In November, I went to New York to attend the two screenings retrospective the Anthology Film Archive dedicated to Nathalie Magnan. I spent ten days in New York meeting a lot of friends and professionals and artists and I also visited some exhibitions and art galleries and this article might give some perspective on the actual art and video games scene in New York;)
First I was hosted by Chris Burke, alias Glomag, chiptunes musician, alias Laecedemion, the great host of This Spartan Life, a machinima show in Halo, and also part of the duo Foci + Loci, with the amazing Tamara Yadao, featuring futurism and fascism inside a live sound and gaming performance in Little Big Planet. I was super well welcomed and so happy to see them again that I felt that my family has now been extended;)
Two days after my arrival, I had a meeting my my dear friend Kathy Brew and enjoyed so much our lunch together, discussing our mutual projects : her curatorial work on ducumentary at MOMA, as well as her new documentary on Seward Johnson. We also discussed about my upcoming project Art Games Demos related to borders and migration and Kathy told me about a great short film, 489 Years, directed by Hayoun Kwon, that I hope to be able to show in our next AGD.
As I was invited in New York by Reine Prat, Nathalie Magnan’s wife to attend Nathalie’s retrospective at the Anthology Film Archive http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/film_screenings/series/48199, we also spoke about cyberfeminism and gender and Kathy sent me her amazing short video artwork she directed in the 90′ Mixed Messages, a collage, mixing animation and found footage about gender stereotypes in popular culture. I loved this film as it well so much in tunes with the short doc directed by Nathalie Magnan: Internautes, Lesborama or her film about Rumors.
Before to go, Kathy adviced me to visit The World is sound, a sound exhibit at Rubin Museum and I enjoyed the sound body sculpture (Le Corps Sonore , an immersive, site-specific installation composed by artists Éliane Radigue, Laetitia Sonami, and Bob Bielecki, as well as the Collective Oms in the OM Lab (software and 3D sound design by Terence Caulkins of Arup), all the sound experimentations related to mantras and extatic sounds were super relaxing, but I couldn’t stay very long as I had to go for an other mysterious meeting with Bob Stein, who asked me to come along with Chris Burke for an experiment, at TED Talk building, as Bob is actually in a TED Residency.
Bob Stein, defined as « one of the founding fathers of new media (Criterion, Voyager, Institute for Future of the Book) welcomed us and asked us to get in a tiny room full of objects, pictures, files, Laser disks… and we had 5 minutes to wander in these objects in order to be able to ask him questions about these objects. He came back and began to answer our questions. Mine was about the Guerrilla girls for whom Bob realised a CDRom as well as their first website around 93 or 94… I also asked him about some papers left by her mother about all her former partners before to get married and all the hotels and ballrooms where she went. And Bob told us stories about himself, about his partner in love Ashton Applewhite who just got a lot of rewards for her book about ageism : This Chair Rocks : a manifesto about ageism, about his activist past. It was actually an experimentation about storytelling and putting objects in context. A very inspiring experience that also left me in the 90′ era for a little while.
After a very nice diner at the Cow Girl, eating Cajun’s food for the first time in my life, we went back to Brooklyn and attended the No Quarter exhibit, a games exhibit curated by Robert Yang featuring games by Auriea Havrey, Droqen, Pietro Righi Riva, and Kitty Horrorshow. It was a cool party and we met a lot of indie games folks and NUY Game Center students. I had a very nice talk with Kyle Kutshel who was one of the curator of the Artcade Con at la Mama who also develops a nice AR App. I briefly met Robert Yang who was busy being the curator of the exhibit, but we had some fun about machinima being dead except in my workshops;)) I then had the pleasure to meet some indie dev like Kaho Abe who creates a lot of physical games and also Droqen who I previously met at Vector Art + Games Festival in Toronto some years ago. I also had the pleasure to see again Heather Kelley who was just coming back from Indicade Europe, telling me that she now teaches at Carnegie Mellon University;)
On saturday morning, I joined Tamara Yadeo and Chris Burke for a brunch and we waited for Haeyoung Kim to enjoy some Bloody Maries and we talked about the future project of Foci + Loci that I would love to produce if it is possible, dealing with futurism but also about Claude Cahun We also talked about the good old days when Lab-au asked me in 2003 to receive Chris and Haeyoung alias Glomag & Bubblyfish to play chiptunes music in Paris. I asked the help of Dinah Bird and we hosted one of the first chip tunes giggs in Paris and Marie Lechner wrote a one page article in Liberation which made famous this event;)
In the evening, with Tamara and Chris, we went to Babycastles, for a special event dedicated to the game Bleep space by Andy Wallace and Dan Friel, a really cool free sequencer toy. I was very happy to meet Lauren Gardner, who is part of Babycastles team, introduced to me by my dear dear friend Sabrina Kamen who recently published a book « Toxoplasma », that traveled with me in Brooklyn. Lauren also told me about an other project in which she is also involved that I finally didn’t have the chance to discover : the School for poetic computation, a new type of school « organized around exploring the creative and expressive nature of computational approaches to art and design. The school approaches writing code like creative writing — focusing on the mechanics of programming, the demystification of tools, and hacking the conventions of art-making with computation. » I really enjoyed being at Babycastles as I have been following their projects for so many years and love the way they present games, prototypes of games and in progress games in custom arcades which are beautiful. One of the best source of inspiration for me when we imagined Art Games Demos with Chloé Desmoineaux. That night I also met people from The Death By Audio Arcade, multiplayer arcade cabinets produced by local indie game developers that originate from Death By Audio, Brooklyn’s influential DIY music venue.
