GameScenes is conducting a series of interviews with artists, critics, curators, and gallery owners operating in the field of Game Art, as part of an 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.
Mónica Jacobo is an Argentinian artist whose practices revolve around the aesthetic and ideological implications of videogames, especially first-person shooters. Visual artist and graphic designer by training, Jacobo has been exploring the porous boundaries between reality and simulation since the mid-Nineties and she was first featured on GameScenes in 2009. Today, Jacobo works as Assistant Professor of Arts at the Cinema and Television department and in the Research Center at the State University of Cordoba, Argentina.
In August 2011, Mathias Jansson talked to Monica Jacobo about her work and the Argentinian Game Art scene.
Monica Jacobo, 00:02:11, Video installation, 2006, Photos: Interfaces Córdoba/Posadas - Fondo Nacional de las Artes - Bs. As.
GameScenes: Videogames play a significant role in your artistic practices. What do you find so compelling about this medium? When did you first begin to experiment with digital games?
Monica Jacobo: I became interested in videogames after seeing a Game Art piece at the 2000 edition of the Transmediale festival. I began working with videogames as media art in 2005. I mostly use FPS titles as they are the most paradigmatic videogame genre in Argentina. FPS are very popular even in low-income urban neighborhoods and in cybercafes. As a woman, I find it interesting to work in that context.
Within the FPS genre, I have mostly used the Half-Life engine (based on Quake 2) for artworks like "BSP, Binary Space Partition". I am also keen on appropriating real-time strategy games iconography - a genre that I personally love - and mixing it with the FPS aesthetics. This can be seen, for instance, in photographic works such the "Portals" series and The Sims in the audiovisual work "In search of the perfect bathroom".
Monica Jacobo,"00:04:44", video installation, 2005, installation view, Ciudad de las Artes - Córdoba, Argentina.
GameScenes: In your video piece "00:04:44", you reference a well-known work of art, Joseph Kosuth's "One and Three Chairs" (1965). How did videogame change the relationship between reality and simulation, and the dichotomy between the original referent and its visual replica?
Monica Jacobo: When it comes to the individual experience of virtual worlds, the boundaries between such categories as "virtual" and "real" have become blurred, if not conceptually problematic. With this work, I wanted to invite the viewer to meditate on the expansion and dissolution of performed actions between both spaces. What I mean is that for the user moving between those spaces, these actions are perceived as real experiences. Thus, when I insert a real chair in front of the virtual world video, we witness a transformation: a simple, tangible object becomes an evidence of the existence of that world, and simultaneously engage in a conversation with a previous work of art.
Monica Jacobo, BSP, Video installation, Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen - Austria, 2007
GameScenes: "BSP Binary Space Partition" (2007) was specifically created for the Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen exhibition hall in Austria. Can you tell us more about the genesis of this artwork?
Monica Jacopo: I made this work for an Artist-in-residence program at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen. The space is the room used for exhibitions and lectures in that institution. It was specifically created by an Architectural Studio.
The concept is based on Pierre Bourdieu's notion that the art scene is basically a battle field, a site of friction. BSP is a site-specific video installation. In the video, the room where the exhibition is located is reproduced with the addition of blood marks on an object (e.g: a copier machine). This object was moved into the room just to become part of the video installation, sans the blood marks.
The creation of the video involved several steps. The first was to reproduce the exhibition room with the aid of the Quake (or Half-Life) editor. Then, another (virtual) space made of tunnels was modelled and added. The video begins in this (added) space. Finally, a walk through the created game map was recorded and subsequently edited to produce the final work that was shown at the exhibition.
From the spectator's point of view, BSP triggers questions related to the meaning of space, the creation of memories, and to the consistency of the art spaces. The relationship between the real and virtual spaces and objects, as well as the dissonance between the clean and bloody object, are meant to highlight an object as part of a script different from daily events, like a space that bonds reality and the likelihood of fantasy, or another possible hidden story, sanitizied and cleansed, so to speak, by the actual known history.
Monica Jacobo, Portales (Portals), digital photographs, 2007-2008.
From left to right: Columnas instaladas en el medio de la ruta al aeropuerto de la Ciudad de Córdoba en 1981, Galería Artis - Córdoba, Argentina, Puente instalado en el medio de la ruta al aeropuerto de la Ciudad de Córdoba en 1981. Galería Artis - Córdoba, Argentina, Parque de la industria. Barrio Gral. Paz - Córdoba. Galería Artis - Córdoba, Argentina.
In "Portals" (2007-2008) you mix photographs and digital worlds, inducing a sense of cognitive dissonance in the viewer.
Monica Jacobo: With my "Portals" series, I used public places from Cordoba City, Argentina, that have surreal elements or evoke pre-surrealistic sensibilities. I am equally fascinated by their physical and metaphysical aspects, e.g. the overabunance of concrete in the wrong place with shapes unrelated to any style in the city... Places that can be thought as portals to other places mostly made by the same architect who get the vast majority of the contracts to make buildings and spaces in the city, from public parks to educational environments, like the University of Córdoba. In another, parallel series, "Institutions", I combined photos of museums or local art institutions and FPS iconography (HUD and layouts), to represent the brutal battles fought in the artworld (again, as a reference to Bourdieu). Some of these battles are metaphorical. Other are real.
Game Scenes: Is the Argentinian Game Art scene lively?
Monica Jacobo: The Game Art scene in Argentina is rather small. In the last ten years, there have been a limited number of shows that mixed game and play with Game Art, game art, and game design. I wrote a text about the state of Game Art in Argentina which I plan to translate it into English soon (currently, it is available in Spanish only). There are few artists that sporadically include digital games in their practices. As far as I know, I am the only Argentinian artist who mostly works with videogames.
Link: Monica Jacobo
Related: Monica Jacobo
Interview archives: Contemporary Practitioners; The Early Years
Text by Mathias Jansson
Editing: Matteo Bittanti
All images and videos courtesy of the artist