In need of a Heroine: Angela Washko's "Heroines with Baggage (How Final Fantasy Shaped My Unrealistic Demands for Love and Tragedy)"
Heroines with Baggage is a video essay using footage taken directly from the famous early 90s role-playing SNES video game Final Fantasy III. The video deconstructs the game, creating a non-linear narrative that follows the trajectories of two of the three playable female characters in the fourteen-character game. Washko describes that she was interested in the female characters that she used to play as a child not because of their sparsity in the game, which can be explained by the fact that reportedly, far fewer females than males played these games in the early 90s, but rather, due to the way these characters were presented.
Washko's video reveals a game where the characters show a certain teenage sentimentality with no real emotional depth, where a princess sings "Oh my hero / So far away now. / Will I ever see your smile?" And another female character gasps at the sight of a male character, "You…saved me?" According to Washko, the female characters constantly mention their desire to experience love, unlike the male characters who do not mention the concept of love at all, resulting in the fact that even though these characters are playable, meaning, have strengths and plot focus, they remain projections of archetypal powerful-yet-victimized women.
Featuring the game's fantastic original soundtrack and the old-school video game aesthetics, the video cuts out the battle and search scenes, usually the game's focal point, in order to look at the game's background story and draw attention to the way it portrays femininity and the model this had served to women like Washko herself, who played the game as young girls. Not that the result was their ultimate subjection to heroes who would save them ...
Frank Benson, Human Statue (Jessie), 2011, bronze.
All this is the product of digital photography and 3-D reproduction. But while it is a wonder of contemporary technology, it also harks back to the art of the Ancient Greeks, who, in their bronze sculptures of divine beings, began a tradition of subordinating metaphysics to empiricism to which we still are beholden. Once we might have prayed to such a goddess. Now we meditate on time and timelessness; the ideal and the real; the quick and the dead.
Human Statue (Jessie) is a new work by New York–based artist Frank Benson. The life-size bronze figure of a woman was first designed digitally using photographic scans of the model, which were then used to construct a virtual model that was fabricated in bronze.
More discussions on relationships between Greek art and new media here:
Mesocosm (Northumberland, UK), Fall (2011), Flash standalone application
You describe your work as making psychological narratives about humans and their relationship to animals, plants, and the weather. It might seem surprising that this relationship to the natural world is depicted via computer animation. How do you perceive the use of technology in order to describe the natural? What does the computer offer you specifically when thinking about nature or the natural?
All representations employ some form of technology—start with burnt charcoal on cave walls.
Why the computer? Why suck all this electricity out of the wall to make inquiries into the representation of climate change? Why pick animation, which is a most unnatural form? There are tools and aesthetic choices that I naturally gravitate towards—in this case, scalable vector graphics that I can make move.
My work started as pictograms and cartoons, leveraging the language of signage and the cute, because cartoons and info graphics are sly. Animation has freedom from verisimilitude, and warrants the fantastic. I’ve remained interested in making work that leaves you (and me) unsure if it’s clip art or hand-drawn, work that sits between the handmade analogue and the digital.
Much of the work I make is keyed to internet research, obscure stories, contradictory data, and highly circulated media. The Poster Children was made in 2007 when the polar bear became the poster child for global warming (Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth) and the poster child (again) for the cutest (Knut, born at the Berlin Zoo), and it was also the year of the Virginia Tech shooting which spawned copycat killers’ electronic press kits on YouTube, anti– and pro– gun law campaigning, and racism (questioning whether an Asian has the right to perpetrate this sort of massacre which has historically been ...
E-flux’s book coop is a mobile home for publications from over two hundred art institutions across the world. It will be presented at the New York Art Book Fair, which opens today and runs through the weekend at MoMA PS1. I aksed e-flux for more information about the project:
Costly and often monopolistic approaches to the distribution of art books has resulted in a situation where it has become common for not only the author, but also the publisher to receive little to no revenue for a book's sales. The book coop was initiated as a way to bring together and give greater access to an array of contemporary art publications being produced by museums, foundations, residency programs, artist-run spaces, and universities all over the world. It was formed to offer these publishers the opportunity to make their titles public without having to follow the traditional routes provided by distributors, and to experiment with publishers to create a platform where the responsibilities of distribution and access are shared.
The members of the book coop represent a good majority of the e-flux journal network, a group of over 200 varied contemporary art institutions who print and locally distribute the e-flux journal. When forming the project earlier this year we invited all journal network members to participate. New members of the book coop have been added to the initial group since announcing the project’s presence at the NYABF last week, which is great.
We first presented the book coop at Art Basel this summer as part of the Kopfbau, a larger e-flux project which saw us occupy an old Art Basel office slated for demolition. We took a few of the offices, demolished a couple of walls to make a large rectangular room with wall to wall, almost floor ...
“Cybernetic Guerrilla Warfare Revisited: From Klein Worms to Relational Circuits” In an interview by Felicity D. Scott and Mark Wasiuta for the Summer 2011 issue of GreyRoom, artist and writer Paul Ryan talks about the time he spent working with Marshall McLuhan, the early days of video art, and his work.
“At that moment  I thought of myself as a writer. I was holed up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with my typewriter, trying to write, and I heard McLuhan on the raso saying, ‘of course, in this electronic age of computers, satellites, radio, and television, the writer is no longer somebody holed up in his garret pounding a typewriter!’ It stopped me cold. I had to find out what this guy was about.”
Ryan gives a fascinating account of video art in the 1960s, from the Howard Wise Gallery, to securing money from the New York State Council for the Arts for video art at a time when no such funding was readily available, and tells the story of meeting the heir to the IBM fortune who admired McLuhan and wanted to give him two Sony Portapaks that both ended in Ryan’s hands to “experiment” with.
Ryan wrote extensively about video art, cybernetics, and technology; his work was then featured in some seminal exhibitions, such as “TV as a Creative Medium” at the Howard Wise Gallery (1969) and “Primitivism in Twentieth Century Art” at MoMA (1984). (Here's a 1969 letter by Ryan to Howard Wise.)
“I would avoid the term visual to describe video. You can see a bottle of perfume, but sight is not the sense it really affects. You can see video images but their effect is primarily kinesthetic or proprioceptive when you see yourself. Video is about perceiving events with the nervous system, not visualizing in a pictorial way.”