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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 of Sweden

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