EXHIBITION

deutsch | english

Artists
Julien Alma /
Laurent Hart (FR)
Cory Arcangel (USA)
Mister Ministeck Norbert Bayer (DE)
Tom Betts (UK)
Pash Buzari (DE)
Leon Cmielewski /
Josephine Starrs (AU)
Arcangel Constantini (MX)
Vuk Cosic (SI)
Aurélien Froment (FR)
fuchs-eckermann (AT)
Beate Geissler /
Oliver Sann (DE)
Margarete Jahrmann /
Max Moswitzer (AT)
Jodi (ES)
Joan Leandre (ES)
Mongrel (UK)
Tilman Reiff /
Volker Morawe (DE)
Anne-Marie Schleiner /
Brody Condon (US)
Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag (DE)
Space Invader (FR)
Thomson & Craighead (UK)
Olaf Val (DE)
Yang Zhenzhong (CL)
Lars Zumbansen (DK)

games. Computer games by artists

PHOENIX Halle | 10/11/2003 - 11/30/2003

Intro

From October 2003 to the end of 2004 the Reserveteillager – a disused spare part warehouse – at Phoenix West will be host to the events and exhibitions of hartware medien kunst verein. Phoenix West is a redundant blast furnace site in Dortmund-Hörde. The 2.000 square meter "Reserveteillager" has been recently redeveloped and is now in use as a multifunctional event hall of "dortmund-project" and thus is also at the disposal of hartware.

The first hartware medien kunst verein project at Phoenix West is the exhibition games. Computer games by artists, which takes place from October 11 till November 30, 2003 an which is based on a concept by the media art theorist Tilman Baumgärtel (Berlin). "games" seeks to display the varied range of artistic approaches to the phenomenon of computer games with nearly 30 exemplary works of art.

On Sunday, October 12 several artists will be available to personally present their work at the exhibition. Additionally, the artist Olaf Val (Cologne) will run a workshop for young people within the context of the exhibition. There will also be a film and lecture program (21 - 23 November), which sets about addressing the issues involved in computer games and film.

A catalogue will accompany the exhibition. It will be presented towards the end of the exhibition.

Concept

games seeks to display the varied range of artistic approaches to the phenomenon of computer games with nearly 30 exemplary works of art. Thus, it addresses a subject, which has intensely occupied the young media art scene over the past few years.

In the works shown commercial computer games such as, "Pong", "Jet Set Willy", "Super Mario", "Tetris", "Quake" or "Counter Strike", have been modified in various ways. Their visual aesthetics as well as their functions have been tampered with. In addition to games that can be played on computers and consoles the exhibition also encompasses installations, videos, objects and graphics. The range of artistic strategies displayed in the exhibition spans from the adaptation of the programming code to the manipulation of the hardware through to the "translation" of digital scenes and motifs into the language of analogue visual media and objects.

All works shown in the exhibition display a constructive rather than simply reactive approach towards the hardware and software of the rapidly expanding computer games industry. The artists utilise the given standards, whilst at the same time deconstructing them with subversive gestures and infusing them with new meanings.

The works deal with different aspects of computer games: for example their binary logic of winning/loosing or on the assumed predictability of the game’s outcome. Also, the flexibility of role and identity allocation is examined within game scenarios. Other works concentrate on the creation of an alternative reality in the 3D-space of computer-generated game scenes (and thus on the interaction between simulation and reality) or question the apparent unequivocalness of hard and software, the console and computer and even the infallible black box. 


A project by
hartware medien kunst verein +
medien_kunst_netz dortmund

in co-operation with
dortmund-project +
LEG - Landesentwicklungsgesellschaft NRW GmbH

Concept and idea
Tilman Baumgärtel

Curated by
Tilman Baumgärtel, Hans D. Christ, Iris Dressler

Assistants
Katrin Mundt, Silke Albrecht

Technics
Hans D. Christ, Uwe Gorski

Graphic Design
labor b, Dortmund

Courtesy
The artists
Shanghart Gallery, Shanghai
TEAM Gallery, Manhattan
Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM), Karlsuhe

Supported by
Kulturstiftung des Bundes
Ministerium für Städtebau und Wohnen, Kultur und Sport des Landes NRW
Kulturbüro Stadt Dortmund
LAG Soziokultur NRW
The British Council
Fonds Soziokultur (Rahmenprogramm)
Heinrich Böll-Stiftung NRW (Rahmenprogramm)

