Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology
Av. Brasília, Central Tejo
Open from 11 AM to 7 PM
Closed on Tuesdays
Dr. Ludmila Kvapilová-Klüsener studied art history at the universities in Prague, Regensburg and Salzburg. In 2013 she did her PhD with Prof. Dr. Heidrun Stein-Kecks at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg on the subject of "Vespers in Bavaria from 1380 to 1430 between import and local production". This was followed by a scientific traineeship at the Museum Schnütgen in Cologne and work as an art expert at Auctionata AG in Berlin. She has been working as a research assistant at the Diocesan Museum Bamberg since 2017. Her research interests include, in addition to her focus on late Gothic sculpture, the subject of computer games in the visual arts.
The Summer 2020 issue of Art Journal is now available in print and online and it features an outstanding selection of essays and articles on the relationship between art and video games, including contributions from guest editor Soraya Murray, Tracy Fullerton, Dorothy R. Santos, Eugénie Shinkle, Alenda Y. Chang, Hava Aldouby, and COLL.EO, i.e. Colleen Flaherty and Matteo Bittanti, with a project titled The Long Road of Silicon.
The cover cover features Walden Pond, from Walden, a game (USC Game Innovation Lab, 2017), video game, designed by Tracy Fullerton (screenshot by Tracy Fullerton).
Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology
Av. Brasília, Central Tejo
Open from 11 AM to 7 PM
Closed on Tuesdays
The artists understood early on the transformative power of play, and began integrating it into their works for various purposes – escaping reality, social construction and transformation, subversion or as a criticism of game and play mechanisms themselves. The exhibition Playmode offers a reflection on these aspects and on the era of ludification that contemporary societies are now experiencing, bringing together pieces by several artists, such as Brad Downey, Gabriel Orozco and Ana Vieira, who incorporate the theme while exploring new ways of seeing, participating and transforming the world, using gaming in a critical light.
The Pixel Hunt, Pippin Barr, Aram Bartholl, /////////fur//// art entertainment interface, Gabriel Orozco, Priscila Fernandes, !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Mary Flanagan, Harun Farocki, Molleindustria, Bill Viola and USC Game Innovation Lab, Samuel Bianchini, Eva and Franco Mattes, Lucas Pope, Joseph DeLappe, Brent Watanabe, Filipe Vilas-Boas, Shimabuku, Auriea Harvey & Michaël Samyn, Tale of Tales, David Shrigley, André Gonçalves, Isamu Noguchi, Ana Vieira, Miltos Manetas, David OReilly, Brad Downey, Dunne & Raby with Michael Anastassiades, Os Espacialistas, CADA.
Call for papers, panels, presentations, actions and workshops
NEoN Digital Arts Festival – REACT 2019 in Dundee, Scotland, will be exploring how artists use digital systems to effect change within our social and political realities. NEoN was founded in 2009, and with every annual edition of the festival has hosted an artist-led symposium. This year, we are very pleased to be organising an expanded 3-day symposium and interconnected activities entitled, [email protected]: Social Change Art Technology (from the 6th to the 8th November 2019), chaired by Professor Joseph DeLappe (Abertay University, Dundee), Professor Sarah Cook (University of Glasgow) and Dr Laura Leuzzi (DJCAD, University of Dundee).
Festival Dates 4th – 10th November 2019
Symposium Dates 6th – 8th November 2019
Deadline for submissions June 30th, 2019, 5pm GMT
Many artists involved in digital arts have historically been prompted to react and respond to local, national, global, social and political crises (i.e. around issues of environmentalism, gender equality, exploitation, colonialism, militarism, emancipation). [email protected] will be a platform to critically examine the relevance and impact of past and present practices, theories and strategies – to engage an uncertain future through an exploration of the creative potential of digital art.
- [email protected] aims to provide a forum to explore how activist artists develop critical approaches to utilise, champion and pioneer the creative use of new technologies. To investigate experimental research methodologies – both theoretical and practice-based. To retrace early experiments by digital artists involved at different levels in forms of activism. To reconstruct histories at present ‘lost’ to international scholarship. To question how to preserve these artworks, with their context and narratives and how to represent and re-mediate them to future generations.
- [email protected] aims to present contemporary strategies and forms of protest, resistance, resilience and reaction enacted by artists. To debate the status and role of the artists, curators, art historians, collectives, producers and institutions involved in digital art and activism. To reconsider the role and the dynamics of activists’ artists’ communities and collectives today. To investigate the impact of digital art and activism upon society on a larger scale, on the government and on economies – does it work?