On sunday evening, I attended the first Nathalie Magnan‘s screening untitled Media Jams at the Anthology Film Archives, curated by Isabel Carlier and Reine Prat, Nathalie’s love. The screening began with a nice talk by Catherine Lord, first Nathalie’s lover.
We then watched the amazing interview of Nathalie for la Revue Monstre, interviewed by Cyril Thomas and had the pleasure to watch Internautes, AVEZ-VOUS VU LA GUERRE? And IL N’Y A PAS DE FUMÉE SANS FEU ET EN PLUS C’EST VRAI https://vimeo.com/122434444.
There was a talk after the screening and Deedee Halleck, co-funder of Paper Tiger TV and Deep dish TV, who worked with Nathalie on some Paper Tiger TV broadcasts mentioned that there was an other lecture of « Teddy Bear Patriarchy: Taxidermy in the Garden of Eden, » by Donna Harraway, talking about Roosevelt and Teddy Bear that would have been shot by Nathalie, but which was remaining unpublished nor edited. Getting back home, I checked Nathalie’s archives inventory and found the tape, it was a great moment to get back to Deedee with this good news.
The day after ended with the second screening of Nathalie’s films, untitled GENDER TRANSFORMATIONS: NO SMOKE NO MIRRORS. It began by BORN TO BE SOLD: MARTHA ROSLER READS THE STRANGE CASE OF BABY in presence of Martha Rosler, a Paper Tiger TV about class and gender bias on the courts, then it was followed by UN HOMME SUR DEUX EST UNE FEMME about gender disparities in French politics, it was followed by L’ÉPROUVANTE ÉPROUVETTE and the screening ended with LESBORAMA, a great short doc directed by Nathalie for the Gay and Lesbian Canal + Night.
The day after, thanks I had the pleasure to meet Franck Lantz, the director of the NYU Game Center and we had an amazing conversation about the relationship between the art world and the games world and he made my day and made me laugh, talking about DJs playing music in an art gallery, which according him made totally sense but didn’t need a label besides the DJ giving its name, date and explaining the sense of its mix… I will make him a special dedicace during the next Art Games Demos;) He showed me few books from his office bookshelf, like « Play Matters » by Miguel Sicart, “The aesthetic theory and the video games” by Graeme Kirkpatrick and « Works of Game, on the aesthetics of games and art » by John Sharp. This book is about the intersection of art and video games, which is so much related to my curatorial practice that I asked Franck to put me in touch with John. We ended our meeting by saying that we would do something together soon;)
On wednesday, I decided to visit the New Museum as there was a gender exhibit I wanted to see, but what really kept my attention is an art film by Kahlil Joseph: Shadow Play, a collage about “Harlem’s past and present“. A sentence is still in my mind: “if you don’t see the happiness, at least you see the black” This film was strong full of daily real found footage mixed with shot scenes and beautiful, as well as the sound environnement in which the audience was immerged. I then entered the exhibit “Trigger, Gender as a Tool and a Weapon” which was a bit erratic with some strong works and some of them that can be forgotten… I was only attracted by the video artworks, mainly focusing on queer culture. I particularly enjoyed the video in loop Lost in the Music by Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel, showing a travesti reading: “I am not saying it is easy to shine, to love, to twirl; I am not saying it don’t hurt to be awake in this world”, I loved it.