Sponsors
DEW, Dortmunder Energie und Wasser
Haubner Siebdruck Atelier

Media Partner
Marabo




Works


Julien Alma/ Laurent Hart (FR), Borderland, 2001          

”Borderland” is based on video game duels such as ”Tekken” or ”Mortal Kombat”. Whereas superheroes or pop icons such as the Shaolin or the pro-wrestler are usually the combatants in these games, Laurent Hart and Julien Alma use completely ordinary people as the characters in their lovingly produced, detailed CD-ROM work: old ladies, tramps, workmen, white and black teenagers – run-of-the-mill characters who square up to fight each other against the backdrop of the suburbs of Paris that have become a desolated no-man’s land. 55 characters can fight each other in 280 settings – e.g. rubbish tips, car parks and building sites. While these settings are akin to the post-apocalyptic scenarios of numerous computer games, the characters look like an ironic comment on the unchanging muscle-bound supermen that usually feature in games of this kind. At the same time, what shines through the humorous surface is a picture of society in which everyone fights everyone else – and be it little pigtailed girls fighting businessmen with briefcases.
(Tilman Baumgärtel)        

Cory Arcangel (US), Super Mario Clouds, 2002          

http://www.beigerecords.com/cory/21c/21c.html
”Super Mario Clouds” is based on the ”Super Mario” game for Nintendo’s NES game console. Cory Arcangel hacked the game and modified it so that all that remains of the game are the white clouds on a blue sky. Gone is the main character, Super Mario, who the player had to guide through a labyrinth in the original jump and run game, just like the obstacles, landscapes and opponents that lend the game its narrative structure. Those people who are familiar with the game can imagine them on the empty background, everyone else will just see the cartoon-like display of a sky. The work was created on the basis of a manipulation of the hardware and software. Cory Arcangel had to open the cartridge, on which the game was stored, and replace the Nintendo graphics chip with a chip on which he had burned a program he had written himself. Cory Arcangel is a member of the Beige Programming Ensemble who have focused their artistic programme on the hacking ethic of manipulating existing technology, thereby taking the modification of legacy technology to absurd extremes: the group have published computer programs pressed on records and organise an annual competition for ”cassette disk jockeys”.
(Tilman Baumgärtel)

Tom Betts, (GB), qqq, 2002            

http://www.nullpointer.co.uk
The Quake mod ”QQQ” focuses on reality in modern computer games, simulated with photorealistic precision. The increasingly detailed 3D animation in these games creates a three-dimensional illusion that makes them fascinating, complete parallel worlds.
By manipulating Quake’s graphics engine, Betts breaks open and dynamises the hermetically perceived surfaces of the game architecture, transforming them into free moving graphical elements and flowing patches of colour that are constantly joining together to create new abstract patterns. QQQ is presented as an installation and can be played online in the exhibition room. This links the game to the actions of other Quake players in the net who, in turn, influence the game and thus the deconstruction of the graphical interfaces. This lends a performative aspect to the work, that extends it beyond the exhibition room.
(Katrin Mundt)

Pash Buzari (DE), modificazione ps1, 2000            

Pash Buzari’s installation “modificazione ps1” consists of a five-minute video loop and a series of photographs.
Taking a look at the video, the first thing you see is two L-shaped constructions. They are moving against a background that looks like blinds with light coming through. In a colour-distorted, blurry episode from the console game Wipeout, a flying object flies over a virtual landscape. A motif of three blurred bodies appears like a painting by Rothko. Coming into focus, we see three square blocks. They start moving, rotating once around their own axis. The constructions seen at the beginning appear again, this time coloured black. They slide to and fro in front of a slightly curved chequered pattern. Then the loop starts.
A lamp casts light on the photographs. Some are of buildings, reminiscent of Bauhaus: a hangar by Jean Prouvé, a Russian test laboratory from the twenties. Next to it an aerial photo of fields on a wide plain, forming a chequered pattern, and the impression of a painting based on an interference pattern.
The photos do not explain the film. Rather, both – the film and the photos – link up to the broad subject in between. What forms do we move in? What are the constructions and the building forms that create the artistic objects of our world? How are they manifested on the surface? The jagged forms of the virtual space shuttle and the smooth aluminium shell of a hangar both have the same intention. Wherever constructions are made there is a calculated world spanning its pattern of co-ordinates, lines and grids over the objects. The calculations behind things serve the purpose of being confused with the reality of a movement.
(Stefan Heidenreich)            
                   

