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. The conversation with Iris Peters is part of Season Four and was conducted by Mathias Jansson via email. It took place in February 2013.
GameScenes: You are the Artistic Leader of bART, a mobile platform for contemporary art. You are also the coordinator for the Digitale Werkplaats. Can you tell me more about these platforms and what role they play in the Dutch New Media Art scene, epecially for Game Art?
Iris Peters: bART was the first organization in the Netherlands to develop a major artevent about games & art. In 2011, in collaboration with cultural partners in the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, we set up Game-City, which contained two exhibitions, a conference, music- and film program, festival for youth with a Minecraft LAN-party and more. After that we - that is, my sister and I - were asked to be artistic leaders of the DW, an organization for new media, art and innovation. Now we continue to present artgames by our own initiative or in assignment for both bART and the DW. Also, to engage a wider audience, we set up cross-over projects. This is quite unique in the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands we have an Independent Game scene and a contemporary art or new media art scene, and they are not familiar with each other, they also have different audiences. And within the Independent Game industry there’s a division between independent developers and the applied game designers. We are positioned in the middle of this. More and more we see that this platform function and expertise is known and appreciated in both the art and new media scene.
Other artspaces and festivals are picking up artgames as well. For example: we showed Hit me! from New York based designer Kaho Abe, who is now being asked to take part in the large art & technology STRPfestival in the south of the Netherlands and via a gallery we were being asked to show the Playful Arts Festival at an alternative, progressive Artfair in Rotterdam: Art at the Warehouse.
Photographs from the Playful Arts Festival
GameScenes: The Digitale Werkplaats is the driver behind the Playful Art Festival in Rotterdam. What is the main concept behind the festival?Iris Peters: The Playful Arts Festival was launched by bART & zo-ii (Zuraida Buter) with whom we worked on Game-City (2011). The Playful Arts Festival stimulates the cross-over between different fields of play, interaction, art and design. It celebrates playful culture.
The goal of the first edition was to present multiplayer games which bring people together. I think now is the time that people would like to engage more with other people and would like to feel more connected to the place where they are. The selected multiplayer games are a fun experience, so people enjoy art in an active and physical manner. There’s lots of talking, exploring, a Dj plays relaxed music… It’s all about meeting each other, in an inspiring and open minded setting.
The Garden of Earthly Delights, Oil-on-wood panels, 220 x 389 cm, Museo del Prado in Madrid
GameScenes: The deadline for the Bosch Art Competition has recently passed. What was the idea behind this competition? What is the connection between Bosch and video games? What criteria did the jurors - Brandon Boyer, Margaret Robertson, Ed Key, Zuraida Buter, and Adriaan ’s-Gravesande - apply to evaluate the submissions?
Iris Peters: Jheronimus Bosch was a great medieval painter, famous for his paintings dealing with hell and heaven, the seven sins, and full of surreal creatures. “The Garden of Earthly Delights” is one of his most famous paintings. Jheronimus Bosch lived and worked in the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, homebase of bART & DW. In 2016 it’s been 500 years since he died and a major cultural manifestation will be organized and as much as possible of his paintings will travel to the city to be exposed.
Jheronimus Bosch lived several centuries before the introduction of electricity or games and it is impossible to say he would have liked games. However, the paintings of JB are so full with imagination and expressiveness that it attracts and inspires game designers. When asking one of the jurors, Brandon Boyer, to participate in this project he immediately replied that Bosch was one of his first art loves. In my opinion Bosch never lived to see the connection between his art and games/gamers, but there is somehow a natural relation.
Photos from Game City
GameScenes: What was the response to the competition? Were artists and game designers eager to participate?Iris Peters: Forty-four game developers and studios subscribed to the international pitch competition for a game inspired by the works of Jheronimus Bosch. Finally sixteen pitched and seven made it to the final, of which six were chosen by the jury and one by the public. I am very pleased with this result. Of course one always dreams for a multiple of subscriptions but given the fact that we are not (yet) well known in the game industry we are very satisfied with the result. The finalists are complementary, with some more experimental and some more classic ideas.
GameScenes: What is your personal relationship to video games and art?
Iris Peters: I have studied art history, and I have been working as a curator since 2003. My relation to video games is rather new. My interest goes out to experimental forms of games, like games as performance, game-installations and physical multiplayer games. I really like the new developments in Independent Games and am really curious to see how this develops, so I continue to bring artgames under the attention of a wide audience.
GameScenes: Holland is investing considerable resources in Game Art - this is kind of amazing considering the recent cutbacks for art and culture funding throughout Europe... How do you explain the peculiarity of the Dutch Game Art scene?
Iris Peters: In recent years there have been many programs to train game developers, in art academies and schools for multimedia and communication. The applied game-industry really flourish, to solve internal complex problems or to learn from, for instance in healthcare and the leisure sector. I think an important factor is also that games attract lots of younger people and it’s important for policymakers to make the connection to younger generations.
LINK: Iris Peters's Jheronimus Bosch project
Text: Mathias Jansson
Editing: Matteo Bittanti