GameScenes is conducting a series of interviews with artists, critics, curators, gallery owners operating in the field of Game Art, as part of our 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 Mathias Jansson and Jaygo Bloom took place in January 2011 via email.
“Jaygo Bloom studied Sculpture at Glasgow School of Art and Electronic Imaging at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee. Bloom has produced works for many organisations in recent years, including New Media Scotland and Glasgow Science Centre, as well as dazzling club and concert environments, including Franz Ferdinand's world tour. He makes bright, accessible videoworks harnessing new and old technologies.” (source) (photo credit)
GameScenes: The micromusic or chipmusic scene is rocking, is you excuse my pun. Actually, it has been rocking for a while. And yet, very few visual artists have explored the concept of sound in their installations and performances. You are one of the few exceptions. In fact, you incorporated early game music from seminal titles like Archon and Space Fury in your scultpures. What do you find so fascinating about game sound and the architecture of game noise?
Jaygo Bloom: The arcade games I work with predate the 'Internet' by many years and for many media artists of my generation were their first initiation into a technologically mediated experience. The pairing down of information was common throughout the early years of game programming. Home computers lacked the processing power to do anything elaborate and this forced programmers to create visually minimal designs with more attention put into the games logic instead. This design consideration meant that game soundtracks consisted mostly of long bass notes with a fast arpeggio melody providing the harmonic progression. The easiest game sounds to create were simple waveforms with tiny sequences repeating themselves endlessly. Nowadays we have a term for this type of sound, we call it 'chip tune' or 'micro music'. I suppose what I am trying to convey when using this type of sound is the feeling of being part of a cycle or 'loop' with a very short duration, a glitch in the present moment of time. I believe repetition can lead to a sense of self forgetting, to states of trance and at the same time, it is precisely repetition that serves as a primary learning tool, this concept is closely linked to our use of short time memory, our experience of the present lasts only about three to five seconds, by knowing what has passed and anticipating what is to come the 'cycle' transfers us into a state of eternal presence.
GameScenes: Your work “Victory over the sun” has its title adapted from a 1913 Cubo Futurist Opera whose set was designed by the Russian painter Kasmir Malevich. Do you see any affinity between early video games and modernism as cubism and suprematism?
Jaygo Bloom: Yes, although one thing that separates these two art-forms and their resemblance to one another is 'choice'.
The game Pong (1972) can be seen to derive its pictorial concept directly from the rational mechanics of Minimalist Art. Visually it appears to pay tribute to classic Minimalism with its strict cubic formal variations and explicit spatial references, yet it is most likely a result of the trade off games designers were constantly having to balance between design and playability, circuit board space was a commodity which could easily be consumed by the graphic elements.
It is also interesting to note that in the early 1970s. Atari was based in California, Around this time West Coast Painters were gathering a lot of attention for their use of 'Hard Edge' geometric abstractions. The painter Fredrick Hammersley during the late 60s was already using a computer to design his paintings. David Novros was creating his key work consisting of L shaped panels. Robert Irwin was exploring the language of reduction and the amplification of experience. There were also many influential galleries in L.A. during that time and it is fair to assume that the new wave of computer game programmers were at least in some way aware of the L.A. Art scene.
In the original 'Victory over the Sun' the sun, representative of a decadent past is torn down from the sky, locked in a concrete box and given a funeral by the strong men of the future. 'Victory Over The Sun' declares a rejection over nature, over the natural; of symbolically 'killing the sun' and with this in pure Suprematist style Kazmir Malevich rejects all of those that go before him as he chooses to reduce painting to its most basic of components.
Dutch Treat - Frederick Hammersley 1973
In this new adaptation the paddle becomes the concrete coffin and the ball becomes the sun. The mid ground where the artwork usually takes place is empty the plinth lies bare and the spotlight pulsates back and forth navigating a computer orientated path. The work calls to order the need to continually question and asses the aesthetics by which we are informed and with which we create art and although the opera it references dates nearly 100 years old, the questions that it raises are still very relevant to artists of today.
Victory Over The Sun - Jaygo Bloom 2010
Pacman Ouroboros - Jaygo Bloom 2010
GameScenes: Can you name a few artists or artworks that inspired your work?
Jaygo Bloom: There is definitely a part of my personality that is as concerned with ancient ideas as it is with creating visions of the future. Early arcade games become a suitable gateway through which I can explore more conceptual and current ideas.
In Bruce Nauman's neon work he claims 'The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths'. Technology unavoidably affects our spiritual life and I am drawn to works which relate to this either in the notion of conceptual consequences of living in such closeness to technology or in works which make the intangible magic of technology visible.
I have always been interested in the NYC Minimal Art movement of the late 60s. In particular artists such as Stella, Judd and Mongold. I see the way in which they dealt with color and the projection of space through painting and sculpture very similar to the movement that is happening right now with video projection mapping and the use of pure light as medium.
As to my modern day contemporaries, I am drawn to the installation works of McCAll, Eliasson, Turrell & Carlo Bernardini. I am also a fan of Petra Cortright, Oliver Laric, Cory Arcangel and Torsten Lauschmann. I am also drawn to Martin Creed, who's work for me uncovers that base level at with which we all respond, be it digital or analogue, human or robot, functional or un-functional and the ability and enthusiasm to which human beings can and often do fit into a regimented structure or intonation of beat.
Inspiration for me always begins with something from the past and reaches far into the future, I feel that the past should not be forgotten and that it can inform the present. The Art Historian Erwin Panofsky said that if we want to be the future, it’s out of fragments of the past. I enjoy the spatial references a work of art can create, when responding to an already existing artwork and recreating this into physical space or incorporating it into a different medium, we begin to design the future.
