Interview with Grace Kook Anderson

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Image: Eddo Stern, MELF, 2009

Through October 4, the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach is presenting “WoW: Emergent Media Phenomenon”, an exhibition that considers the fantasy environment of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft and its broader cultural impact. It includes works by gaming-conscious artists like Tale of Tales and Radical Software Group as well as pieces produced by staff at the company that develops WoW, Blizzard Entertainment. Curator Grace Kook Anderson answered a few questions about the show.

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Image: Sam “Samwise” Didier, Footman, 1994

What aspects of World of Warcraft as an emergent media phenomenon do you find most interesting as a curator?

WoW has been a rich subject. What I find compelling in this game is that the narrative lineage passing through J.R.R. Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons sets the framework of the game, but the players add that extra narrative layer. Another aspect that is remarkable is the democratic nature of cultural production that a game like WoW stimulates, such as the enormous volume of fan art and machinima to artists working in different media. And as an MMORPG, WoW is also a network and a community for so many people. It is amazing how game culture and reality interact.

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Image: Adam Bartholl, photograph of a performance in Laguna Beach

Could you discuss a few of the artworks you selected and how they expand on these aspects of gaming in general and massively multiplayer gaming in particular?

In the case of quite a few of the artists, WoW imagery or content is used to point to greater issues, such as questioning the idea of networking and community or looking at the implications of globalization and the threat of terrorism. Aram Bartholl led a workshop and performance takes an aspect from the ...

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F1 Racer Mod (2004) - Cory Arcangel

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This is a simple mod I did of the old Japanese famicom driving game F1 Racer. Basically I just took out the game, cars, etc, and left the road.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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clover (2009) - Billy Rennekamp

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it will never be the same .com (2004) - Rafael Rozendaal

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The Game is Over (2009) - Les Liens Invisibles

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Evil Interiors (2003) - Palle Torsson

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Evil Interiors is a series of sixteen digital prints that depict the sets of some of the key scenes in film history: the home of the old man in Clockwork Orange, the hotel corridor in Shining, the empty warehouse in Reservoir Dogs, the motel room in Psycho, Hannibal Lecter's cage in The Silence of the Lambs. Using the editor in Unreal Tournament 2003, Torsson worked painstakingly on the architecture and on texture of the various parts of the furnishings to make these polygonal reconstructions totally believable.

"These images point at the psychological dimensions of violence, at least those that are imprinted in collective memory. As we live in a society where violence is accepted and ritualized our own consciousness is full of images of violence which can be triggered by a digital architectural space. Violence is not actually depicted here, but it certainly exists in the eye and mind of the beholder," Torsson explains.

-- FROM AN ESSAY ON "EVIL INTERIORS" BY DOMENICO QUARANTA IN "GAMESCENES: ART IN THE AGE OF VIDEOGAMES"

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Electric Boogie Woogie (2009) - Rafael Rozendaal

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PAC MONDRIAN (2002) - Prize Budget for Boys

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Racing the Beam: The Atari VCS as Platform

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Considering the evolution of video game consoles (seven generations and counting), the cultural significance of the Atari VCS alone would justify another book-length appraisal. However, Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost's collaborative text Racing the Beam, published this past spring by MIT Press, was developed with a broader mandate in mind. The book is the first in a new series dedicated to a "platform-focused" approach to media scholarship. A cultural reading of the Atari VCS would address aesthetics or "reception" to the console and Bogost and Montfort argue that it is possible to drill down from that strata of analysis to interface, then form/function (narratology) through to code. The scholars acknowledge that while code has become a nexus within media scholarship in recent years, it is possible to dig deeper still to platform - "the basic hardware and software systems upon which programming takes place... the foundation for computational expression." The subsequent analysis of the Atari VCS is firmly grounded in the technical capabilities of the system. Under this scrutiny the figure of the console melts away. Racing the Beam surveys six seminal cartridges in relation to key components which include the MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor, the Peripheral Interface Adaptor chip (PIA), memory and the pivotal Television Interface Adaptor (TIA) - the operation of which inspired the moniker of the book. This sounds dry (and at times it is) but the duo do a remarkable job of providing a close, nuanced reading of the design decisions, play and game space of the titles in relation to the assemblage of electronics that underpins the system.

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Art In Your Pocket

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As the niche genre of software art expands beyond the web and into mobile devices, media artists are finding ways to integrate their work into a new form of business model. Instead of giving away your work for free on the web, Apple's iPhone and iTouch devices provide an ample platform for distribution (through the Apple App Store) and hardware support for novel ways to experience screen-based work.

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