Leon Cmielewski/ Josephine Starrs (AU), Bio-Tek Kitchen, 1999        

http://www.sysx.org/leon/mirror/biotek/index.html
“Bio-Tek Kitchen” (1999) by the Australian artist duo Leon Cmielewski and Josephine Starrs is based on the first-person shooter game “Marathon Infinity”. By manipulating the software, the artists modified the interface of the game so that players no longer find themselves in the martial, futuristic setting of the original, but rather in the biotech kitchen of a hobby lab technician. Instead of bloodthirsty opponents, players combat genetically manipulated and mutated vegetables that turn out to be part of a global conspiracy to take control of the entire food chain. Their weapons are cleaning rags and kitchen utensils. Only the sound, the game structure and a few graphical elements (e.g. the score bar) are references to the original game.
Cmielewski and Starrs demonstrate a mixture of scepticism, irony and enthusiasm regarding the possibilities that new technologies offer for games.
By modifying a current game interface, the artists succeed in parodying the entire genre. At the same time, they re-evaluate typical game horror scenarios by alluding to what can get out of control as a result of human manipulation.
(Silke Albrecht)

Arcangel Constantini (MX), Atari-Noise, 2000        

http://www.atari-noise.com
The ”Atari 2600” was one of the most successful game consoles of all times. The system, launched in 1977, was one of the first game machines for which cartridges with new games were constantly being produced. Twenty-five million units are believed to have been sold up to 1991. Arcangel Constantini hacked the antiquated gaming device, that you can buy cheap today on the flea market, and converted it into an ”audio-visual noise pattern generator keyboard” (Constantini). The artist thus combined several elements of the game console in order to allow the user to generate chaotically distorted images at the push of a button; these images have about as much to do with the original computer gaming interface as the sound of a guitar string has to do with one of Jimi Hendrix’s feedback solos. This deconstruction of ”visual raw material” is not only part of a long, modernist tradition of alienating and modifying found images, but also alludes to one of the most seminal works of media art: Nam June Paik’s ”Videosynthesizer” (1972). While Paik had to hire the engineer Shuya Abe to develop a machine that allowed you to manipulate moving images in real time, ”Atari Noise” reflects a media culture in which the necessary hardware is available as electronic scrap.
(Tilman Baumgärtel)

Vuk Cosic (SI), The ASCII Unreal, 1999        

http://www.ljudmila.org/%7Evuk/ascii/unreal
For his level of ”Unreal”, Vuk Cosic removed all the concrete elements of the three-dimensional space, replacing them with surfaces consisting of letters of the Cyrillic alphabet. The work, created for the ”Synreal” exhibition of the Viennese T0 media art project, thus demonstrates the absurdity of the perfectionism with which three-dimensional reality is represented in most first-person shooter games. At the same time, it confronts current high-end computer graphics with the history of computer screen display: until the nineteen-nineties, standard computers had an interface limited to green letters on a black background. As a member of the ASCII Art Ensemble (together with Walter van der Cruijsen and Luka Frelih) he developed works at the end of the nineteen-nineties that transformed moving and stationary images into wastelands of letters (ASCII is the standard computer character set). Thereby they transported into the art scene a practice of hacking that dated from a time when computers did not as yet have graphical interfaces, linking these with a tradition of scripts and visual or ”concrete” poetry that dates back to antiquity.
(Tilman Baumgärtel)
             