- [email protected] aims to imagine and speculate as to how best to move forward into the 21st century utilising emerging digital technologies (virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, etc). To stimulate the production and dissemination of written and practice-based methodologies for the ongoing engagement of social and political digital art production and scholarship.
Rather than a typical academic symposium this is instead an opportunity to engage with a broadened context of action – each day will involve multiple venues, talks, panels, walks, actions and performances spanning the city of Dundee, and in context of NEoN’s Festival format.
We welcome submissions and proposals from creative practitioners and theoreticians from different perspectives and approaches including artists, activists, curators, art historians and designers. All those who identify as working in visual and performative media are invited to apply so long as your work incorporates digital systems, including but not limited to: interactive art, robotics, movement/dance/performance art/experimental theater, computer gaming, net art, culture-jamming, video/animation, generative systems, social practice, electronic sculpture, locative media, augmented reality, AI, telematics, electronic music/audio art/electro-acoustics/sound art…..
Papers, Panels and Presentations
We seek papers, panels and presentations that investigate, assess, contextualise, critique, question and ultimately engage digital art and activism. Selected papers from the symposium will be published in the peer reviewed journal Media-N Journal of the New Media Caucus in a special issue expected to be published in Spring 2021.
Actions, Performances,Temporal Works:
We are keen to receive proposals for temporal works, street actions, mobile engagements and creative interventions that could enhance and expand upon the themes of the festival and symposium. We have modest “Action Grants” ranging from £250-£500 available to help facilitate such proposals.
We seek proposals for workshops that creatively involve and engage festival attendees and our community towards participation, activation and agency.
Paper or Presentation
This could be about your own practice, a current project, this could span from past, present to future practices and theories related to digital arts and activism.
Title and abstract for a 20 minute paper in pdf format (max 250 words). Include your name, 200 word bio, 2 page CV, affiliation, email and website(s).
Title and abstract for your panel in pdf format, (max 250 words for panel abstract, one 250 word abstract per proposed panel presenter). Include name(s), 200 word bios, 2 page CV’s (one per panelist), affiliation(s), email(s) and website(s) for each panelist.
Temporal works, street actions, mobile engagements, creative interventions, performances…
Title and description of your proposed action in pdf format (max 250 words). Include name(s), 200 word bio(s), 2 page CV(s), affiliation(s), email(s) and website(s).
Title and description of your workshop in pdf format (max 250 words). Include name(s), 200 word bios, 2 page CV, affiliation(s), email(s) and website(s).
DEADLINE: June 30th, 2019, 5pm GMT
Click the above image to read a great article by Dia Lacina on in-game photography. Lacina mentions, among others, Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama to suggest that a camera is a tool, but a naturalized way of seeing. A very insightful commentary on a fringe practice in gaming that has now become mainstream. Also from Lacina, another excellent piece on the same topic, also published by Waypoint/Vice magazine almost a year before. Here's the inevitable barthesian "winter garden" moment in the new essay:
Deep in that box of old family photos, I found a four shot spread of the seasons puzzle from Secret of Mana. Behind the large black Mitsubishi television, and over top of a blue-grey silk couch with thin pale pink and lighter blue stripes there is snow outside the window. And without a date imprint, I know it’s Christmas, 1993 The photo from across the room of me seated in reverie on maroon high-pile carpet in front of a colossal, wood-paneled CRT shrine to Simon's Quest, the titular Belmont locked in the clearly doomed trajectory of a jump. They weren’t practiced photographs. Taken on various automatic compact cameras, some with embedded date stamps, flash bouncing off the glass of the television, always on Kodak Gold 400 (the foolproof workhorse of family snapshots)—they were messy, but evocative. Some capturing the reflection of our family’s golden retriever seated next to me, others with my own mother over my shoulder, her sleek black Olympus Stylus Infinity in hand. (Dia Lacina)
LINK: on game photo modes
Mondo Cane! (2018) is a 20 minute video essay that accompanies Sturtevant/a_m_f_skidrow_01 Finite Infinite, a short video loop portraying a non-player character (NPC) from a computer game, projected on a rotating beamer in the installation space. It was developed by Alan Butler to for the exhibition SITUATIONS/Posthuman at Fotomuseum in Winterthur, Switzerland (07.07.2018–16.09.2018)
The installation builds on Butler’s previous work, Down and Out in Los Santos. There, the artist embarked on a journey through the social landscape of the video game Grand Theft Auto V to document the lives of homeless NPCs in the virtual city of Los Santos. One of the characters he encountered is at the centrepiece of his new work: a homeless NPC that bears a striking resemblance to conceptual artist Sturtevant. The character is transformed into a hybrid, computational entity, half human-looking, yet resembling a dog running endlessly in circles. By directing our gaze to the characters that inhabit the uncanny borders of non/human, the artist challenges the viewer to rethink anthropomorphic representation and consider these digital entities and bots as autonomous creatures that do not subjugate to a human hierarchy.
