This past year I have been thinking about the role of interactivity in my work. Typically, my digitally produced work compromises of two parts: the exhibited piece, and a digital download. To give two examples–Clifton & Postcards from Ankara.
Clifton was a reimagining of the Avon Gorge created for the Bristol Photography Festival back in 2010 via the popular multiplayer game Worms. A video capture of one CPU controlled match was displayed via a data projector in the gallery. With Postcards from Ankara, physical postcards were produced of five scenes taken from a game that I had created and exhibited as such.
When exhibited, my work regularly opts for a more curated experience. By that, I mean the work typically consists of either screenshot or video, within which I have personally constructed the path of the viewer. This could be through a screen capture of a playable scenario (which I have acted out) or using some software to generate a specific still image from the game. Each of these methods allows for a work that is non-interactive and exists in the traditional gallery space to be viewed, as one might consider a painting, photograph or video piece.
The interactive element has always been via an external download. In Clifton, the map I made for the work was available, via my website, to be downloaded and implemented with the user’s own copy of the game. In work where I have created my own games (such as Postcards from Ankara, etc.), copies of the game are also available to download in Mac & PC formats. Part of the attraction from this method of production & distribution is the running parallel with the nature of gaming in the internet age. People make things and post them on the internet, often for free (or at least pirated for free). I wanted to try and tap into this with my own work, as I believe that it's deeply ingrained in both the medium and culture.
I found this dual method of curation and exploration to be beneficial. Being able to dictate someone’s experience of my work in a gallery setting allows me to set the boundaries, to let as much or as little to be shown, and also to create limitations within the work. This entirely suits the work and the environment. When exhibiting digital work, or more specifically Game Art, there is inherent difficulty in how to go about it. There can be problems with computers, Game Art can be made from badly hacked together mods and glitches, how to introduce interactivity in a meaningful way? I have experienced some good and bad examples of this, the worst perhaps being a sign apologising as the work was unable to function. There are many benefits to showing a non-interactive piece, especially with Game Art.
In some ways, allowing a digital download of the work is somewhat similar to a magician revealing their tricks, or, in traditional art terms, a painter exhibiting their sketches and studies. I’ve always been fascinated by the processes of artists, and especially love when galleries and museums curate both finished pieces with unfinished or preparatory works. Indeed, in many of my created gamescapes, it is possible to move the camera around and find mistakes, optical illusions and tricks, or to simply walk off of the edge of the playing area and fall endlessly.
The idea of a self-playing game was something I had been investigating. This started with changing my once interactive Schooldays Over into one that could simply be left and watched. I read an article (tongue in cheek) describing how people would soon no longer have time to dedicate to playing video games, and that a self-playing game would solve this conundrum. There are further examples of self-playing games exhibited in the traditional white cube space.
I’ve felt that my digital work is very much implicative of my paintings. It is perhaps through this lens that I am drawn to the non-interactive method of exhibition. I like to think of my digital pieces as ‘living landscapes’, and plan on proceeding with this duality of exhibition and download.
Friday 13 July 2018
Thursday 5 July 2018
Galerie RDV, Nantes, 23/06/18-27/07/18
Victoria J E Jones
The curator of the show, Pascal-Michel Dubois, had two of his own pieces that he wanted to position on opposite walls. The prints were of 180-degree photographs, taken in an abandoned play park in the valleys. This method of displaying entirely suited the two prints, but it wasn’t long after hanging had commenced that it appeared to also work well for my Digital Border triptychs. As the show developed, it became clear that also hanging Pascal’s two opposing prints in this same method would be immediately gimmicky. We refrained from showing those two pieces.
I was particularly happy with how my two triptychs had enough breathing space and also how they occupied opposite walls in the gallery. I plan on experimenting on how this might be applied to my other work (video/games) and how this might be implemented with a dual monitor or projection. Upon reflection, I might guess my fascination with this method came from seeing Willie Doherty’s famous Re-Run Derry bridge piece at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in my formative years.
My third work in this show was to be a pre-recorded video, played back on a projector or screen. In preparation for this, we had contacted the gallery via email to confirm if they had a display and a projector. This was correct. I was planning on using the screen for some video work to compliment my di-bond panels. Pascal had intended on projecting a video animation piece onto the floor via a roof mounted data projector. As the show developed, Pascal decided against showing his animation.
There was a small problem with me using the display, a 1080p HD television, in that it had a built-in ’foot’ which made it unsightly for wall mounting (as you’d typically expect in an exhibition). After searching the back room for tech, we found one other display, but this was a rather old 4:3 monitor that wouldn’t match the cleanness of the rest of my work for this exhibition. To remedy the situation I tried taking apart the monitor but found that the foot had been somewhat difficult to remove without risking significant damage. We asked a nearby gallery (Galerie PARADISE) for help, and they were able to offer us a larger display. I was happy to take this or opt for the projector, but Pascal thought that the current monitor was the perfect size and any larger would dominate the room (he was right, of course).
I stopped short of taking a saw to the extended foot, for fear that it might make it look worse, and compromised. I felt that the positioning of the cable down the wall helped to negate any issues, and Pascal reassured me that perhaps the clientele of Galerie RDV was used to this display and found no problem with the extended foot.
There were some further problems with the video itself. I had the game ready to go (for screen capture) and had done a small, short test before the show. Having only my laptop with me, I found it difficult to get the right settings in Unity for the game app. My MacBook Pro doesn’t default display at 1080, and unity automatically sets the window size to your current screen. I had to do some last minute code to overwrite this and export to a simple 1080 window, ready for screen capturing. I had some issues with this, as my little Mac was dropping frames all over the place trying to render out my game and screen cap simultaneously. This was remedied by both changing screen cap software and removing some of the in-engine visual effects such as vignette, noise, colour correction, and later adding these back in via Final Cut Pro and rendering there. This was useful too, to help get the optimum colour on the oversaturated monitor, and something that I couldn’t do so well if it were a live game direct from a computer–something to be aware of with my new experimental interactive work.
My videos typically don’t have sound. This is on purpose, but when you send a movie file to a tv without a soundtrack, it misunderstands and pushes up an error message at the start of every loop. I had this problem in the past, and couldn’t remember exactly how I remedied it–I think with some particular codec or similar. This time, I fixed it a little simpler by just adding an audio track in Final Cut Pro and then muting it, which worked. I also had issues with which video codec to choose, exporting multiple iterations and test videos. I didn’t download Compressor but I kind of wish I had at that point. Oh, and my final export was too big for the USB drive, and I needed to get another (thanks, Lara).
We had about 4-5 days worth of setting up, and although we didn’t need all of it, the cushion of time helped ease the problems. With thanks to Pascal for the first three images.