Aurélien Froment (FR), Fury, 1998-2000            

Aurélien Froment’s video work "Fury" was not created in the context of an exploration of the computer game genre but rather of action film. We are witnesses to fighting that takes place in a cleared warehouse. Blood has already flowed and some of the "tough guys" have already hit the floor. The others are facing off with unmistakable gestures and expressions of belligerence. But the scene is frozen, suspended in this moment of total tension, just seconds before the next round of slaughter takes place before our eyes. The camera like an invisible, weightless eye, it traverses and encircles the adversaries who, paralysed as they are, have the appearance of dumb comic figures. Only the occasional batting of an eyelid or the tiniest of movements reveals that the guys are "real" and have met up in this "tableau vivant". Even if this is clearly an analysis of the language of action films, "Fury" still displays a decisive change of perspective between film and computer game, a change long found in cinema: the viewers – by means of an illusory identification with the camera eye – navigate as if independently through the scene. Inversely, games such as "Max Payne" have drawn on the image language of action films, the focus of "Fury".
(Iris Dressler)          

fuchs-eckermann (AT/UK), fluID - arena of identities, 2003        
http://www.t0.or.at/~fuchs-eckermann
The work, presented in the form of an installation, is a level mod of the multi-user game Unreal Tournament. It focuses on the flexibility of identities in computer games and the relationship between the player and the character. The total convergence of both, that is one of the pre-conditions for immersion into the game world, becomes a determining factor of the action.
At the start of the game, the users do not have any distinguishing features at all (e.g. face, gender or clothing) and are faced with the task of creating an identity during the course of the game. At locations such as ”The River of Permanent Change”, ”Narciss’s Lake” or in ”The Laboratory of Style”, players can assume individual features, reflect or replicate themselves. But they can also lose their identity, for example if they cannot resist the temptation of narcissistic self-reflection. Tools such as the ”fluID SkinGun” also allow the players to steal others’ identities. Thus, the chosen ego is asserted, negotiated and disputed in the confrontation of others and one’s own self-image. ”fluiID - arena of identities” was conceived as a commissioned work for Selfware, a series of events during graz03.
(Katrin Mundt)

Beate Geissler / Oliver Sann (DE), Shooter (2000 - 2001)            
http://www.autokill.org/shooter/
The two-part work “Shooter” by the artist duo Geissler and Sann consists of a video and photo documentation of LAN parties organised by the artists in their studio over a period of a year and a half. Both the video sequences and the photo documentations show the players front-on against a neutral background from a constant camera angle.
The video, on show at the exhibition, observes the players during a fight scene, i.e. while they are killing or getting killed in the virtual world of the network while sitting in the same room as their adversaries. The video shows moments of intense concentration of a temporary tension characterised by inner drama. According to the artists, “The viewer … witnesses a life-and-death game with no consequences”.
“Shooter” presents a test set-up with which to analyse the human relation to real and virtual spaces and the associated gestures and facial expressions. At the same time, the artists question the function of the real body and the game of identities with reference to New Technologies.
The specially installed web site features a documentation and a guest book in which the portrayed players can leave their comments.
(Silke Albrecht)          

Margarete Jahrmann / Max Moswitzer, LinX3D, 1999            
http://linx3d.konsum.net
Via a console interface styled on early arcade games, the multi-user game LinX3D links players with participants who can log in online. The console players are monitored by a surveillance camera and integrated live into the game’s 3D environment in the form of "ASCII faces". The online players, on the other hand, appear as ASCII logfiles (net logs). Alone or together, the online and onsite players can beat the various levels of the 3D game, which, also in the form of a text display, are based on a story by "Techgnosis" author Erik Davis.
LinX3D reflects on various parameters of new information and communication technologies. For example, it symbolically challenges the hyper-realism of sophisticated 3D games, that demands fast and powerful computers, by applying skins consisting of the far more economic ASCII code. The game also focuses on the problem of self-representation on the net by turning the figure of the apparently anonymising avatar into an open book of individual net behaviour, equating the net log with the surveillance camera image.
(Iris Dessler)

Jodi (ES), Jet Set Willy Variations c1984, 2001-2002        
http://jetsetwilly.jodi.org
”Jet Set Willy” consists of ten variations on the computer game ”Jet Set Willy” that was launched in the eighties for one of the first home computers, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. The code has been modified in such a way that although the basic functions of the game are the same, the on-screen graphics are often reminiscent of the abstract paintings of such artists as Mondrian or Peter Halley. Other variations incorporate elements of the computer code. ”Jet Set Willy”, presented in the exhibition as a ”non-interactive” DVD version, is the third work by Jodi to focus on a computer game. While ”SOD” and ”Untitled Game” are based on relatively recent games from the nineties, ”Jet Set Willy” harks back to the history of gaming. The work is written in BASIC, a programming language now in danger of becoming extinct. ”Jet Set Willy” is also Jodi’s homage to the culture of hobby game programmers in the eighties, when it was mainly teenagers developing games, including all the music and graphics, single-handedly on the first home computers, a development that is one of the best examples of the libertarian do-it-yourself ethic of the early computer subculture, a mainstay of Jodi’s work.
(Tilman Baumgärtel)        

