modes of “projection of self” into other spaces via computer and live roleplaying games, religious experience, psychoactive substances, and dissociative disorders." (Brody Condon)
This interview is part of our ongoing series on the pioneers of Game Art. The conversation between Brody Condon and Mathias Jansson took place in May 2010 via email.
GameScenes: How were videogames perceived by students and teachers while you were studying at University of California, San Diego? When did you begin to experiment with games? And why did you choose modding over other artistic practices?
Brody Condon: I began experimenting with game footage in videos during my undergrad. About '96 or '97. Nothing substantial came out of it. I learned all the skills/tools online from the mod subculture. In grad school professors like Lev Manovich offered their support, but a few professors actually refused to meet with me. They were simply not convinced I had anything to offer, they didn’t understand the material. I showed the work publicly for a USCD undergrad class lecture, then at a graduate conference at UCLA. The first time someone started crying, everyone was yelling, and her friend accused me of inciting violence, so I threw a chair at the wall. Everyone shut the fuck up, as it was immediately clear – the difference between images of violence and the actual thing. The second time someone yelled “bullshit” from the audience and I was told to stop presenting. The reaction to game imagery was different then, imagine… The Sims didn’t even exist yet.
Brody Condon, Adam Killer, 1999-2001, game modification (Half-Life) [images courtesy of the artist]
GameScenes: “Adam Killer” (1999) is a modification of Half-Life. What was your original intent with "Adam Killer”? Was that your first artistic intervention with games?
I began modding Half-Life when I was living in a dirty hole in LA before grad school, I was not a happy human being. I started recreating the Columbine school where the shootings occurred. That’s what I was doing when I came into UCSD. Thankfully I stopped that project and began making 3D portraits of friends and attempting to break the Half-Life engine, so Adam Killer was born about '99. I was thinking about the separation of media images from their actual context and meaning in my own life. I was thinking about minimalism, repetition, and psychedelic art. I wanted to re-connect somehow, make all of that time I wasted in front of the screen useful. So I shot the 3d character of my friend Adam (who always wore white) again and again and again. I could stand back and look at the carnage, at the bloody but painterly trails left by the glitched engine, and feel like all was right with the world. It was a performance, and the video documentation became the piece afterwards. I never released it as software.
GameScenes: You were a member of the group C-Level. Can you tell me how you got involved and what do you think was the most important work C-level created during its existence?
Brody Condon: I was never an official member of C-Level, that was Eddo Stern’s thing. I was involved though, I considered them friends and they supported my work. My first public exhibition of the game work was simultaneously at C-Level and Miltos Manetas’s space around the corner in Chinatown. I’m surprised Miltos showed the work, the first time he came into my studio he called me a loser. Thinking back I remember the first Tekken Torture Tournament as good times. We did eventually make Waco Resurrection together however, and I think that may have been its most influential work. But I think its success began the breakup of the collective – but you would have to ask the C-Level members about that.
Eddo Stern, Peter Brinson, Brody Condon, Michael Wilson, Mark Allen, Jessica Hutchins, Waco Resurrection, 2004 Computer Game/Installation/hardware/mixed media [image courtesy of the artist]GameScenes: You were also a member of the Velvet-Strike team. Can you tell me how you did know the other members and what you remember from Whitney Biennal where "Velvet-Strike" was exhibited?
I met Anne-Marie Schleiner when she came to UCSD as a visiting professor. She asked me, along with Joan Leandre from Barcelona who I hadn’t met yet, to collaborate on a intervention within Counter-Strike. I think it was 2001 or 2002. Initially I felt it was overly didactic, but I trusted her instincts. The idea of games as internalized war propaganda had not been well articulated at that point. I am not sure if Anne-Marie or Joan cared so much about the Whitney Biennal. I came out of a traditional visual arts education, not media art, so it meant a lot to me. "Velvet Strike" was not a great piece for a exhibition like that, it was displayed poorly and I think its relevance was lost on most viewers. I seem to remember nice parties, I remember giving a lame lecture. Overall I was not ready for that sort of exposure.
Brody Condon, Need for Speed (Cargo Cult), 2005 Cast Polyurethane 2’ wide x 6’ high x 11’ long [image courtesy of the artist]
GameScenes: In "Need for Speed" (Cargo Cult) you made a copy of a Lamborghini Countach extracted from the racing game Need for Speed. Why did you build a copy of a high-tech digital virtual car with branches?
I am sad now that I used so much toxic shit to make that thing. Anyway, I had just made the faceted 650 Polygon John Carmack sculpture. It was so perfect, it felt too much like design. To get away from that I began sketching with twigs, and became fascinated by branch castings. So I went for a wireframe portrait of another character – the Lamborghini from Need for Speed. I was also intrigued by cargo cults and their lo-fi simulations of planes with bamboo.
Brody Condon, 650 Polygon John Carmack, 2004 Version 2.0 CNC Milled Polyurethane, Archival Inkjet Prints 108cm x 56cm x 65cm Edition of 1 + 1AP 650 [Image courtesy of the artist]
GameScenes: As an artist experimenting with videogames, what's you take on the art market? Are there and interests from collectors and museum to purchase Game Art bat all?
Brody Condon: Game Art as a hyped genre had has thankfully died, or transformed into something else, but there have been artists’ works that use game development materials acquired by private collectors and cultural institutions for years now. I have worked with a gallery for the past 5 years. It is how I make a living, but the market is just one piece of a larger constellation.
Text by Marthias Jansson
Link: Brody Condon