Archive for August, 2018

NEGOCIO at Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

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VAGAMUNDO: A Migrant's Tale

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante is an ambitious attempt to present an archive of the creation of games as art largely over the last twenty years, though one work – “White Chess” by Yoko Ono dates back to 1966. The majority of works have been created in the 21st century. The exhibition presents a mix of digital and analog games and the vast majority of the exhibition is interactive – allowing visitors to play the games on exhibit as intended by the artists.

I’ve been honored with the inclusion of VAGAMUNDO: A Migrant’s Tale (2002) included the exhibition (pictured above). This is a sculpture and video game originally presented on the street that unfortunately is as timely today as 16 years ago due to the Trump administration’s stance regarding immigration.

The curators – David Machado Gutierrez, Alba Garcia Martinez, Beatriz Martinez-Villagrasa and Miguel Soria Andurell state:

The origin of the game, is lost in the memory of time; the game is perhaps as old as the very existence of the human being on earth. But what does the game transmit to us today apart from its playful appearance? Can art use it as a tool that reflects on challenges and social reality? Does it also work as an act of criticism? This exhibition does not pretend not to answer these questions, since it would be too ambitious, but it is formulated so that the spectator participates and, using the works of art as a guide. The exhibition investigates in the multiple planes what may unfolds in games as art.

Below are a selection of photographs documenting the exhibition.

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Two game sculptures by Cuban artist Abel Barroso
Abel Barroso at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Carlos No’s Intifada – a “ping-pong table which, in place of a net, has been divided into two halves by a very high brick wall, topped by barbed wire that heightens a feeling of insurmountabilty. There arises in the spectator the curiosity of seeing the other side, the place which one is forbidden to see and be in, as if one had discovered Lewis Carrol’s charade in the passage to the other side of the looking-glass. In this wonderland that comprises this side and the other side, both the space and the visitor’s steps are divided into two.”
Abel Barroso at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Velvet-Strike is a mod of the first-person shooter video game Counter-Strike. The mod, developed by Anne-Marie Schleiner, Joan Leandre, and Brody Condon, adds “protest sprays” to the game’s existing graffiti function.”
Velvet Strike at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Ladrillazo is a historical game that takes you to the real estate bubble of the first decade of the 21st century. There were days of wine and roses, an interpretation center in each town, an airport in each city, mortgages at 40 years, masons with minister salaries, Olympic dreams, AVEs and golf resorts.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Pac-Art is a version of the immensely popular Arcade video game Pac-Man. In this case, Pac-Art has transformed Pac-Man into an artist who has to devour famous works of art and flee from ghost-artists who threaten him.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Ravalpoly by Alba Refulgente – a game of real estate speculation in Barcelona that re-contextualizes the game Monopoly.
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Visitors will have the opportunity to play Yoko Ono’s “White Chess.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Many other artists and game makers are included in this exhibition, including Brenda Romero, Connor Monahan, Molleindustria, Richard Hofmeier, Jason Rohrer, Joan Priego amongst others. And one more image of VAGAMUNDO:
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

From Minecraft to Fortnite: The Common Language of Video Games

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I grew up between the United States and Nicaragua – the school year in the U.S. and summers in Nicaragua. In the 80s, I would bring my cousins packs of blank tapes and a selection of my favorite tapes so that we could make mix tapes. I would also bring old toys, such as my Intellivision game system with all it’s games (where it got an extra 6+ years of play).

I recall one summer leaving The Who’s “The Kids Are All Right” tape because one of my younger cousins – Oscar absolutely loved it. When I returned the next summer, Oscar could sin every song on that tape perfectly. I was floored! Oscar was young as he was born in 1976 and this is the mid 80s – sometime between 1984 and 1987, so at most he was 11 years old (I am five years older than Oscar). He had never taken an English class and yet, there he was signing perfect renditions of “My Generation,” “Happy Jack” and “Pinball Wizard“. Oscar has never lived in an English speaking country and he never attended an English speaking school, however today his English is amongst the strongest of those cousins who have remained in Nicaragua. For nearly a century now, popular culture has been a bridge amongst people divided by distance. Oscar and I continued for years asking one another what we are listening to and playing upon seeing each other. Music and video games are a common language that we share.

In 2015, I travelled to Nicaragua with my 7 year old – Iggy as my mom wanted to spend Christmas and New Years in her native country amongst her siblings. I have spoken in Spanish to Iggy since day one, but I have not forced him to use it – a big mistake. He understands Spanish very well, but he is not comfortable speaking it. Although Iggy has many second cousins in Nicaragua who are bilingual, the one cousin that is the same age, does not attend a bilingual school and does not speak English, so I wondered how they would get along. Of course, they are kids and speak the universal language of play, so after a brief awkward period of silence and observation they engage. They both play soccer and and are competitive about it. The ball and the grass were instantly a common space as was a mutual admiration for Messi, Barcelona and La Liga.

