I recently discussed the ITALIANS DO IT BETTER!! exhibition with Mathias Jansson. The resulting conversation was published in (abridged form) in Italian on the June 2011 issue of new media art magazine DigiCult.
Below is the uncut, unabridged exchange, in English:
"Mathias Jansson: At the 2011 Biennal di Venezia you and Domenico Quaranta will present the exhibition ITALIANS DO IT BETTER!! as part of the NEOLUDICA: ART IS A GAME event. Can you tell me more about the background to the exhibition and what is the idea or concept to the exhibition?
Matteo Bittanti: ITALIANS DO IT BETTER!! is an alternative Italian Pavilion. It's an irreverent and slightly subversive retrospective celebrating the work of several artists who have been experimenting and exploiting game-based technologies for more than two decades. Specifically organized for the first edition of NEOLUDICA. ART IS A GAME - at the 2011 Venice Biennial, ITALIANS DO IT BETTER!! pays homage to Italian videogame-based art interventions. Hopefully, visitors will get a chance to see the past, present and, God forbid, the future of indigenous game-based art, in analog and digital form, on canvas and on screen. This is seriously playful art. No shit! And what is NEOLUDICA then, you ask. Basically, it is a larger event that celebrates the multifaceted connection between art and videogames - a huge box containing everything from Game Art, game art, Indie Gaming, Art games, and Chinese fortune cookies... Domenico and I are curating just one section, ITALIANS!!.
Mathias Jansson: If you look at the list with participation artist it seems that there are many from Italy. My opinion is that Italy seems to have a very strong Game Art scene. Are the selected artists personal favourites or are Italy special gifted with interesting artists working with videogames?
Matteo Bittanti: LOL. That's a great question. This is my long answer. Here's my short answer: this year (i.e., 2011) Italy is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Domenico and I came up with the idea of combining this event with NEOLUDICA. A killer combo. But since our relationship to Italy is somehow, er, complex, (where "our" = several artists, myself etc.) we thought about coming up with a title that was both celebratory and sarcastic, festive and critical. The kind of title that gets you in trouble. After all, we're troublemakers.
Mathias Janssson: When you talk about videogames and art you often hear quotes from Duchamp as “The Art is a game” or references to Johan Huizinga, book Homo Ludens (the playing man). Why? Isn’t there any contemporary theorist that better would describe these new media?
I'm not sure about contemporary theorists explaining new media. I find most contemporary theory explaining new media utterly boring, to be honest. And I have not read a book since 1978, when I discovered Space Invaders. I'm shallow and distracted. I prefer contemporary scholars who use new media in creative ways. One example, among the many, is Harvard's newly founded metaLAB. NEOLUDICA's tagline is a reminder that art is a very playful game that we have been instructed to take very seriously. Too seriously. Luckily, spoilsports and enfant terribles like Ben Lewis or Sarah Thornton are providing much needed playful criticism.
Mathias Jansson: You have been doing research and written books and articles about Games Art during the last years. How would you describe the gamescene today? What are the strongest “trends” or approaches when artist choose to work with videogames? And if you look back is there anything in this development that have surprised you?
Matteo Bittanti: Gosh, I wouldn't know. There's no such thing as "a Game Art scene". There is not even "Game Art". But since reality is a consensual hallucination, the outcome of will and representation, if you build one, people will come. The digital age brought us mass customization of reality. There are several players in the field that tinker with games these days. They're incredibly skilled. Their gamescore is impressive. My ideal dream soccer team would feature: Damiano Colacito as goalkeeper, Riley Harmon, Robert Hodgin, Huang Hsinchien, Max Capacity (defense); Kristoffer Zetterstrand, Yann Bauquesne, Robert Overweg (mid-fielders), Kael Greco, Joseph Delappe and Ashley Anderson (offense). The dream team changes constantly but the game stays the same.
Mathias Jansson: Finally will Neoludica be the breakthrough for Game Art at the contemporary art scene or do we have to wait a couple of years before this art form is really accepted by the public?
Matteo Bittanti: Broad acceptance is not necessarily the main goal of the game. It's not even a side-quest. After all, broad acceptance is when absurdity takes over reality and you get thinks parallel universes, [Untitled], time out of a joint, and Jeff Koons suing a small art and design store in San Francisco, accusing the owners of selling his balloon dog without permission, these bastards (!!!). I adore Jeff Koons! He's my Art Hero."
link: ITALIANS DO IT BETTER!!
link: Italians! blogspot