Jodi (ES), SOD, 1999            
http://sod.jodi.org
Jodi were among the first artists to ”discover” computer games as an object for artistic manipulation: as early as 1997, the artist duo, who originally gained fame for their Internet work, took advantage of the possibility of modifying ”Quake” by morphing the game’s three-dimensional spaces into white noise. By means of their deconstruction, Jodi drew attention to the fact that the system code is the most current manifestation of the normative power of fact. Likewise in ”SOD”, Jodi took all the representative elements out of the ”Wolfenstein 3-D” game, leaving nothing but silhouettes and black squares. As a result, the game, that – like ”Quake” – comes from the US company ”ID Software”, known for their brutal first-person shooters, looks like an animated Op-Art picture in which you can roam around. Hence, this radical manipulation impacted on a game whose various original versions – with their Nazi henchmen, swastikas and violence – had set off heated debates, particularly in Germany, on what should be allowed on computer screens and what not.
(Tilman Baumgärtel)            
                   

Joan Leandre (ES), retroYou nostalG, 2003        

http://www.retroyou.org
”retroYou nostalG” is based on a commercial flight simulator whose graphical interface and functions have been drastically modified with the game’s integrated editor. The basic parameters for navigation and three-dimensional orientation, from the relief structure of the ground to laws of gravity and instrument control functions, have been largely rendered inoperative with the effect that a structured recognition of space and movement in it become practically impossible.
Joan Leandre thereby frustrates the expectation that takes a meaningful interaction with the computer game for granted. In a second step, he thus prompts the user to decode the seemingly meaningless functions of the machine and, if possible, to learn them – whether by means of systematic research or trial and error. At the same time, the manipulation of the three-dimensional structure of this game shatters the illusionistic potential of 3D animated computer game worlds and thus naive trust in their basis in reality.
(Katrin Mundt)
        

Mister Ministeck Norbert Bayer, DE

http://www.misterministeck.de
Norbert Bayer’s artistic material consists of colourful plastic Ministeck bricks which – pressed onto plug-on boards – were extremely popular with old and young alike above all in the nineteen-seventies and eighties. According to the maxim “Everyone is an artist”, the system disregarded the lack of artistic freedom in copying existing pictures. Mister Ministeck takes advantage of this principle: his themes are for the most part icons from the world of computers, and he translates the digital pixels into bright and cheerful Ministeck pictures. For example in the “Touchscreens” series based on screenshots from C 64 games, the pixel structure of the first home computers from the nineteen-eighties materialises in plastic bricks. By transforming the original digital pictures into the analog form of Ministeck, Bayer reduces both systems to their inherent conditions and structures.
(Silke Albrecht)

Mongrel / Richard Pierre-Davis (UK), BlackLash, 1998        

”BlackLash” deploys the learned structures of simple shooter games to formulate political criticism. In this completely self-programmed game, one aim is to defend yourself against swastika-adorned spiders, racist policemen and Ku Klux Klan members. Richard Pierre-Davis is a member of the British artist group Mongrel, whose work reflects on Great Britain’s multicultural reality. The various levels in the game are themed on computer game classics from the nineteen-seventies (e.g. ”Tempest” and ”Space Invaders”). The role you choose at the start of the game determines the possible routes through an ”urban warzone”. However, because the characters available to the player are black cliché figures (e.g. ”Crime Lord” or ”Lover”), the game is more ambivalent that it would seem at first glance. With a soundtrack by Wu-Tang-Clan, the game aims to gain acceptance among young people. Richard Davis: ”It also aims to encourage the black community through game culture that it is possible to break into different areas apart from music, and create games that have got something to say.”
(Tilman Baumgärtel)