In an other room, I was also attracted by the video artwork made by Patrick Staff: Weed Killer. What is interesting here is that this work was inspired by Catherine Lord’s memoir “The Summer of Her Baldness” on her experience of cancer. It kept my attention first because there was a trans actor singing “To be in Love” by Masters at Work, which is a song from my rave party era… and this interpretation was quite deep, emotional and then I listened to a trans actor speaking about her chimiotherapy and the disaster the sickness is operating on her body and mind. I then read the artwork description and discovered it was linked to Catherine’s book and also that in this video Patrick Staff suggests “that the experience of cancer patients and those of trans people are linked”.
Finally, the last video installation I particularly appreciated is Toxic by the artists Pauline Boudry and Renate Laurenz, featuring the drag queen Werner Hirsh and the androgynous punk Ginger Brooks Takahashi talking about toxicity, virus, waste, hormone altering medication… an other strong and glittering work shot at les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers in 2012.
“The Computer Virus Project’s initial goal was to produce physical paintings by using algorithms implementing «viral» processes. It is based on a simulation tool which allows Nechvatal to virtually introduce artificial organisms into a digitized reproduction of an earlier work of his, and let them transform and destroy that original image.” Stéphane Sikora
It was a pleasure for me to meet Joseph and his wife and to re-discover his paintings also related to the idea of virus with seeemed to be one of the key word of that day… I then joined Amanda McDonald Crowley at her place for an amazing dinner, the best of my stay in New York. It was great for me to have the opportunity to better know Amanda, that I previously met in more pro/official conditions at Eyebeam where she was the director. This time we really had the occasion to better know each other and exchange more ideas and passions.
Amanda was hosting some of her friends and professional partners as she is currently working on Swale, an amazing project of public space gardening on a barge with the artist Mary Mattingly. It is on open project on a floating boat as collective gardening in public spaces are not allowed in New York. Our cook that night was the amazing Vibha Galhotra, an indian artist who works a lot on collaborative practices, land art and food or environment related projects. The dinner was simply amazing…One of her friends was also there from Australia: Mandy Ridley. Mandy is a visual artist and we should see each other again soon in Marseille. It was a beautiful sharing moment of artistic and curatorial thoughts on art, nature and collaboration over the world. As I told them about our next Art Games Demos about borders and migration, Vibha told me the name of two artists: Amar Kanwar and Naeem Mohaiemen who is currently showing a movie at PS1 MOMA, commissionned by Documenta: Tripoli Cancelled.
On thursday I was invited by Eric Zimmerman in his Game Design MFA class at NUY game Center. It was a wonderful moment. Especially to see students games experiments in public space and the way they are able to provide a constructive critic towards each other’s work. I was seduced by the fact that Eric taught them about situationism, dadaism, surrealism, fluxus in relationship to game theory. All their projects were located somewhere in the Game Center or in the courtyard in front of the building. I really enjoyed the outside projects which gave a poetic touch using an artistic project as a location and pushing us to get inside a natural ritual. Many of the projects were also incitating us to reflect on our daily lives: getting inside an elevator and our behavior, interacting with anonymous people in the streets or in a corridor, our behavior in the toilets, etc… Eric also offered me to present my curatorial practice related to art and video games and what it means to curate video games in an art context, I enjoyed the exchanges with the students a lot. One of my favorite moments!!
We had a nice lunch in a street market and I was happy to discover new Eric and Nathalie Pozzi games installation project: Waiting Rooms, somehow closed to immersive theater but a real “Multi-room installation where Visitors move through a series of absurdist waiting rooms, each room a kind of social experiment where you can be cooperative or collaborative. The rooms are connected in a network of lines, and you pay and earn pennies and tickets as you move through the spaces.” We also spoke about the Metagame, originally a card game about games he has been working on for several years now, with John Sharp among others and which is now a card game about art and games.
Later in the day I visited Rafael Rozendaal studio to have a tea and discuss the good old days. To have this meeting the same day I saw Eric was for me making a 15 years loop. In 2002, I curated Playtime a gaming room at la Villette where I presented Eric’s game: Sissyfight 2000 and also organised a network performance with Miltos Manetas in New York, Mai Ueda in Osaka and invited Rafael Rozendaal, Angelo PLessas and Andreas Angelidakis to join me in Paris in order to speak about art like in the Socratic times and exchange Neen artworks inside Active Worlds.
