Indepth Arts News: |
"Contemporary Artists' Exploration of Games"
2001-05-27 until 2002-04-30
North Adams, MA,
USA United States of America
Throughout the 20th century, the world of games - with its inversions of mastery, dependence on chance, and
reliance on both verbal and physical play - has intrigued and inspired
visual artists. With its new exhibition Game Show, opening on May 27, 2001,
MASS MoCA presents the first major exhibition to explore how artists have
adapted game structures and themes in their work. Game Show will focus on
the proliferation of artists' games during the 1990s, concentrating on new
media work, and including pieces by Sophie Calle, Perry Hoberman, Natalie
Bookchin, Christian Jankowski, Uri Tzaig, Christoph Draeger, and Chris
Finley. In addition, MASS MoCA has commissioned a new work by Kay Rosen for
the exhibition with the working title The Sight and Sound of Music, a vast
site-specific word game.
Game Show also features a performing arts series that will include events
with Philip Glass, Yasuko Yokoshi, Shirin Neshat, and Paul Auster and Sophie
Calle, among others. MASS MoCA is also publishing a comprehensive catalogue
to complement the 13,000-square foot exhibition.
Game Show is sponsored by The Porches Inn. Additional funding for Game Show
is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Although the concepts of chance, rule systems, and play are at the heart of
20th century philosophy and critical thought, the role of games in the
visual and performing arts has been left virtually unexplored. MASS MoCA's
Game Show is the first exhibition to bring together many of the diverse and
innovative works that take the richness of games as their starting point.
This timely exhibition reveals the broad appeal and pervasiveness of games,
and looks at the special role that new media plays in recent game-based art.
Game Show is divided into three sections, each featuring works in which the
artist plays a different role.
* Games Artists Orchestrate
In these works, artists create or manipulate a game that others play. In
Uri Tzaig's Universal Square for example, the artist invited two soccer
teams (one made up of Jewish Israelis, the other Arab Israelis) to take
part in an unusual soccer game. While their play was governed by the
standard rules of soccer, Tzaig stipulated the teams were to conduct the
game with two balls. This shifted the emphasis of the game from winning to
playing, and forced players to create entirely new rules. Tzaig's game
allowed these two teams to interact in a space (the Universal Square of the
playing field) removed from their conflict-ridden reality.
* Games Artists Play
The works in this section of the exhibition are original games that the
artist has played. Double Game is a bizarre and convoluted collaboration
between artist Sophie Calle and novelist Paul Auster. Double Game has three
parts. First, since the early 1980s, Calle has set up elaborate
role-playing games for herself and documented them with photographs, texts,
and installations. These projects inspired Auster to create a fictional
character named Maria in his novel Leviathan that was based on the real-life
Calle's work. Maria played several of the same games as Calle (such as
hiring a detective to tail her) as well as games of Auster's creation (such
as eating food of only one color each day of the week). For the second part
of Double Game Calle played and documented Maria's new games and for the
third part, Calle asked Auster to devise an additional set of games for her,
which they called the Gotham Handbook.
* Games Visitors Play
In this section of the exhibition, visitors are invited to participate in
interactive pieces in which they become part of the game completing the
work. One such work is a gargantuan site-specific word game that MASS MoCA
commissioned from Kay Rosen. A wall drawing will wrap around a 40'- tall,
130'-long gallery and will require the viewer to decode its visual puzzle.
In Perry Hoberman's Cathartic User Interface the frustrations of the digital
world are coupled with the joys of carnival games. Viewers throw koosh
balls at a very large computer screen, which allows them to navigate a
whimsical user interface when they hit the right areas of the screen.
In addition to the major Game Show installation, two special companion
exhibitions examine artists' games of the past century, adding a historical
dimension to the roots of today's art/game phenomenon.
The first exhibition, drawn largely from the Gilbert and Lila Silverman
Fluxus Foundation Collection, will focus on how Fluxus artists used wit,
love of language games, and a purposefully childlike approach in their
otherwise disparate work.
The second related exhibition will be the only U.S. showing of Öyvind
Fahlström, a comprehensive retrospective of this important artist's work
organized by the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA). Fahlström
(1928-1976) was a pioneer in the use of game structures and many of the
artists in Game Show were influenced by his highly original pieces. A
long-time resident of three nations, Fahlström was an advocate for social
justice and antiwar activist as well as an artist and poet. He worked in
numerous different media and created a new form of painting, called
variable painting, in which the viewer could rearrange Fahlström's works
in an infinite number of ways. This technique predated by 20 years the
current enthusiasm for interactivity in the art world. The Fahlström exhibit
will feature three of the artist's room-sized installations. Support for
the Fahlström exhibition is provided by the Barbro Osher Pro Sciecia
Foundation, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, and the Consulate General