Curatorial text written for the exhibit Reactivate, (EN), Melbourne, Australia, october 2004
More than 40 years after the first computer game creation by hackers at the MIT, the Games Industry is in 2004 the most powerful leisure Industry. The Game Generation has overcome the TV Generation. Game culture and aesthetic are overwhelming our information society. So the question is: which type of content do we want to see in games? How do we succeed to give real content and messages to the future generations by the mean of games?
Games used to be created by impassioned computer scientists. Today, graphic designers, musicians, scenario writers and filmmakers participate to the creation of games. It opens new perspectives for the Game culture. We see also many encounters happening between games and cinema (Enter the matrix, Final Fantasy), music (REZ, State of Emergency) and graphic design (Wipe Out, GTAIII)…
A new generation of creators is born. This is the “home made” generation that grew up with video games, 3D & manga animation, Internet and electronic music. Their creations tend to break the frontiers between artistic disciplines from the traditional art world, to cinema, music, web, animation and games. Moviemakers become game designers, graphic designers become movie makers, multimedia engineers, video clips makers and musicians, multimedia authors.
These artists bring their particular sensibility and vision and participate to the renewal of the genre. It is true for the cinema seeing the actual emphasis around directors like Chris Cunningham or Michel Gondry, and it is also true for games.
After Duchamp, the Dadaists, the Situationists and the Fluxus movement, artists from the digital age are questioning the idea of play and game. They are also questioning notions like simulation, virtual reality and identity. All these notions first appeared in the military field but are now surrounding our post-war world. It is not surprising then, that the new generation of artists is using and subverting the codes and the rules of games and of reality simulation to express their visions.
The first purpose of Game Time is to facilitate the encounter between artists, game designers and the game industry. It aims also to bring this particular vision of games to a broader audience of a public space. It is interesting indeed to see how the audience reacts to this kind of interactivity and forms of play and to see if they are ready for another type of content.
The huge matter with artworks dealing with video games is that they often miss the fun characteristic of the game play. It is quiet difficult to find artistic games that gamers will enjoy to play. It is why the perception of the audience and the accessibility of the artworks in an instinctive way were at the origin of the choices of Game Time.
The second purpose of Game Time is to give some possible directions of the future of the cinema and storytelling with the support of interactive technologies: interactive fictions, series for Internet, movies taking the first person point of view from the games…
If editing was THE invention of the end of the 20th century, to quote Serge Daney, we can guess that new perspectives will emerge soon with digital editing and interactive proceedings.
The fictions presented in Game Time raise some questions, without giving any categorical answer: “is it possible to touch emotionally the viewer if he becomes an inter-actor”, “does interaction means mind participation?” “Do people want to interact? Or do they prefer to stay passive in the movie experience?”
Internet series and interactive fictions are presented here as experiments, as attempts to find new narrative forms.
If Cinema is dead as Peter Greenaway said in Bologna in 2001, what is its future? ‘I’m very pessimistic about the state of cinema now,’ he says, ‘which I think is boring and formulaic and predictable, but I’m very optimistic about what’s going to happen next.’ Cinema needs to be completely overhauled, he says, and now is the time. ‘We have all these brand new technologies, crying out for investigation and experimentation.’
With Time Code, released in 1999 by Mike Figgis, the Oscar nominated director and pioneer of digital cinema, he demonstrated his innovative filmmaking techniques. Time Code is an amazing experience driven by four simultaneous images. Your eyes move rapidly from screen to screen. You can’t be passive in watching this movie, because your eyes respond to movement or sound in one screen or another. Your mind constantly speculates on how the images relate to one another, both on the level of the narrative and of the theme.
So, this kind of movie might be seen more as an event or as a performance than as a traditional movie. And to go deeply in this experiment, he also performed in real-time a remix of Time Code in front of live audiences at the RotterdamFilmFestival (2002). Remixing the film 4 digital camera (operated by Mike Figgis, James O’Keefe, Tony Cucchiari and Patrick Alexander Stewart) that were all turned on simultaneously and ran on a common time code. In this kind of experience, the viewer is implicitly encouraged to fill the role of the editor.
Web animation and all the Internet series that appeared these last five years may be seen also as a new way of expression and creation. Very early, famous directors such as Tim Burton or David Lynch were the first to start to edit series on the web. It is truly a new way of writing that gives to the viewer a certain capacity to get its own interpretation of what he is seeing. Generative and interactive fictions can take forms as diverse as interactive music clips, audio games or sound toys, generative and interactive creation engines… They can be very abstract, minimalist, poetic or subversive but the form of the play keeps a major place, and the meaning waits for the next “click”, sound or image.
French creators have developed an original style and some famous teams have been recognised internationally. Without being able to give here any exhaustive list, I think of companies or collectives like Panoplie, Chman, Oeil pour Oeuil, Solotusk, Bechamel, Lecielestbleu, Subakt, Plokker, Incandescence, Hyptique… that developed a kind of “French touch” in web design, animation and interactive writing. Game Time presents some of their most recent works, but also some very new projects realised by young creators as Romain Deflache and Emmanuel Kodjo.
The screenings and video installations of Olga Kisseleva, Kolkoz, Martin Le Chevallier and Ultralab refer to the game and Internet culture but they purpose a reflection on questions of avatars, identity on the web or in games (roles, consoles, MMPG, network games), and investigate the intimate relationships between virtuality and reality and between the fake and the truth.
These works act as a fake 3D mirror for visitors and represent a time for contemplation. They are a breath in the rhythm of interaction. They create a space for reflection on the images surrounding us, and they remind us that our reality is a stage. It also allows people to think about what they are doing when they are interacting, it gives a certain distance to appreciate the other artworks. The point of view is more critical, even if the aesthetic is the same and uses the same graphic codes. It is interesting to see what could get out from these fortuitous encounters on the audience’ s mind.
Cultural Democracy has many detractors, but I am still a great believer in this “utopia of each day” and I would like to contribute as much as I can, to the reduction of the digital divide. I have always had faith in digital art, as it seems to me that such art forms are most accessible as they are interactive and in video games as they are an excellent means of introduction to digital creation. Thus giving it a broader accessibility to wider audiences. I know that it does not exactly correspond to the current situation, but I would like to provoke new experiences, like using a games room as a tactical approach to attract a playing public who don’t often visit exhibitions, or increase events outside of their original context, in public spaces or outside, and increase the mix of different disciplines (cinema, music, games, interactivity) still keeping in mind a pedagogic function based on pleasure. To use the terms of Freud «learning isn’t truly effective without hedonistic experiences»
Isabelle Arvers, Paris, février 2004.