This interview is part of GameScenes' ongoing series on the pioneers of Game Art and the early days of the GameArt World. The conversation between Mauro Ceolin and Mathias Jansson took place in August 2010 via email. (Note that most of the links in this interview require Adobe Acrobat to be opened).
GameScenes: In your work, you often mix videogames with elements from history. One example is the recurrent use of emblems, which can be found in several paintings from the Middle Ages. You have created an entire series of art games featuring emblems from popular culture, game culture and consumer culture, includin RGBtetris, RGBinvader, and RGBwebroids. Why are you so fascinated by emblems?
Mauro Ceolin: Symbols, as letters and words are codes used to express ideas, needs or desires. By using these codes, separating them and putting them together in different ways, I can draw new mental maps that become tools to investigate the every essence of contemporaneity. It is necessary to connect past and future, as no human activity is separated from the previous one, that is to say, one plus one, conventionally, gives as a result two, even though this result is never a given. Talking about the videogames I like to call “paintGame”, we have to imagine them as dynamic paintings: as Rembrandt represented a social figure in its “The Night Watch”, in RGBinvaders, for instance, I try to show the historical moment in which started the competition between the not open-source OS and Linux. This is what I call a videoludic representation.
Mauro Ceolin game people series grace the covers of "Ludologica" books
GameScenes: The game people series depicts famous people from the videogame industry, including Tomohiro Nishikado (Space Invaders' creator), Dan Houser (vice president of Rockstar Games) and J. Carmack/J. Romero (the designers behind the Doom series). Portraiture of the rich and famous is a very common theme in art history. Why did you choose these subjects, and what do they represent for you?
Mauro Ceolin: One of my first researches for the online project, which dates to the early Zeros, was the portrait series “GamePeople”. Around that time, my friend Matteo Bittanti, selected my vectorial drawings for the cover design of an academic book series titled "Ludologica" and later "Videoludica". My intuition, though, began somewhere else: representing the soul of the videoludic world through its creators rather than products. This change of perspective means to show a new kind of reality, different from the physical on, that has as a subject a contemporaneity mediated by new medias. In the “solidLandscape” series, this shift is shown in a deeper way. Here are some relevant criticism: Ludologica, Net Art review, New York Arts Magazine, Domenico Quaranta, Videoludica.
Mauro Ceolin, GameMusicians, 2007
GameScenes: These portraits are created with Flash. Why did you choose this software and not, for example, Photoshop? What do practices like painting and drawing mean to you in the digital age?
Mauro Ceolin: I chose Flash in order to keep the meaning of drawings and their medium of origin and existence somehow coherent. Additionally, Flash gave me the opportunity increase the size of the drawings without compromising their quality.
GameScenes: The notion of landscapes play a central role in your production, as it transpires from the very titles of some of your most celebrated series: promotionalLandscape, solidLandscape and debugLandscape. This is another common trope in art history. And yet, your landscapes are somehow peculiar: you depict the buildings of famous computer and internet corporations but also gamespaces. Do you think our own idea of landscape has changed after the advent of online worlds? Have videogames changed the very idea of how o imagine and represent a landscape? Above all, why are you exploring the digital landscape?
Mauro Ceolin:The idea of landscape didn't change with the appearance of online worlds. The real change took plance with the incorporation of new media in everyday' s life: showing a traditional shape it was possible to me to show a much deeper shift in its meaning. This idea represented a starting point for these three series, focusing on three different shades, all belonging to the contemporary times: promotionalLandscape examined the design and the architecture of the HQs of key companies of the digital age; solidLandscape investigates the landscapes of videogames and debugLandscape, in a more conceptual way, wonders about the possible role of painting, here compared to a computer debug, in raising key issues of contemporaneity, such as ecology.
Bronze and bomb fragments casting from 3D model , 15x11x2 cm. Made by Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, Milan, Italy 2006
GameScenes: What is Bomb Fusion?
Mauro Ceolin: While hiking in the Summer 2005, I discovered some bomb fragments dating back to WW1, in a furious battle that took place in the Alps. I collected these pieces and I melted them down in order to make a sculpture representing the logo of a video-game named “Delta Force: Urban Warfare”. This sculpture draws together two different elements of war, one belonging to the past (the bomb's fragments) and one belonging to the present (the video-game logo), creating in this way a temporary synopsis.
GTA MortarFire, 2006
"During Summer 2005, while following a hiking trail to Punta Albiolo m. 2969 (Adamello-Presanella Mountains, Italy), I found a piece of a First World War mortar fire (1915-1918). I then engraved on it (with a CNC machine) a vectorial drawing of a landscape taken from "Gran Theft Auto" videogame.With this work I want to represent in one object, different forms of hostility of two historic periods: beginning of XX and beginning of XXI century." (Mauro Ceolin)
GameScenes: When did you become interested in using digital games as a means of artistic expression and intervention?
Mauro Ceolin: In the last ten years my work focused on the analysis of videogames world, in all its facets. This research, represented by the biggest part of my production, sees the videogame not as commercial product but as an important means of expression, both cultural and aesthetic. I had the proof of how big was the influence of videoludic world at one of my first exhibition, when the youngest visitors recognized a painting taken from the SolidLandscape series as a familiar landscape, corroborating, in this way, the idea of shifting the artistic sight "from the window to the computer desktop". Today, having spent ten years representing the contemporary's cultures, starting from representing videoludic landscapes to showing musicians using videogames consoles in occasion of musical happenings, I began a new meta-scientific project titled contemporaryNaturalism which aims at cataloguing all the "CHARACTERS? VA BN?" living in our collective imaginaries, combining representation and description in a single research.
All images courtesy of the artist
Text by Mathias Jansson
link: Mauro Ceolin