Alan Butler, Sturtevant/a_m_f_skidrow_01 Finite Infinite, video still, HD-video, 00:09 min. (loop)
LINK: Alan Butler
The cannons on the shores are constantly firing at the small boats filled with refugees trying to land on the Italian coast. In 1996, the Italian artist Antonio Riello created Italiani Brava Gente, a game in which the player could destroy Albanese refugee boats. It was not a simple remake of the classic arcade game Space Invaders with a twist. It introduced a new genre altogether.
The game’s title, Italiani Brava Gente, literally “Italians are good people”, is a “mission statement” that was used by populist politicians on television to describe how good and tolerant italians were toward people from other cultures. However, Riello did not agree with this hypocritical, populist stance, and used it ironically. The historic context behind the game is surprisingly current: In the late Nineties, hundreds of illegal refugees originally from the Balkans, and especially Albania, reached Italy on boats. The government saw the refugees as aliens invading a country and “destroying” Italian culture just like the aliens in Space Invaders erased entire cities. Players must stop the invasion. Italiani Brava Gente is remembered as one of the first attempts to deliver a political statement through a video game. The goal of the creator was to use games as a form of artistic expression rather than mere entertainment. Italiani Brava Gente is also an early example of a serious game dealing with political and social issues.
Antonio Riello, Italiani Brava Gente (1996)
The Mediterranean is once again the scene for boat refugees trying to reach Europe in overcrowded, fragile boats from Turkey and Libya. Desperate people invest their money hoping to find a better life. Theirs, however, is a dangerous game without extra lives, bonus levels, and replays. After a friend drown trying to reach Greece, an anonymous Syrian refugee developed Refugee Mario, a machinima created with a modified Super Mario game. The video shows a Syrian Mario trying to reach Europe. Mario picks up his suitcase and begins his journey to Europe. During his travels, he must collect coins to pay smugglers and bureaucrats, avoid Hungarian border guards, and cross the dangerous sea, until he finally can haul the European flag and reach the safety in the refugee camp.
The media have often tried to describe major events in history with help of text, photo and film. Who does not remember the image of the dead three-year-old boy Alan Kurdi, washed ashore on the beach, in 2015? An image that was reproduce in traditional and social media and creating an alarm call about the refugee catastrophe in Syria. But the media are changing. Fewer and fewer people read newspapers. Fake news spread through social media make it harder for serious journalism to reach an audience. For the past few years, journalists have tried to use games to find new readers and create a novel context for news. Known as “newsgames”, these games deal with issues as diverse as elections, terrorism, wars, and human catastrophes. In Newsgames: Journalism at Play (2010) Ian Bogost and his colleagues argue that videogames “simulate how things work by constructing interactive models; journalism as game involves more than just revisiting old forms of news production.”
The problem with simple games build on familiar concept as Italiani Brava Gente and Refugee Mario is that they often are very shallow in their context. They are easy to play and could quickly create awareness of a serious issue. At the same time, the risk is that players see the game as entertainment and never develop a deeper understanding about the complex conditions. Thus, the ludic experience does not help them to get a better grasp of a situation.
But videogames could have that persuasive effect that Ian Bogost describes in Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames (2007) when he writes I want to suggest that videogames have a unique persuasive power. [...] videogames can also disrupt and change fundamental attitudes and beliefs about the world, leading to potentially significant long-term social change.
