Since the mid-twentieth century the scientists working on the development of computational technologies have created simple games and simulations to help them create and test out the rules of computer programming. From the university and military laboratories, games infiltrated the mainstream circulation around 1970s. The first TV gaming console – the Brown box – was designed in 1967 by the german-born US engineer Ralph Baer. However it wasn’t until 1975 when Pong, the game produced by Atari started to be available at the market and games have become a subject of massive interest causing a real revolution in the popular culture. Nowadays the gaming industry is not only a dynamically evolving sphere of electronic entertainment, gaining profits, but also a rich source of references and inspirations for contemporary media artists.
The thematic program devoted to games was developed within the framework of the Sebastian Schmieg’s residency in the WRO Art Center – a German artist and a scholar of the Goethe-Institut, who has run workshops on countergaming strategies Doing It Wrong. The documentation of these activities has been included in the program that features international works created between 2000-2009 and differently referring to or employing the phenomenon of games: starting from a biting analysis of such a form of entertainment (Janek Koza, Mauro Ceolino) and machinima strategies – using animations, characters or code taken from the games (Ulf Kristiansen, Dorota Chilińska), through the incorporation of elements of games’ graphical interfaces into video image, through the use of consoles as audiovisual instruments (Gameboyzz Orchestra Project) to the creation of artistic conceptual games (Igor Krenz, Laurent Vincente, Aga Klepacka).
Igor Krenz / Find the Exact Number of Details / 2000 / PL / 11’17”
An intellectual, conceptual entertainment, full of subversive humor, in the form of a simple video recording. It is part of a bigger series, in which the artist, on the white wall of his studio, explores different aspects of reality using banal everyday objects, arranged in an unexpected manner or suddenly becoming the subject of further analysis.
Mikro Orchestra (ex Gameboyzz Orchestra Project) / The Greatest Electronic Swindle /
2005 / PL / 4’25”
An entertaining, lo-fi performance, directed at electronic scene as chasing after technological progress. Pastiche, remix and kitsch are key elements of the game played with the audience, the purpose of which is to revive refuse technology with archaic 8-bit game consoles as a tool. By using them, the GBZZ artists created original, recognizable retro-sound and game-based visual layer. The premiere of the project took place during the 9th Media Art Biennale WRO 01 in 2001 that began their international career later. The documentation of the performance “The Greatest Electronic Swindle”, featuring an artwork from the game Super Mario Land (1989), was made during the WRO 05 at the Contemporary Theatre in Wrocław.
Agata Klepacka / Pile-up box / 2008 / PL / 53”
Sound installation in the form of a jukebox. Slot machine plays selected tracks and create new, noise variations by overlapping several songs.
Marco Celin / RGB WEBROIDS 2 / 2009 / IT / 1’33”
The video game is not only an entertainment, but also a form of communication. The artist uses it as a language to describe the reality. “RGBwebroids2” is not a surrealistic videogame. It describes a real web-social scenery. Ceolin describes this Internet war with his favourite language: the videogame. This media allows the artist to describe facts, real situations with a brief, fast and ironic language which everybody can understand.
Sebastian Schmieg, WROcenter Group / Doing It Wrong / 2014 / PL / 15’34”
Doing it wrong workshop, lead by Sebastian Schmieg, was an opportunity to find out what gamification is. By using gaming strategies and patterns in everyday situations in a non-game context, the way of thinking of people involved in certain undertakings can be changed; they can also engage more in what they do. After a short theoretical introduction, practical activities had started. The participants designed prototypes of their own games and gamification strategies with the use of analog (eg. cards, boards, scenarios) as well as digital tools (eg. apps, social media).
Dawid Marcinkowski / Sufferrosa / 2007 / PL / 4’44”
Interactively led narrative of the film “Sufferrosa” has a game structure, in which the user roams around his or her own personal tour, creating a peculiar version of the story from the subsequently activated video sequences. This multidimensional, audiovisual collage referring to Jean-Luc Godard’s movie “Alphaville” (1965), derives from the American crime fiction, silent cinema and aesthetics of the music videos. Surreal storyline, full of clichés, is a pretext to reflect on the cult of youth and the fear of death in the contemporary world, which begins to age rapidly.
Dorota Chilińska / FPS First-Person-Shooter / 2009 / PL / 7’50”
First-Person Shooter is a computer game, in which the player controls the character by looking through his or her eyes. The figure, fitted with various types of weapons, wanders through the subsequent rooms and levels. The action of the FPS-like games often takes place in an abandoned, industrial spaces, and their – usually primitive – plot serves merely as a pretext for discharging of aggression. In the work, the reality, which is filmed with a video camera, imitates a digitally generated scenery of the game. The selected method of filming and the subjective perspective of looking through the graphic object superimposed on the video – the weapon that the viewer/player is using – makes the line between the real space and the scenery of the game blur.
Harald Holba, Elke Mayr / Game Over / 2002 / AT / 7’43”
A video work with added layer of graphic user-interface of a video game, that comments the current development of the events. Smooth buzzing sound of a microwave oven accompanies a young couple having dinner in their kitchen. During a microwave defrost cycle, their harmless conversation evolves into a quarell. The content of the picture is clearly defined by its structurre. Animated graphic elements inform about the current mood of the protagonistst, about the time remaining till the end of the video, about the different layers of story line. The quarell escalates and is directly influencing the quality of sound and image, the visual information dissapeares then suddenly. Left is only the conflict itself, which got out of control, till the moment when the sound of microwave oven ends the video and the defrost function.
Janek Koza / Gra (from the series Welcome in Cybersex) / 2001 / PL / 3’10”
An ironic vision of the new aesthetics and conventions. The work depicts a marriage shaped by the iconography of glossy magazines, the aesthetics of computer games and the media convention – familiar from countless talk shows – of the uninhibited personal confession.
Ulf Kristiansen / Utstillingen (The Art of Reception) / 2006 / NP / 11’28”
A machinima is an animation technique, in which the computer games graphic or engines generating it, are used to create other animated works that are kept in the computer games aesthetic. “Utstillingen” (The Art of Reception), the first movie made by Ulf Kristiansen, is a machinima black comedy about artistic failure. A figurative painter holds an art reception. The critics and the audience are less than impressed by his art project and they tell him so. He does not take the criticism well. He looses his mind completely and starts hallucinating before passing out. In his dreams he gets his revenge. But dreams are short-lived.
Laurent Vincente / Unreal Doubres / 2004 / FR / 1’40
Short video sequences, which on the example of urban extreme sport, i.e. skateboarding, presents Doubre – the idea of the disappearance of things. Effective tricks, such as jumps, slides or spins, are recorded in the style of the amateur skateboard performances, held in the city space. In the work, the convention of this arcade game and its proper context are affected: the skateboard, as the key prop, disappears and these are the private interiors, domestic appliances and non-obvious elements of urban space that become the parker for practicing skate tricks. In this new game, each element can be activated and become part of it.