Monday, December 6, 2010

Lecture Review: Matteo Bittani

Matteo Bittani’s lecture at UNR on November 4 gave me a completely new perspective on the connection between art and video games. While I recognized that the computer graphics of the game world are produced by talented artists, I did not ever think about the connection between the computer world and the art world in the way that Bittani sees it. He uses the art of video games to comment on society.

“The game world is depressing,” he says. So many games are alike—the colors, shooting at things. His own game/art piece, Defcon2, is a comment on this: it’s a nuclear war game where “you can only lose.” It’s definitely a political statement. In another work, he slowed down “Street Fighter” to an unbelievable sluggish pace to make it “super annoying.” Subverting the original intent of the game (“raping the game”) makes a statement, he says, and that is his intention.

I was also interested in the retro style of pixel art, in which video artists are going back to the pixilated style of early computer graphics. But the most interesting aspect of this movement for me was the fact that some artists are actually making sculptures—in real space—by physically making colored blocks and assembling them into forms based on the video pixels. Another interaction between the video world and the “fine art” world that interested me was the idea of taking landscapes from video games and repainting them on canvas.

Also, Battani pointed out, even video arcades have been turned into gallery spaces. Video games combine all the elements of art, Battani said. These can include sounds, drawing, design, and performance. “Young people are developing a new language for talking about games.”

Although the videos he showed were interesting, and sometimes moving, like “Bruno” (a video game-like epitaph for a friend who committed suicide) I didn’t feel that he was a very effective lecturer; I think he is more at home in front of a computer screen than in front of a live audience. Nevertheless his perspective was eye opening.

Questions I had were: Why does an artist have to have a profession that “justifies” an obsession? Does it need justification? Secondly, what are some original video games that make a political statement but don’t use older games as the basis?

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