A videogame that fits into Bogost description is Escape from Woomera (2004), produced by a team of Australian artists, journalists, and game designers. Woomera was the name of immigration and detention center in Australia. The game is more complex than the aforementioned examples and tries to provide a layered narrative and more complex context around the game. In the game, which is built on the Half-Life’s engine, you play Mustafa, an Iranian asylum. After his parents was killed by the Iranian secret service he paid smugglers to take him to Australia. After his boat crashed in the Ashmore Reef he is taken into custody and imprisoned at the Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre. When his request for asylum is denied and he realizes that he is about to be repatriated to Iran, he plans his escape from the camp. The game mechanics use the format of the point-and-click adventure game. The players is Mustafa: her goal is to explore the fenced camp and talk with other immigrants to find out which is the best way to escape from the camp. A meter tracks Mustafa's hope and by completing different task you increase your hope to escape, but if you breaks the the camps rules or is caught by the guards the hop decrease. When the meter reach zero Mustafa loses all his hope and is deported. Game Over!
The possibility to change the players attitudes with videogames is also an conclusion that dr Gemma Sou, Lecturer in Disaster Management at the University of Manchester, has reached. In her essay “Trivial pursuits? Serious (video) games and the media representation of refugees” (2017) which appeared in Third World Quarterly, she argues that serious games focusing on refugees “are able to mobilise intellectual agendas which challenge the de-contextualised representations of refugees typical in traditional media. As such, they challenge players to critically reflect on the complexities of refugee experiences and politics, thereby presenting a potential to move away from grand emotional discourses of pity and compassion.”
Darfur is Dying (2006) is another example of a serious games about refugees. The game focused on the 2.5 million refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan and the genocide that took place in the area. Like Escape from Woomera, the game is based on serious research and was developed in cooperation with humanitarian aid workers with extensive experience in Darfur.
In the game you have to choose a family member from one of the refugee families to collect water from a nearby well. Your task is to bring water back to the village and to avoid patrols from the janjaweed militia. If you are caught you are informed what happened to the family member and have to choose another. The chance to succeed with the task is based on gender and age. After you have returned with the water your next task is to use the water for crops and build huts. Your goal is to survive in the camp for seven day and keep the water level at a steady level.
As an activism game, Darfur is Dying also uses virality as a distribution model: players can invite friends to play the game, send messages to President Bush and create petitions to raise awareness about the situation.
In the past few years, the number of games about refugees has skyrocketed. The conflict in Syria and other places, and the use of smartphones and tablets connected to Internet have made it easy to create and spread these kind of games to a wide audience. Here are some examples:
Abdullah Karam, Path Out (2017)
Abdullah Karam’s Path Out is an RPG created with a Final Fantasy retro style and let the player experience how it is to be an Syrian refugee escaping from the civil war to neighbouring Turkey.Similarly, That Day We Left, is a 3D adventure game, mixing gameplay with narratives about the experience about being a refugee from Syria. In the mobile game Bury Me, My Love, the player must help Nour, a Syrian refugee, in her quest to reach Europe.
No matter where you fly from the border will be a main obstacle and challenge to overcome. Perhaps the most controversial border is the one that separates Mexico from the US, as the Trump administration's goal to build a giant wall to block the immigrants demonstrates. The Texas artist Gonzalo Alvarez has therefore created a video game which focus on the situation on this ongoing tragedy. “Borders is a political art game created not only to exhibit video games as an art form but to portray the dangers Mexican immigrants face in order to give the next generation a better future” says Alvarez.
Border was inspired by early indie games such as Papers, Please (2013) and stories told by Alvarez' parents who crossed the border as immigrants. The game is evocative of vintage arcade games with its 8-bit graphics. In the game, the player must cross the desert, tackle border patrols, hide from helicopters and collect enough water to avoid dehydration. When the player dies, a skeleton is left in the desert. Little by little, the desert fills up with bones, a morbid reminder that several players died trying to enter the USA, a symbol of all the migrants who failed to reach the promised land. The desert is a cemetery.
Rewell Altunaga’s Elegia (2015) is another example of a work whose goal is to acknowledge the plight of refugees that died while trying to reach their goal. Developed with the violent videogame Battlefield 4, Elegia exists both as a VR experience and as a machinima. The spectator is immersed into a stormy sea, below a wall of dark and sinister clouds. The Cuban artist wanted to remind the viewer about all the men and women that tried to escape from Cuba in fragile rafts, over dangerous waters, to reach Florida. For many decades, Cuba has been an isolated microcosm, but in 1994 Fidel Castro decided that the army would not any longer stop people from leaving the country. The result was the Balseros-crisis when the shores of Cuba was filled with improvised boats and desperate people trying to leave with any means necessary. It is estimated that around thirty thousands people left Cuba during this years but it is unclear how many died during their journey to find a better life.