Volker Morawe/ Tilman Reiff (DE), PainStation, 2001        

http://www.khm.de/~morawe/painstation/painstation_ger.html
As part of the artist collective //////////fur////, the two media artists Volker Morawe and Tilman Reiff developed “PainStation” at the Academy of Media Arts (KHM) in Cologne in 2001. In the subtitle of the work, the artists describe their work as a “modern-day duelling artefact”, so it is not surprising that the console is based on the “mediaeval” game of “Pong”. As in a duel, two opponents face off at the table-top console; they cannot choose their weapons themselves but rather are confronted with three different repressive measures depending on the progress of the game: heat, electric shocks or lashes of the whip.
If one of the players misses the ball during the game, thereby allowing it to touch one of the paint inflictor symbols (PIS) behind the “bat”, the painful consequence of this failure is immediate: depending on the symbol, the player’s hand is maltreated for varying durations and with varying at degrees of severity. In an ironic, subversive way, Morawe and Reiff unmask the common practice of games as a contemporary duelling method in which a virtual game turns into painful reality.
(Silke Albrecht)

Anne-Marie Schleiner / Brody Condon/ Joan Leandre et al., Velvet-Strike, 2001        

http://www.opensorcery.net/velvet-strike/screenshots.html
”Velvet Strike” was created in response to the belligerent, vindictive atmosphere in the USA in the wake of the 9-11 attacks. The work is a manipulation of ”Counterstrike”, an immensely popular game at the time, in which players fight each other with paramilitary characters over a network. The close combat that was the hallmark of the game bore more than a cursory, visual similarity to the wars that were waged, first on Afghanistan then on Iraq, in response to the attacks, and the first ”Counterstrike” mods featuring Osama Bin Laden characters and Middle East scenarios soon appeared. ”Velvet Strike” reacted to these crude, propagandist modifications with its own pacifist ”sprays” submitted through the Internet by gamers from all over the world. ”Sprays” are little graphics that – similar to graffiti tags – you can spray on walls in the various ”Counterstrike” scenarios. The sprays range from simple ”Make Love Not War” messages to graphics reminiscent of political agitations à la John Heartfield. They show that even the apparently military logic of games such as ”Counterstrike” is not invulnerable to subversive reworkings.
(Tilman Baumgärtel)
       
             

Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag (DE), ratio agendi#3 - PONG, 1999-2003             

Entwicklung Installation/Hardware/Software: J-P Sonntag, Thomas Plöntzke, Frider Weiß
In “ratio agendi# 3”, PONG / Teletennis is the matrix of an interactive setting. On the game level, two players can interact physically, albeit without contact, in real space. A video beamer projects the minimalist screen display of PONG onto the floor of the exhibition room. The projected field is monitored by a motion tracking system. A stylised tennis umpire chair is installed on the edge of the court, alongside a flat screen displaying the score. The abstract simplicity of the interface and the sound and the limited movements of the two bars1 representing the actors, that can only be moved on one axis, constitute the physical court on which the two people can play with/against each other as if on a tennis court. In this only supposed re-transformation of the game of tennis, the players’ physical movement is subject to the rules of the historical video game.
The extension of the classic game into real space, made possible with the aid of contemporary technology, allows the players to use two dimensional axes by retaining the reduced look of the game based on the chip technology of the nineteen-seventies: the axis marked by bar as a three-dimensional divider of the rackets/player reference, and the axis of the real player in three-dimensional space.
(Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag)            

SF Invader (FR), Space Invader, since 1999            

http://www.space-invaders.com
The "Space Invader"– one of the most successful arcade games, developed as early as 1978, strikes back. In the form of mosaics of ceramic tiles, the pixelised aggressors have been spreading to numerous cities in the public space in Europe, the USA, Asia and Australia since 1999, occupying strategic points in the process. Façades, motorway bridges and street signs, the Louvre, the Brooklyn bridge and even the famous Hollywood signet have been infested.
An artist operating under the pseudonym "SF Invader", always well camouflaged, is behind these attacks – or is at least the tool of this extraterrestrial conspiracy.
On the Invader's web site, a map of the world illustrates the real magnitude of the invasion. "Protect’em" is the mission offered to us. Them? Mustn't we protect ourselves from this epidemic? For every city successfully conquered, the classical Invader display shows the number of occupied locations and the resulting score. Every infiltrated place is meticulously documented by photos, videos, city maps or aerial photos.
The alien power is funded by donations and merchandising. T-shirts, invasion kits, stickers and much more are intended to make the invasion uncontrollable.
(Iris Dressler)          
                   

