Warmail is a live, collaborative software performance, led by Jeremy Bailey, commissioned by HTTP Gallery in London, UK. Warmail uses the audience's latent song and dance potential to write and send an email to my mother while simultaneously directing a space war campaign
MIT Press recently published Third Person, an essay collection that follows First Person and Second Person in a series exploring how new media has changed the roles of author and audience. Third Person declares its subject to be “vast narratives,” which editors Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin define as cultural products that extend beyond the physical and temporal parameters usually associated with their medium. While most television detective shows devote one episode to one investigation, The Wire, for example, can stretch a case out over a season, and the continuity of characters and settings puts demands on a viewer’s memory that other shows rarely make. If the Harry Potter series of books is considered the authoritative source of that fictional world even after the release of the films, Lucasfilm delegates storytelling duties for Star Wars among books, movies, and animated series, and each addition extends the fictional universe in new directions in time and space. Vast narratives can also be generative frameworks that allow for many reconfigurations of the characters and settings over several instantiations, as in computer role-playing games and their pencil-and-paper counterparts like Dungeons & Dragons.
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.
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.
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 ...!--more-->
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.
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.
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.
In June I traveled through southeastern Europe from Venice to Athens, where I’m looking at art and blogging. Part three of the travelogue is about Belgrade, Serbia.
With a population of two million, Belgrade is twice as big as Zagreb, which is thrice as big as Ljubljana, but the sizes of these three cities have a paradoxically inverse relationship to their cultural infrastructure, particularly at the intersection of art and technology. While little Ljubljana had enough events to fill my schedule for four days, Zagreb’s handful of galleries were in a summer slumber. But organizations were actually there, even if hibernating, while Belgrade had nothing. Many attributed that to the smaller country’s attempt to find a niche or a brand for itself in Europe’s crowded contemporary art world. “New media in Slovenia was as a more or less organized way of deterritorialization from the ex-Yugoslavian context, a systematic attempt ‘to be more serious than the system itself,’" said Maja Ciric, a Serbian curator, citing Zizek. “But in Belgrade the new media paradigm is self-driven and performed individually.”
Belgrade had a small but active demoscene in the 1990s, which gave rise to one of the most interesting art collectives in the former Yugoslavia, Kosmoplovci (pronounced “kos-mo-PLOV-tsee”). The name means something like astronauts or space sailors, and comes from a 1970s do-it-yourself science and technology magazine that some demoscene friends found at a flea market in the early ‘90s. The members of Kosmoplovci are fond of rummaging through the past, and their varied output—which includes internet works, videos, music, comics, and books—usually involves allusion and found media. Satelitska Stanica is based on an old 8mm film extolling a joint project with Japan to ...
Ancient Pixels is my current work in progress where lo-resolution video game graphics, Andean textile art and psychedelic poster art are merged produce the visual aesthetic and the grammar blocks (via Andean symbol interpretation) of a multi-channel interactive video installation depicting scenes of an imaginary Inca temple. The installation is made up of several components such as "animated rugs", immersive video walls and sculptural pieces.