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.
After two successful seasons, we are now ready to unleash the third series.
Mathias Jansson talked to Lewis Glucksman Gallery's curator Chris Clarke about the growing Irish Game Art scene. In March 2012, Clarke was involved in Game On, a massive event that feature artworks based on desktop interfaces, video games and online software. Among the participating artists were Peggy Ahwesh (US), Paul B. Davis (US), Michael Bell-Smith (US), Cao Fei (CN), Faith Denham (IE), JODI (NL), Oliver Laric (AT), Conor McGarrigle (IE), and Takeshi Murata (US).
GameScenes: What are the main philosophy behind the Lewis Glucksman Gallery? And can you describe the goals of Game On?
Chris Clarke: The Lewis Glucksman Gallery is based at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland. It primarily presents curated thematic exhibitions of international and Irish artists, often connected to a certain aspect of different educational disciplines within the university. However, Game On comes out of a recent strand of touring programmes we’ve developed, beginning with Wishful Thinking, a screening of 16mm films curated by Matt Packer and including Roman Ondak, Jaki Irvine and Luke Fowler amongst others. With Game On, I wanted to produce a similar programme of short films that could be screened with a curatorial introduction to contextualise them within the wider history of hacktivism, gaming and new media art. It is still primarily a film programme, emphasising works that use the language and aesthetics of gaming, online applications, software and social networks. So, for example, Conor McGarrigle’s work is a heavily pixelated version of an episode of Mad Men made by downloading the show from a file-sharing network and disrupting it mid-transmission,
Conor McGarrigle, MadMEN BitTorrent Edition, 2012
while Peggy Ahwesh and Faith Denham use extant formats of video games (Tomb Raider and Counter-Strike respectively) to subvert the initial narrative or subtext of the original games. In this way, they share the same spirit as hackers in appropriating and reconfiguring these materials.
Peggy Ahwesh, She Puppet, 2001, video 15:20 min
GameScenes: Where could you see the program during the tour?
Chris Clarke: Game On toured to venues across Ireland, including Siamsa Tire, Tralee; 126, Galway; Occupy Space, Limerick; Garter Lane, Waterford; and Source Arts Centre, Thurles, before finishing up back at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery. I introduced and contextualised the programme at each venue and answered questions from audiences afterwards.
GameScenes: Irish artists Faith Denham and Conor McGarrigle took part in Game On. Are they representative of a larger Irish Game Art scene? Are the other artists in Ireland who are experimenting with video games and art?
Chris Clarke: Ireland has a small but active gaming scene, albeit one that I’m not heavily involved in. During the series, Thurles was of particular interest as the audience consisted of a number of enthusiastic gamers, who had organised a video game tournament beforehand. It was also quite intriguing to see which works they found most interesting – especially as the group included a number of programmers and IT students. As you mentioned, Game On included works by two Irish artists – Conor McGarrigle and Faith Denham - but I’ve come across a few others since then and through the programme, who, even if they’re not explicitly working with video games, are quite adept with new media and internet art.
GameScenes: What's your own experience and interest in video games?
Chris Clarke: My own experience with gaming is fairly limited. I would have played games like Super Mario and Legend of Zelda when I was younger but have only recently returned to it through my son (who is always getting me to play Nintendo DS with him!). Saying that, I spent a few years working at Cornerhouse in Manchester prior to moving to Cork and the gallery there had a strong emphasis on new media art, exhibiting artists like Masaki Fujihata, Charles Sandison, Georges Legrady, and Pat O’Neill. I also assisted on new commissioned works by Shaina Anand and Anne-Marie Schleiner while I was there. Plus, in the Northwest of the UK, you had close proximity to a number of other spaces exploring these ideas, such as FACT in Liverpool (who showed JODI and Pipilotti Rist), Castlefield Gallery (who had showed Cory Arcangel at the time), The Whitworth Gallery (with a retrospective of Lynne Hershmann) and the Abandon Normal Devices festival. So my initiation into gaming and new media really came through contemporary art.
GameScenes: Are you planning any future program or exhibitions with video games and art?
Chris Clarke: For the moment, I have no gaming-related projects in the pipeline but certainly have my eyes open for other projects in this field. There is an audience – only in 2009 did Belfast host the ISEA conference and a huge audience of new media artists and programmers came out of nowhere for it – but it remains to be seen whether Ireland will become the next big site for such work.
LINKS: Game on @ Lewis Glucksman Gallery [press release]
Interview archives: Contemporary Practitioners; The Early Years
Related: Peggy Ahwesh
Text by Mathias Jansson
Editing: Matteo Bittanti
All images courtesy of the artist