Thomson & Craighead (UK), Triggerhappy, 1998        

http://www.triggerhappy.org
”Triggerhappy” is both a piece of practised post-structuralist literature theory and a comment on computer information processing. The starting point for the work by the British artist couple Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead is the classic arcade game ”Space Invaders”. Instead of shooting at a fleet of alien spaceships gradually coming closer, which was the idea of the original game, here the player aims his gun at quotations from the essay ”What is an author?” by Michel Foucault, which disappear word by word whenever the player hits. The text, that critically analyses the figure of the author, is thus literally deconstructed. The work treats the text as a piece of animated concrete poetry in which the digital writing becomes a graphical object whose slow decomposition has a special visual attraction. But ”firing” and ”clicking” is also to be seen as a metaphor of ”reading” in the WorldWideWeb, which more often than not also consists in aimless clicking on the Internet hypertext. A slightly modified version of the work, which is on show at the exhibition on a video console, can also be seen on the Internet.
(Tilman Baumgärtel)

Olaf Val (DE), SwingUp Games, 2001

”Three plastic films that can be installed variably as transparent room dividers form the basis for three computer games. The players can move the only bright dot of light right and left using the keyboard. Faint dots of light oscillate up and down at constant intervals on the three shrink-wrapped vertical chains of lights according to the principle of a running light. The aim of the game is to activate the oscillating lights so that they move the bright dot of light right up to the top. SwingUp games are designed in such a way that they can be easily transported and installed… SwingUp games are intended to act as a hub of communication within a wide audience (…). The works are reminiscent of the first pocket-format computer games launched in the nineteen-eighties, games that still coexist as cheap products alongside Game Boys and mobile phone games. In these games, the game structure and theme are usually directly linked by labelling the illuminated panels with icons. In SwingUp games, in contrast, the structure of the game is formally separated from the theme of the game as an abstract play of lights. The setting, the background of the transparent areas becomes the theme of the game.”
(Olaf Val)        

Yang Zhenzhong (CN), 922 Rice Corns, 1999        

This video work looks into the question as to the fine dividing-line between ”game” and ”reality”. It displays a hen and a cock pecking at a heap of rice grains. A static camera films the activity while at the bottom of the screen a digital display shows both animals ”points” and the total number of rice grains eaten so far. Parallel to this, a male and a female voice announce the animals’ scores from off screen.
Yang Zhenzhong enacts what is essentially a trivial situation in the form of a game by subjecting it to a quantified logic of the hen vs. cock competition. The framework of the situation presented by the camera view creates a difference between the ”field” and its exterior, thus defining the game as such. However, the two rivals undermine this set-up by leaving the field prematurely – ”against the rules” – without having eaten up all the rice grains. The video, however, insists on continuing the given dramaturgy: undeterred, the two off-screen voices carry on counting the remaining grains and adding them to the total score on behalf of the ”spoilsports”.
(Katrin Mundt)        
               

Lars Zumbansen (DK), X and Directional Button UP, 2000-2002        

This work turns Lara Croft, heroine of the popular Tomb Raider game series, into a modern-day Sisyphus. In the video loops, Lara – who went from game character to become a much discussed media phenomenon with her own series of films in the nineteen-nineties – attempts again and again to overcome an obstacle or pull herself up onto a ledge. Again and again she slips and has to start again. The enigmatic title ”X and Directional Button UP” explains how the work was created: Lars Zumbansen locked the ”X” and ”UP” control keys of the Playstation game console with a screw-clamp in such a way that Lara, the virtual marionette, is always doomed to fail to overcome the barrier in front of her. Hence, the work focuses on the moment of failure that the player tries to avoid, thereby morphing the linear order of the game into an almost meditative vicious circle. Lars Zumbansen: ”Public perception is aimed… at Lara’s iconicity, her surface that signifies ‘femaleness’… However, the repetitive sequence of actions and the protagonist’s (titanic) tenacity reveal the automaton-like nature of the computer game icon beneath the anthropomorphic façade.”
(Tilman Baumgärtel)

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