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"Next Level: Art, Games and Reality"
2006-03-10 until 2006-06-18
Stedelijk Museum
Amsterdam, , NL

‘Turning Games into a New Kind of Art’: that was the headline in The New York Times on January 21, of an article about a games exhibition – and provides all the more proof that to an ever increasing degree digital games are part of popular culture. In addition, digital games unite multiple disciplines such as film, photography, theatre and architecture. The medium appears to have begun an unstoppable advance, and forces – or tempts – us to a redefinition of our everyday environment. In its exhibition ‘Next Level’, the Stedelijk Museum shows work by artists and designers who make the vocabulary of games their own, and provide us with their personal reflection on it. ‘Next Level: Art, Games & Reality’ runs through June 18, 2006, in Stedelijk Museum CS.

The realism of simulations has undergone an enormous development in a very short time. The visual language in digital games has become so natural that it almost transcends fiction. In some cases this permits this realism to lead a life of its own, and even justifies the question of whether the term ‘realism’ as we know it is still adequate. Sometimes reality and fiction can hardly be separated, and games provide us with a contemporary variant of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. The artists and designers of ‘Next Level’ pick up on this element and allow the visitor, in part through interactive elements, to see reality as this can be experienced in a game. The exhibition includes work by Persijn Broersen and Margit Lukacs, Brody Condon, Joes Koppers, Geert Jan Mulder and the GameKings.

Born in Mexico and presently living in the United States, Brody Condon is one of the most important artists who in his work is reacting to the content and graphics of video games. His Suicide Solution shows images from more than fifty ‘first person shooter’ games. Each time he shows the moment at which the player – the first person shooter – gets hit. The effect is both hilarious and eye-opening. The title of the work refers to the song of the same title by Ozzie Osbourne, who in 1984 was accused of being responsible for the suicide of an American teenager. In the work Karma Physics < Elvis he refers once again to the movements that are used in games. We see a floating Elvis Presley, gilding through space in slow motion like a curdled Barbie doll, making spasmodic movements. Condon’s Lamborghini Diabolo is based on the ‘Need for Speed’ games. The work shows a model of a sports car and is constructed as a skeleton of cast polyester elements. Brody Condon has shown at a number of museums including the Whitney in New York, and, in early 2006, at the Pace Wildenstein Gallery (New York). The authoritative art magazine Artforum has also devoted attention to his work.

The Dutch participants Persijn Broersen and Margit Lukacs, and Joes Koppers developed new work especially for this exhibition. Broersen and Lukacs have already become known with their video works. Joes Koppers developed a space in which the visitor can be part of an interactive game. The visitor is the ‘target’ and can be transformed and even destroyed by other visitors. Koppers plays with the fact that the majority of video games revolve around destroying as much as possible in order to achieve a goal. By allowing ‘real’ people to enter the reality of the game, he mixes our reality with the fiction of the game and demonstrates that the boundaries are becoming increasingly vague, especially seeing as games are becoming an increasingly important factor in our society. In the work Cargo Geert Jan Mulder shows the vacuity of driving a car. The GameKings, familiar from TMF and MTV, also seize upon elements from popular culture. Competition, pop music, violence as entertainment and interactivity are subjects with which they entice the viewer to form his or her own opinion about the game as a social phenomenon. They are exhibiting San Andreas, an edited version of the sensational Grand Auto Theft. By means of a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, or online role-playing) they seek to reveal the scale of the greatest modern game worlds. Their point of departure for this is World on Warcraft. In addition, the GameKings have made a selection of current Japanese games.

The Sandburg Hall of Stedelijk Museum CS is being rebuilt into a game lounge especially for the exhibition ‘Next Level: Art, Games & Reality’. Various educational projects will be taking place there.

Brody Condon
Karma Physics > Ram Dass, 2005

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