Homage to a Homage - Jaygo Bloom 2010
Kazmir Malevich - Black Square 1915
Continue Play - Jaygo Bloom 2006
Game Scenes: In the series “Continue Play” you mix arcades games with people playing music. Can you tell me something about this project?
Game Playing for losers!
For someone with a running history of terrible game playing which I have, this seemed to be an excellent place to start. How to make the art of losing more exciting for its player ? And so I created my first series of game related works collectively entitled Continue Play? combining VHS home training tapes with the playing of obsolete home entertainment consoles.
Whilst making these early video works, I honestly believed that if I could assist in the growing awareness of game playing as an educative, learning tool through presenting it as a vehicle to combine and preserve alternative forms of information that future gaming generations can access, all those years I spent jacking off to the likes of Manic Minor, Donkey Kong and Bomber Jack would become a valid and worthwhile experience
This enquiry still exists today, in its most recent form as a playable art-game titled ' The Apocalyp-Stick', which recontextualises pre-selected video footage of musical, oral and dance cultures from marginalised traditions within a new technologically mediated context. It works in unison with an Atari 2600 games console and translates the activity of gameplay into random sound and video composition. I intend for the next version (III) to include a function that will allow players to upload and remix their own AV content in a very similar way.
Continue Play - Jaygo Bloom 2006
The Apocalyp-Stick - Jaygo Bloom 2009
Carlo Bernardini 2010
GameScenes: "Pacman Ouroboros" was on display at the DCA, the Dundee Contemporary Art, last fall as part of a solo exhibition titled "Arcade". Can you tell me more about the exhibition?
Jaygo Bloom: In this solo exhibition I presented a new series of video works alongside more formal elements incorporating multiple projections and video mapping, what I hoped to create was a reinterpretation of certain key works from the history of Fine Art into digital medium, I also attempted to present a synthesis between disciplines, with the new works situating themselves between Painting and Media Art. The relationship between subject and viewer extracted from the original work of Art and presented as functions of space, light and audience interaction within the gallery.
The title of the show 'Arcade' refers to the arcade game halls I used to frequent as a young boy and also draws comparisons to the article of the same name by the hyperreal theorist Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard’s concept of the ‘Arcade’ can be seen as an expression of the status of reality in video games: being more real than real, video games can grant us admission to worlds and access to actions beyond those which we can experience in our daily lives. For those of us who know that we have already lost contact with the real, video games become a step beyond, a step to the other side of the reality question. Video games present us with a look at worlds which are openly constructed, artificial, and incomplete or limited in scope, but within which we nonetheless immerse ourselves often with far greater intensity than in ordinary reality.
Pacman Ouroboros was created as a reaction towards the assimilation of such new digital forms. It is based on an ancient symbol of a serpent eating its own tail. The Ouroboros represents cyclicality and the sense of an eternal return. We are increasing becoming more hybrid, the world surrounding us more immersive. Pacman Ouroboros plays on continuous loop moving ceaselessly forward along its pre-described path. The sounds have been taken from the original game, isolated and replicated in human form, these are accompanied by resonating tones sampled from the striking of Tibetan singing bowls.
GameScenes: Is there any special kind of games that you find more interesting to work with and why?
Jaygo Bloom: Video games started for me with Frogger and ended with Sonic the Hedgehog. Although I didn’t know it back then, it was the restricted controls, limited palette, minimal designs and the difficulty of playing that these games offered, which has become the basis of my audiovisual aesthetic appreciation.
If I return to Art once more, I believe that when an artwork is simplified to its basic shape, the space between the art and the subject reduces allowing for the free association of relationships and correspondences to occur more rapidly. On every new encounter these exchanges will continually provide new experience. In this acknowledgement is the outline to many great artists and indeed game designers success.
If you want a good story read a book. If you want instructions read a manual. If you want a painting look at Malevich's black square. Similarly, if you want a good game to play, play Pong.
Currently I have an old laptop dedicated to game emulators and most recently I have been playing SnakeByte by Sirius for the C64 and Tunnel Hunt by Centuri for Atari.
Gamescenes: Is it now time for museums and institutions to take videogames "seriously"? If so, why?
Jaygo Bloom: The playing of video games entered the domestic environment through the television set, due to this I think we still have a long way to go before museums and institutes start to take them seriously. Having said that right now artworks which modify and acknowledge video games are taking place regularly within mainstream art. There are a growing number of artists choosing to use video games as a gateway to communicate contemporary ideas, as these forms start moving away from the experience of traditional monitor viewing and out into physical space through the use of projectors, sculpture and installation it definitely raises the question how are we best to represent these works, and in what context?
Immersive technology is everywhere and video games predate this phenomena. Heralding its arrival I remember my first immersive experience whilst having to sit through five dragged out minutes of eye popping, ear bleeding colors and sounds before a game was finally loaded from cassette and onto my TV screen ready to play. I am used to Artists films and performances making me sit through similar activity over twice that duration, so I don’t see why video games shouldn't succeed in its eventual acceptance into the canon of Art practice.
Within every city there is already a growing subculture of chip tune musicians and videogame creators with cocksure knowingness and hyper awareness, flashing back to a bygone age of bit-crushed simplicity, easier to comprehend than the present one, but somehow more glamorous and strange.
link: Jaygo Bloom
link: Arcade exhibition
Feature: Game Art Worlds: Contemporary Practitioners
Text by Mathias Jansson