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.
Mathias Jansson spoke to Bart Rutten, curator at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Holland, about the Dutch Game Art scene. The interview took place via email sometime in October 2011.
On October 6 2011, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Holland organized an event called “Do it! Load it!”. The evening was a result of an ongoing, unique collaboration between the art museum and Submarine Channel, a Dutch multimedia production company. On that date, three new art games were unveiled: Sollmann (Part 1: The Harbour) by Marcel van Eeden and Jorrit de Vries; FLX. by Han Hoogebrugge and Sander van der Vegte; Styleclash – The Painting Machine Construction Kit by Jochem van der Spek. Since 2008, the three artists have been working “undercover” with game designers from Submarine Channel for an ambitious project called “A Split Second”,
“A three-year research project initiated by the Stedelijk Museum and Submarine Channel, which explores the concept of artistic authorship within the context of video games by fostering cross-disciplinary collaborations between visual artists and game designers.” (source)
And the results? Check'em out:
GameScenes: How did the collaboration between Stedelijk Museum and the production company Submarine Channe begin? Why did the Stedelijk Museum fund a videogame project?
Bart Rutten: The Stedelijk has a long, pioneering history in paying attention to new developments in society and media, related to art. The Stedelijk was for example the first museum world wide who introduced the audio tour as an educational tool and one of the first in collecting video art in the 1970s. In 2006 we organized the exhibition Next Level which focused on the influence of games on contemporary art. After this show, curator Marten Jongema, who sadly enough passed away this spring, came in contact with Bruno Felix, one of the directors of Submarine Channel. Together they made this plan to hook up an artist with an interaction or game designer to see how they could influence each other’s practice. This was bound to end up in some interesting new, artistic videogames.
GameScenes: Did any of the artists involved have had previous experience with video games?
Actually, no. None of them had, and that was a very interesting fact. The works of Han Hoogerbrugge and Jochem van der Spek take place in the digital realm but they never worked with a game structure. The artists were specifically selected to give three completely different angles on what a game as a structure or a narrative could be.
Marcel van Eeden and Jorrit de Vries, Sollmann – 3D Mystery Game, interactive game, 2011
"Visual artist Marcel van Eeden (website | blog of drawings | wikipedia) and game developer Jorrit de Vries created a short, third-person, 3D mystery game that challenges preconceived notions of the traditional game avatar. In Sollmann (Part 1: The Harbour), the main character is poisoned at the start of the game and gradually loses his ability to see, hear and move." (Submarine Channel)
GameScenes:“Do it! Load it!” was a very complex event, featuring panel discussions and an exhibition with the new art games. Was it successful?
We had the three new games in two gallery spaces (Han and Jochem shared a space). The selection of other games, indeed a few a more commercial than the others, where installed in the museum just for just one night, as a kind of intervention. The selection was based on how these games - what we regarded as high quality games - related to the art works on display. We juxtaposed games to paintings and installations withing the museum context, to see what kind of dialogue would ensue. For example: Path was shown next to the exhibition that showed with artists who dealt with the representation of nature. Mirror's Edge was in a room that contained a work by the artist Germaine Kruip, and that work itself is made out of mirrors.
Han Hoogerbrugge & Sander van der Vegte, FLX, interactive game, 2011
GameScenes: Are we witnessing the beginning of a closer collaboration between artists and game designers in the Netherlands?
We will see, at the moment we are still enjoying the success of last Thursday – the Load It!-night – and the positive responses to the three new games. Although they still need to be finished in its definitive form, so they can be distributed online, all three are already acquired for the collection of the Stedelijk Museum. So that is definitely a start. On the special Load It!-night there also was a very interesting panel discussion about your question. It all starts with discussing the subject, because curating video games is not an easy matter. At this moment, with our grand reopening coming up in 2012, it is too soon to commit us to another project like this. But we will keep you posted!
Jochem van der Spek, Styleclash – The Painting Machine Construction Kit, interactive game, 2011
GameScenes: How would you describe the Dutch Game Art scene? What part is the Stedelijk Museum playing in this development?
Besides Next Level, the Stedelijk show I mentioned earlier, there have been several shows in the Netherlands dealing with games and art. But they mainly took place in a more alternative circuit of artists organizations focusing on new media and digital art like NIMk and Mediamatic in Amsterdam, MU in Eindhoven or Mama in Rotterdam. So in a way I think the Netherlands has already a strong culture on this subject matter. What the Stedelijk Museum will do in the future regarding games and art is not sure yet, but whatever we will do, it will be built on a strong tradition.
Link: Bart Rutten
Link: Do it! Load it!
Link: Stedelijk Museum
Link: Submarine Channel
Interview archives: Contemporary Practitioners; The Early Years
Text by Mathias Jansson
Editing: Matteo Bittanti
All images courtesy of the artist.
Bart Rutten's photo was taken by Rineke Dijkstra (source).