The latest work by Total Refusal (Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf) is a 4-channel video installation that brings to light the intrinsic contradictions of video game environments, i.e. the designers' obsession to achieve photorealism and the Potemkin Village-like syndrome which informs their representational logic. Far from being functional, several simulated elements are just props: they look "real", but they do not perform as one might expect. Specifically, the collective underlines the complete lack of usability of playground structures within shooter games, where the function of swings and slides is purely decorative. Hence, swings don't swing, slides don't slide and carousels don't... well, you get the idea. Far from being interactive, virtual playground spaces are "dead space".
installation view, 2019
Swings don't swing was conceived as an installation in which four screens literally swing in the gallery room as to compensate for the counterintuitive stasis of their digital replicas. As they write in their accompanying text, "They document different attempts to interact with the dysfunctional objects, showing how difficult it is to actually play within a video game." It is somehow ironic that, in a shooter, playful structures are stripped of their playful affordances. The playground thus becomes an arena for violent conflict. Or artistic subversion, like in this case. In other words: if a video game totally refuses to play, Total Refusal plays with the video game.
Total Refusal is Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, and Michael Stumpf. In their practice, they critically analyze and appropriate digital game spaces and put them to new use. Moving within games but ignoring the intended gameplay, Total Refusal allocates these resources to new activities and narratives, in order to create “public” spaces imbued with critical, even subversive potential.
Leonhard Müllner works as an artist in the public and digital space and is currently writing his doctoral thesis at the Linz Art University at the Institute for Art and Cultural Studies.
Robin Klengel works in Graz and Vienna as an interdisciplinary artist, illustrator, cultural anthropologist and vice president of the Forum Stadtpark.
Michael Stumpf studied philosophy at the University of Vienna. He works as an artist, designer and cultural theorist.
LINK: Total Refusal