Tired and sweaty they sought reprieve from the sun indoors where I discovered another common space – Minecraft. This I did not expect. I knew that Minecraft was huge amongst 7 year olds in the States, but I did not consider its global reach. Once I set my kid’s device to my cousin’s wifi, it only took them a minute to start playing together on a local area network. And there they were, sitting next to one another, interfacing through a screen, laughing, teaching each other skills, trading devices, building structures, killing zombies and doing whatever else one does in Minecraft. Eventually, they needed to be cut off, but common languages and happy bonds were established.

A couple weeks later, we all went to see “The Force Awakens” and another common bond was established. As the boys went on and on about the movie, my cousin and I recalled our mutual love for “Return of the Jedi” – another soundtrack that I had left with him back in the early 80s. We both loved that celebratory Ewok “Yub Nub” song!

It is summer 2018 and due to the murders committed by Ortega and his regime following April protests against the pilfering of Nicaragua’s social security by the Ortegas, many of my cousins’ kids are States-side. Once again my son Iggy, now 10 years old was about to meet two cousins who do not speak English – the twins Franco and Diego who are 12 years old. And again, I wondered how they’d communicate and get along. A brief awkward period of observation and listening soon became play.

My son had just received a drone from his grandmother for his birthday. He pulled it out, walked his cousins through the interface and they took turns flying the drone around the living room. As the adults sat at the table in conversation, the twins’ mother lamented about how many hours she allows them to play video games as she doesn’t have a car or is comfortable using public transportation. Then Franco chimed in on how much they love Fortnite and immediately Iggy started telling them about what level he’s at, his favorite weapons, number of kills and favorite dances… Soon the three were sharing two devices and playing as a team. And yes, they needed to be cut off and pulled away from the devices, but the ice was broken and they spent the rest of the day playing and interacting device free.

It’s been over 35 years since I taught my cousins how to use the Intellivision controllers and play games like Pitfall, Nightstalker and Utopia. Today the interfaces are much more intuitive and it’s pointless to make any comparison regarding the graphics, but video games are a global language amongst children and it’s always surprising to me how some titles cross all cultural differences to establish common environments of virtual play and exchange.

Written by ricardo

August 5th, 2018 at 10:48 pm

RAMMELLZEE: Racing for Thunder

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Rammellzee

“RAMMELLZEE: Racing for Thunder” at Red Bulls Arts New York opens with sketches for the artist’s graffiti pieces. The drawings immediately bring to mind images of subway cars from the late 70s covered with graffiti. And some visitors may as well recall their own sketch books from the 70s and 80s filled with tags and letter designs for possible pieces to be realized on the street. These early works are the strongest 2D work by Rammellzee that are included in the two-floor exhibition.

Rammellzee

As one continues through a dark tunnel lined with early 2D works and iPad slideshows accompanied by audio recordings by celebrities, one will enter a screening room. Projected across bleachers are an assortment of video sequences capturing the artist rapping, lecturing, performing. One video capturing Rammellzee rapping from his Beat Bop classic at a club includes drawings, text and animation by Jean-Michel Basquiat superimposed over the performer. You can see the video here Rammellzee, Toxic C1 and Basquiat Live at the Rhythm Lounge 1983. There is also a sequence from Charlie Ahearn’s 1982 “Wild Style” featuring Rammallzee performing on stage. Perhaps amongst the most entertaining sequences are Rammallzee performing as a Garbage God in outlandish costume to Northern European gallery goers who complain to watch his back as he makes his way through the small crowded gallery. Also entertaining (for short bits) are his lectures to perhaps student audiences to his exhibitions, also costumed as a Garbage God and at one point shooting fire from his mouth (which was awesome to watch and hear the gasps from the live witnesses).

Proceeding beyond the screening room, one enters a large gallery with primarily 2D pieces. These works are spray painted works, epoxy frescos, assemblage wall pieces combining found objects, spray paint splashes and loads of resin. Some works feature space ships flying through spay paint environments. For the most part these works seem uninspired and more like 80s bad art.

Rammellzee

By far the best work are the Garbage Gods and Letter Racers in the downstairs. Unfortunately, Red Bulls Arts decided to attempt to re-create the sensibility one may imagine from Rammellzee’s Tribeca loft – Battle Station by using black light. However, this isn’t the famed Battle Station – playground of the artist; this is a fancy art gallery and the black light is unnecessary. The black light makes it difficult to fully appreciate the Garbage Gods costumes that Rammellzee would perform in or the small figures that he created. As someone hoping to fully appreciate this inspired, meticulous work, skip the black light and allow us to carefully study these works. I would have preferred to see these works in this lighting:

Rammellzee Letter Racers

Rammellzee Garbage Gods

In considering this exhibition, I came upon this excellent NY Times 2012 article on Rammellzee that is worth a read, if interested in his work and life. However, if you have a free couple of hours, “RAMMELLZEE: Racing for Thunder” exhibition is a great way to intimately learn about the artist directly through his voice from hours of archival material. Amongst the 2D paintings on the top floor, there is a small listening booth with extended interviews with the artist discussing his life and philosophy. There are also videos with Rammellzee working in the studio, discussing his ridiculously toxic practice as you watch him pouring gallons of resin and spray painting indoors without a mask. Red Bull Arts has done an amazing job of creating a rich portrait of the artist.

Written by ricardo

August 1st, 2018 at 12:00 pm