Final Writing Assignment
Video game art is an emerging genre where an artist uses modified sections of an original interactive game to repurpose its content. Two works stood out and captured meaning beyond the game’s fictional relevance and stimulate the viewer’s thoughts and emotions when closely examined. Realities begin to surface when artists breakdown these popular scenarios and create concepts that tie into real world. The two artists chosen to analyze works from were John Paul Bichard and Josh Bricker. Originally the two works chosen from them were recent topics of discussion on gamescenes.org, which turned me to dig deep into other pieces they have created. The two that stood out work well for this writing assignment because of the nature of their conceptual themes and the way they were used to critique these real world realities. Bichard’s collection “The White Room” (Shown HERE), a series of in-game photographs from the videogame Max Payne 2, which depicts the aftermath of various crime scenes. A great piece, by Bricker, to analyze with “The White Room” was “Post Newtonianism”(On youtube HERE), a video of two panels where one is actual live war footage and the other is live game footage from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
John Paul Bichard, considered “a Pioneer of in-game photography” by Gamescenes.org, has worked with video game art, photography, digital media, and installation, since the early nineties. 2D imaging and video games became a major interest of his and influenced prior works he created. He saw that most games followed a similar narrative of a super hero that resolves a conflict. He played a game were an ordinary character becomes the hero. In this game the plot also had turning points, which elicited emotions to the player and related to real life situatuions. This played a role in his work where video games could power strong emotions.
His collection of images titled “The White Room” was created in 2004 for the exhibition “The House in the Middle” featured at Tower Gallery in Eastbourne, England. It was a group show with a conceptual response to post war and class based domestically. Bichard wanted to create a series of photos, which captured interiors of locations in the game where an obvious bloody dispute occurred, and critique the social prejudices in stereotypical games aimed at males. When first observed many questions arise to what happened in this room. A feeling that there needs to be some explanation for the gory scene left empty. Using the game as a virtual studio, the position of killings and objects were carefully placed in the room. The bodies were then removed and the in-game view was then placed and a screen shot was taken. Each image is in a room that is meant to depict a type of social class, and has dark bloodstains splattered throughout it. The rooms contrast each other by color, type of room, quality of furniture, and the objects present. Each image uses this space and blood to provoke the fabrication some kind of story of what may have happened in this room to the viewer. For example, the bright contemporary room and the bedroom will stimulate a scenario completely different from the run downed room with a couch. These images set the social class, or type of people, for the viewer, then they create many ideas of how or what happened in the room based on the social norms of the room’s possible occupant. Along with the scenarios the viewer can generate, emotions can also stimulate from the images.
The six images are constructed very well. The placement of the in-game view to capture the picture shows Bichard’s ability of 2D imaging and composition. The angles formed from where the floor, walls and ceiling meet draw the viewer to look at important locations in the rooms. These angles make the image flow and give it some sort of timeline as the fictional scenario played out. This gives the viewer more stimuli as their mind runs with ideas and questions.
Josh Bricker is an artist devoted to revealing negative truths of humanity through is visual art. The dark aspects of human morality are addressed as way to get people to think about issues of our ridiculously cruel natures that drive people. He works with videos, drawings, paintings, and sculpture, which all point out how absurd an act of people can be.
Bricker recently in May, he put together a video titled “Post Newtonianism” for You Tube and Guggenheim’s You Tube Play. It was one of the 25 selected by You Tube as a finalist. The video is composed of two panels which both play a war scene of an airborne shooter firing at figures on the ground. The statement identifies the one on the left to be a real life video of military aircraft shooting cars, targets, and enemy insurgents from WikiLeaks. The video on the right is captured from the video game Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and is portraying a similar battle taking place. The audio of the entire video is the actual recordings from real life tapes and is complemented with recordings from the video game. The game audio is noticeable because the voice is in the same tone compared to the many different voices in the in the real life recordings. The game audio begins to only be mixed in after long periods of the real audio, but as the video progresses, the periods of time become shorter and the game audio appears more frequently.
Bricker wanted to show the war in the Middle East as his generation has witnessed and interacted with it. The real life video shows that technology in warfare as come so far that our soldiers don’t have to confront the enemies face to face. The video game complements this by giving the real life video a sense of not being a real event. It makes the taking of these people’s lives seem virtual because it is all done through a screen at a distance. This cruel, inhumane action plays out to the person committing it very differently than if seen through their actual eyes not at a far distance. There is also a lack of insurance of the target the guns are firing upon. The remarks from the voices in the audio describes targets as just having a gun or are walking around before ask permission to engage. There is no way of telling if it really is an enemy when describe in vague terms. The mixing of the audio has the biggest impact on me. The first time the video game’s audio comes in, it gives permission to fire at targets when a person asks in the real life audio. It really gives the impression of being surreal. The next thing that happens in the audio is the video game saying remarks like “light ‘em up”, “nail ‘em”, and “nice”, about the killing of people. Then the next clip of real audio has remarks similar to the game and even some that are worse. As the video progresses the intertwining of the two audios start sounding the same. Both clips then begin to describe the targets as if they were slaughtering animals. Never once was a target referred to as a person. The complement of the game reveals this truth of the killing the insurgents has a surreal impact, and shadows that people are losing their life.
When these two works are compared to each other they have both similarities and differences. In both the viewer becomes a witness, but in different ways. In “The White Room” this witness feeling is stimulated by the crime like scene that the absence of bodies give the image. The viewer becomes the witness when they begin to create scenarios of what could have happened in the room without ever seeing any event. Any thoughts of ways people may decide to, or act in the situation of taking life is completely created by them. Someone could just have a simple thought of the image like “a death occurred in this room”, or a more complex thought like “ a man, was in his bathroom when his wife betrayed him and murdered him in their bedroom”. The viewer can reach a self-awareness when cruel inhumane thoughts are expressed from this. When “Post Newtonianism” is being watched, the viewer witnesses two events occurring. In whole, inhumane realities are pushed at them from how good the two panels and audio work together. The truths revealed in these works arise from the viewer and the content in the work itself. The use of video games in both of these pieces helps to bring out the truths of humanity because it’s a simulation of our world that has no real consequence.