It was my first encounter with Neen and artists I really felt in love with their artworks. So 15 years after seeing two persons related to that exhibition on the same day was quite funny;) I love Rafael’s art, we discussed about the evolution of his art, becoming more abstract, the way he works with a developer, the fact that I am now becoming an artist myself.
And we talked of course about our dearest common friend Nikola Tosic who – by the way and among many other things – created my website. Nikola was the “serbian”/acerb side of Neen, a poet, an artist and a triathlet and now is a dad with an amazing family but above that he is a brand guru;) I was also very happy to discuss with Rafael about something that I kept in my mind for many years, feeling a bit awkward without being able to ask him. Some years ago, Anne Roquigny created a software – WJ-S – which allows you to created performances creating a narration using websites displayed on large screens, surrounding the audience, in order to immerge people inside online creations. I had multiple types of performances – art & games, psychogeography, online games – and I was also doing performances around Neen. For me doing WJ-s performances was somehow curating live net.art.
So I did some performances displaying Neen online artworks and showing the works of Miltos Manetas, Rafael, Angelo, often I was giving a conference at the same time explaining what I was showing, doing in that sense my job of curator. But my awkward feeling was coming from the fact that I wasn’t showing my own work, but other people’s works and I couldn’t fix my mind about it, rather it was right or wrong, so I finally asked Rafael about it and he reassured me that if I wasn’t doing money with it it was ok…
This day ended by the performance : Linqox Criss on The River Ilissus, by artist Amanda Turner at Poha SOHO20 GALLERY in Brooklyn. I have to admit that I almost missed the performance as I arrived late but had the occasion to see her Second Life machinima and read the text “The gender in sound” read during the performance.
On friday, a very cold day, I went to PS1 MOMA and watched with attention Tripoli Cancelled by Naeem Mohaiemen, it is actually the project I preferred. Inspired by a real incident that happened to Naeem’s father, once arrested at Athens airport and blocked in between borders. In this movie, a character drifts inside an abandoned airport and talk in non functioning phones and plays in broken aircraft. He walks alone on the tarmac, seats on a dead escalator. The images captivated me, I would love to be able to work with this artist one day. I would say that Kahlil Joseph and Naeem Mohaiemen are the two most beautiful discoveries I made during my stay in New York.
I just had the time to cross the bridge in order to be on time at my next meeting with John Sharp at Parson’s school where he directs the Petlab – the Prototyping, Education and Technology Lab. We talked a lot about the relationship between art and video games and it was interesting for me to understand that we all believe that our country is late in the encounter between artists and indie game dev but John had a very interesting remark saying that we should avoid these terms when they meet and present everybody as creators to avoid a hierarchy in between each speciality.It was quite interesting to understand the differences between the two universities I visited in just two days and how game design at Parsons is perhaps more mixed with digital art practice than at NYU. John also told me that many of his students are creating physical games as well as alternative controllers as well as interactive installations. Before to go I recieved the new version of the Metagame and a exemplar of Works of Game that attempts to define what is game art, what is an art game and also how artists are creating games. On my way back I met a student and also a teaching assistant – Paolo PV – in the elevator and we spoke very quickly about the Metagame I had in my hands and as soon as I pronounced the word machinima, he told me that he used to be in the Rooster Teeth team, the company that made the very famous series “Red vs Blue”
Finally I had a meeting with Mark Denardo at Pratt University. Mark is a musician, used to play a lot of chiptunes music, he is also a very good friend of Chris Burke and he went to Paris many years ago to work with Jacques and Thierry from the music label Relax Beat, who were chiptunes producers, working with Malcolm McLaren at that time. I had some projects with Jacques and Thierry in the beginning of the years 2000 as we wanted to organise a digital vintage event together, mixing my art and games content with their chiptunes artists;) We had a very nice meeting with Mark sharing cheese and good wines and speaking about honoring the gifts we have been given.
My trip in New York ended with the visit of the Transfer gallery in Brooklyn, showing Speculative flesh, a solo show by Faith Holland and it was funny for me to finish this trip with a woman artist work related to our fetichism towards technologies and especially with one of her artworks untitled chander changer. It made me think to Nathalie Magnan cyber feminists workshops during la Zelig 14 years ago. A nice way to finish this amazing trip made to attend Nathalie’s retrospective.