ANIMALMIXUP! (2008) by Jeff Baij

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ANIMALMIXUP! (2008) by Jeff Baij

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Recorded/Live

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Houston venue Aurora Picture Show's annual multimedia festival Media Archaeology kicks off tonight and will run through the weekend. Dubbed "Live and Televised," the diverse group of artists selected for this year's festival integrate pre-recorded audio or visual media into their live performances. For the opening event, legendary culture jammers Negativland will broadcast a religiously-themed radio show to a blindfolded audience. For a preview, click play below and close your eyes:



Animator Brent Green will also incorporate sound into his act, by accompanying his stop animations with his own live narration as well as an improvised score by a three-piece band. Shana Moulton will take the stage with an intricate and vibrant performance by her character Cynthia as she seeks out spiritual enlightenment and self-improvement. Finally, Tara Mateik will compete in a strenuous match against himself in his reenactment of the 1973 defeat of tennis player Bobby Riggs by Billie Jean King in the humorously titled "Putting The Balls Away." - Ceci Moss

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Before the Bonus Round

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The Olympics are not simply a matter of fun and games. They are a multi-national media spectacle that--as we've seen in recent protests--can arouse and galvanize political action. The event's organizers pitch it as a zone outside of politics, but of course issues of national identity, human rights, autonomy, economic might, and foreign policy all coalesce around the Olympics. While much of the current attention to these matters is directed at Beijing, groups in Montreal and London are already forming to address the impact that the arrival of the famous torch (ceremoniously relayed in a model invented by the Nazis to promote a strong image of the Third Reich around the 1936 Berlin games) will have upon local communities. The London art space, E:vent, is among the first to chime-in with an exhibition addressing these issues. Their show, "Sound Proof" (open April 19-May 11), features six artists "using sound materials, drawings, and annotations [to create] audio and visual maps that preserve observations of transformation." These site-specific works focus on the Lower Lea Valley, below London, which will be virtually reinvented for London 2012. In a way, they will function as aural time capsules--records or "proof" of a space and culture if not doomed for demolition, then certainly slated for overhaul. The valuable question raised by the show is that of preservation--what is deemed worthy of saving (memories, relics, cultural practices) and what is the responsible, effective way to do so. This form of ethnographic programming takes "game art" to another level. - Marisa Olson

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Interview with Eddo Stern

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Image: Still from "Amongst Fables and Men"


Tonight artist Eddo Stern will host "QQ More", a screening he curated of offbeat fan-made machinima dealing with real-life issues such as drugs, pornography, and death at Brooklyn's Light Industry. The show begins at 8pm and will be followed by a discussion between Stern and Alexander Galloway. I conducted an email interview with Stern about his interest in the phenomenon and its relevance to his own art practice. - Ceci Moss

In gaming parlance, what does "QQ More" mean? How does this relate to the concept behind your program "QQ More"?

QQ is an emoticon that means crying or sobbing - think two big round eyes with lil' tears. The program contains a few real tearjerkers hence the title "QQ More."

When and how did you start working on "QQ More"?

I've spent quite a few too many hours watching fan made machinima from MMOs on fan sites, most of which I would call "vanity videos" -- short films of players' tributes to ´┐Ż themselves, set to emotionally charged music. Then one day I stumbled on a video called Rest in Peace Ignoramus -- a Norwegian World of Warcraft video made by a few guild members to commemorate a fellow guildmate's death -- the video's intended audience appears to be Ignoramus's family and his online friends. The video is uncomfortably intimate, and the production is very amateurish - it runs way too long, has terrible camera control, sappy music and no editing whatsoever but it still will bring you to tears. (Oh pathos, I cannot resist thee!)

After unearthing Rest in Peace Ignoramus and watching the infamous video by Serenity Now about the memorial massacre, I started a more systematic search through fan-made WoW videos and found a few other oddballs -- the selection for QQ ...

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Pong In Action

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When the Atari video game Pong was released in 1972, it was instrumental in establishing what many today call computer culture, by virtue of its popularity and accessibility. The first product to find success as both an arcade game and a home console staple, it became a seemingly-ubiquitous touchstone for the members of a DIY generation empowered by play and home-hacking. In the 35 years since its release, the first generation video game has retained this mythos, even as technology has evolved around it. Lisbon-based artist André Gonçalves's new project, Pong--the analog arcade machine comments on the increased use of technology by artists seeking to address cultural or historical epochs, such as the one in which the original game participates. Gonçalves has created an installation that mimics the original arcade version of Pong, recreating it in analog form and giving it a live-action spin. Using a network of arduino processors, infra-red sensors, printer head guts, and a variety of other materials including some old-fashioned wood, the visual similarities are uncanny, even as they create an ironic "post-digital" tension between 1970s-era analog techniques and a markedly-digital icon to emerge from that era. However, the wit and finesse of Gonçalves's project lies in his use of hairdryer fans and a ping pong ball to carry out game action. What viewers actually see, when they look at his installation, is a real video-monitored, joystick-controlled table tennis game. Gonçalves is hardly the first artist to find inspiration in Pong, but he seems to be among the most successful at achieving the physical interaction and social fellowship originally intended by its creator, Nolan Bushnell. On that note, the game was meant to be played and Gonçalves's prototype will be presented March 28th at the Lisbon chapter of ...

