September 28, 2003
I went to Postmasters in New York yesterday with Rachel and saw a very nice exhibit of new media art. The pieces were by Eddo Stern, an artist who was born in Tel Aviv and now lives and works in Los Angeles. He’s the founder of c-level and seems to be rather steeped in hacker and gaming culture.
War, religion, and the American military were themes that ran through the five pieces on exhibit. Formally and in terms of genre and technique, there were two sorts of pieces. The first sort, pictured above (full size image) were large objects that integrated desktop computers, flat panel screens, moving parts, and hexagonal tiling to make computer hardware itself into a video game structure. The second sort was represented by Vietnam Romance, a piece of video art created entirely from recordings of video games (often first-person shooters), with a soundtrack made from MIDI files that people have offered online.
Which is to say, the artworks consisted of case mods and machinima!
I was quite impressed by the exhibit. Vietnam Romance (2003, running time 19:30) began with a clip from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City that featured a military-like dock setting filled with dark-haired prostitutes who could be viewed as Asian. The soundtrack was Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made For Walking,” famously used by Kubrick in Full Metal Jacket. First-person shooters provided much of the footage, but other scenes also used helicopter simulators and appropriate soundtracks to refer to M.A.S.H. and Apocalypse Now.
The case mods, conflating medieval weaponry and modern technologies, were also quite clever and eesome. Fort Paladin [America's Army] mechanically typed on a keyboard, playing the videogame is available free from the US Army’s recruiting website. Omnivore’s Cathedral [Whose Child Is this?] riffed on the karaoke machine. These aren’t interactive pieces. While many interesting new media works aren’t, in this case these room-dominating objects seemed oddly mute, or at least repetitive, particularly since they refer to computer case mods that allow a general-purpose computer to look like something else. But perhaps there’s an interesting point there, related to the military re-appropriation of computer technologies for a single fixed purpose.
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