Rewell Altunaga, Elegia, 2015, digital video and interactive VR experience
Since the mid-Nineties, when Antonio Riello released Italiani Brava Gente, several artists, game designers, and journalists have been using serious games to raise awareness about the dire conditions of refugees around the world. For journalists and NGOs, videogames can become an important addendum to traditional media, one that can reach a new audience and add an element of interactivity to current events that are usually experienced passively, on tv screens, in a detached mode.
Interview from 2009 with Antonio Riello about "Italiani Brava Gente" by Mathias Jansson: http://www.gamescenes.org/2009/11/interview-antonio-riello-italiani-brava-gente-1996.html
“Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames”, (MIT Press, 2010) by Ian Bogost
“Newsgames: Journalism at Play”, (MIT Press, 2012) by Ian Bogost (Author), Simon Ferrari (Author), Bobby Schweizer (Author)
“Trivial pursuits? Serious (video) games and the media representation of refugees” by Gemma Sou, published 2017 in Third World Quarterly
“Escape from Woomera” Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_from_Woomera
Mathias Jansson is a Swedish art critic writing about Game Art and New Media Art. He has published books with interviews and essays about the history of Game Art like ”Everything I Shoot Is Art”, Link Editions (2012) , "The Pioneers of Game Art: From ArsDoom to SimBee" and "Game Art Around the World: From Japan to Cuba". He has frequently contributed to different blogs and journals as DigiMag , Furtherfield , HZ-Journal, Art 21 Blog and Gamescenens.org. For more information, click here.
Nicholas O'Brien's latest project is a narrative-driven, first person, essay game with a score by Seth Cluett. The game's main theme is the sudden closure of a public transportation system in a fictional Rustbelt American city. Available for Windows PC, Mac OS X, The Trolley can be downloaded here ($2 recommended donation). Here's a more detailed description:
Set in the late 1950s in a fictional rustbelt American city, The Trolley invites players to complete a series of tasks in order to dismantle the incline railroad of a recently discontinued trolley line. As the player boards up the gatehouse, disposes of paperwork, and performs other closure duties, they are given a series of inner-monolog choices that ask question about the ramifications of the trolleys closure. Events and choices that unfold in The Trolley involve urban infrastructure, labor, and questions of technological progress in a series of vignettes that pits innovation against maintenance.
The stories, environments, architecture, and scenery are all pulled from extensive research artists and developer Nicholas O’Brien has conducted over the past two years. Combined with a superb musical score by Seth Cluett, this work delves into the aftermath of curtailed public services for the benefit of private interests. As an animator, game designer, and author, O’Brien brings his unique perspective to the ways civic space has historically been shaped by complicated and often dubious forces. The untold narratives of trolley closures—from LA to Atlanta, Cincinnati to Pittsburgh—interweave throughout the game. Using conventions from experimental filmmaking, essayistic moving-image work, and contemporary story-driven indie games, The Trolley asks players to contemplate the ways in which the absence of this public service has reshaped American civic space. (Nicholas O'Brien)
Nicholas O’Brien is a researcher and cultural producer based in Brooklyn, NY. His previous game based projects include Cross Timbers (2016), a "semi-procedurally generated video game essay about the Cross Timbers region," and The Wanderer (2012), a video game exploring "the relationship between Romanticism and contemporary digital art" in which the player assumes the role of "the ghost of Romanticism's past, drifting through a purgatory built from notable paintings by Caspar David Friedrich," among others.
LINK: Nicholas O’Brien (all images and video courtesy of Nicholas O’Brien)
Hentschker captures the sublime using photographic practices in gaming, and specifically in Grand Theft Auto V. At the same time, she is remediating the medium of painting:
In this series of works, I want to investigate Grand Theft Auto as a subject of art that transposes Friedrich’s subjective Romanticism to the digital age. I am particularly interested in working with videos that other players have already deemed important enough to share. This collection provides a sampling of GTA’s digital world that incorporates both the gaze of an avatar and the eyes of a living viewer encoded into the experience of the scene. The view and the location presented around the avatar is a representation of what a single player decided to record and share. (Claire Hentschker)
Read Hentschker's full essay here.
Claire Hentschker is a Pittsburgh-based artist and student working with site specific mixed reality. Her VR work has been exhibited in an inflatable kiddie pool, atop an oversized easy chair, in a bedazzled headset, and in augmented projections on temporary tattoos. Her work has has also been presented at the Carnegie Museum of Art, VIA festival, The Free State Festival in Kansas, and the Glasgow School of Art’s Creativity and Cognition Conference.