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Baltimore Rising

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The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is home to a very interesting set of new media artists--both faculty and students--and exhibitions like "sight.sound [interaction] 2.0" are securing the space as a breeding ground for new ideas. An annual exhibition curated by Jason Sloan and open through March 14, the show brings together local and international artists whose work--much as the title implies--explores audio/visual interactivity. "sight.sound" doesn't aspire to a much tighter curatorial theme than that, but this allows viewers to create associations of their own, ranging from labor commentary to the aesthetics of experimentation. For instance, Nashville-based collaborators [Fladry+Jones] and DJ Black Noise meditate on collage theory, as it has shifted from the era of expressionist film to the present, by offering a 30-minute remix of Fritz Lang's film, Metropolis. The original film comments on the relationship between workers and the ruling class in an increasingly mechanized society, and the artists' remix offers a contemporary take on this evolving narrative. Baltimore-based artist Colin Ford conducts an experiment in color psychology, asking visitors to identify the hues that represent business brands, such as "Starbucks Green" and "Verizon Red," and each subsequent visitor's selection is averaged with their predecessor's, which Ford believes turns corporate power on its head by allowing consumers to " alter the meaning that the brand holds." Local artists Dan Huyberts and Will Rosenthal bring play into the fold with their fun projects. Huyberts's Circuit Bent Video Sculpture Aural Vision 1 allows viewers to "watch" nature recordings on a television, using a photocell that triggers the screaming of a circuit-bent smoke detector. Rosenthal's Cideslide is an interactive video game inviting users to choose their own adventure in navigating what Rosenthal describes as a surreal "Lynchian" world by using ...

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Resource Round-up on Wafaa Bilal

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Earlier this week, we pointed to Brian Holmes' article on the troubling set of circumstances around artist Wafaa Bilal's latest work, Virtual Jihadi. As the situation has evolved, as has the public outcry from artist communities, we offer a round-up of resources on the subject.

Wafaa Bilal's "Virtual Jihadi" exhibit at RPI -- freeculture wiki

Coverage from Regine DeBatty of We Make Money Not Art

Coverage and discussion on Inside Higher Ed and GamePolitics.com

Opinion from Art Fag City

Call for letter-writing support by Ryan Griffis on Rhizome

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Gary Gygax (1938-2008)

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Gaming visionary Gary Gygax, co-creator of the Dungeons and Dragons universe, passed away on Tuesday, March 4th, 2008. He was 69. Gygax is credited as the father of role-playing games (RPGs), but D&D's influence has permeated almost every genre of gaming since it was first published in 1974. Perhaps what's most remarkable about the game is that, in its basic form, D&D is only a set of rules and suggestions. The creative aspects of the game are left in the hands of the players. With only a few multi-sided dice, a pencil, and some graph paper, D&D players devise fantastic worlds, develop complex characters, and engage in dynamic group experiences. The imaginative agency provided by the game and its participatory nature may be its greatest contribution to the foundations of contemporary game design. Video games have been particularly inspired by D&D, as many of the designers and coders behind some of the most important titles in video game history grew up rolling a 20-sided die. It's hard to imagine the existence of Richard Allen Garriott's Ultima series, Hironobu Sakaguchi and Yoshitaka Amano's Final Fantasy series, or Blizzard's World of Warcraft without the game play mechanics established in D&D. Even the internet itself owes a little bit to Gygax. From late-70's MUDs to the massively multiplayer online games of today, the development of networked, D&D influenced RPGs has both paralleled and pushed the development of the web towards creativity and collaboration. Artists such as Brody Condon have translated the form of role-playing to the gallery. For Untitled War (2004), Condon invited twelve warriors to fight until their "death" at the Los Angeles space Machine Project. The taxing two hour long performance, accompanied by the music of the Winks ...

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A Thousand Knights; No Respawn (2008) by Ilia Ovechkin

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New work by Ilia Ovechkin entitled A Thousand Knights; No Respawn. Created using the Sauerbraten game engine, the piece features seemingly hundreds of knights repeatedly colliding into each other. "Respawn" is a gaming term referring to the resuscitation of a character after its death. The rapid movement and shapes in the video seem entirely removed from the gaming environment from which they originate, thus operating outside a virtual creation or death, or any sort of scenario. - Ceci Moss

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War Games

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"I suggest that game studies should...turn not to a theory of realism in gaming as mere realistic representation, but define realist games as those games that reflect critically on the minutia of everyday life, replete as it is with struggle, personal drama, and injustice."- Alex Galloway

In his book Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture, Galloway tackles the notion of "realism" in video games. By distinguishing between representational and social realism in contemporary game culture, he illuminates how militaristic, political and social norms are both reinforced and challenged. For his current project, with the programming collective Radical Software Group ("RSG"), Galloway and his collaborators (Carolyn Kane, Adam Parrish, Daniel Perlin, DJ /rupture and Matt Shadetek, and Mushon Zer-Aviv) address realism in war games by creating their own- based on "The Game of War" designed by French theorist, activist, and iconoclast Guy Debord. Debord attempted to realistically represent the basic rules and relationships of war through a simple board game known as "Kriegspiel", a variant on chess in which a third party, either human or computer, acts as a referee and mediates the movement of the opposing forces. The game's end is often indeterminate and subject to the personality of those who are playing, which, given the current war in Iraq, certainly seems realistic and gives credence to Debord's assertion that, "with [some] reservations, we may say that this game accurately portrays all the factors at work in real war." RSG translated Debord's set of rules from French into Java, and has released it as an online war game called "Kriegspiel". Debord, as a man who's probably best known for his book The Society of the Spectacle, which closely examined the use of the mass media as a political tool, the fascination and reenactment of the war ...

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