What ever happened to Troy Innocent? In the mid 1990s Troy Innocent’s computer art was the talk of the town, or at least amongst the people I was spending time with, Melbourne’s Clan Analogue and one of my housemates. His art was on the cover of World Art #12 magazine in 1997 and the article inside started by noting him as “one of the most acclaimed and internationally recognised artists working in his medium.”
I didn’t expect to find the answer at Brunswick Art Space but more on Troy Innocent later. I went to Brunswick Arts on Friday night to see the opening of two exhibitions; Melbourne Future and Metsä Pako that are both part of the Brunswick Music Festival. The converted factory space on Little Breeze street is now almost surrounded by new construction, except for the back of Alasya Restaurant.
Metsä Pako is an “immersive environment file with ambient, experimental sound”. It didn’t help that the neither pair of headphones were working and the ambient music from the two speakers could barely be heard. It wasn’t that immersive, just two video projectors and some clay leaves hanging from the ceiling.
It is hard to be that immersive when in the next room there is a virtual reality experience; Roger Essig’s North South East West that is far more spectacular especially as it was my first VR experience. Not that all of the art in Melbourne Future is all that great, some of it, like Essig’s virtual reality or Pierre Proske’s Voiceprint, voice activated custom software is still in a beta version. If the future was fully realised then it would present but the exhibits are fun and worth considering.
What is not a beta version but has been completely realised and looks and plays spectacularly is Benjamin Kolaitis and Troy Innocent’s interactive installation Play Parameters. The large sandbox on which the game is projected is surrounded by a wooden fence with wire stretched around it that the two players, in opposite corners tap on with metal bars. It is an amazing and fun creation… lights flash, the game is on… So this is what Troy Innocent is doing now, as well as, being the Senior Lecturer in Games and Interactivity in the Faculty of Life and Social Sciences at Swinburne University and represented by Hugo Michell Gallery in South Australia.
Melbourne Future is a reference to Melbourne Now at the NGV but it is not just a prediction about the future of art but also “borrowing from the successful format of the ‘Melbourne Now’ program we will be running a mix of exhibited works along with engaging the public with free talks and workshops.” (See their Facebook page for details on the talks and workshops, a must for all artists working with technology in Melbourne).
What the future of art will look and sound like? Will the future of art look like a computer game? Will we still even recognise it as art?
“Game/Play” at the NGV Studio is a long over due exhibition of games in a major art gallery. Why are there games in the NGV? As, the project curator, Paul Callaghan states: “what it (games and play) can show us about the human condition.” Games are cultural artifacts; the game pieces, the printed cards, the game boards or the computer graphics are all designed to be attractive as well as functional. Games belong in an art gallery in the same way that furniture and fashion belong.
The exhibition at the NGV Studio has a selection of board games, five computer games and lot of computer art associated with game design. Along with a program of associated events has plenty of game sessions for the public.
What was missing from this exhibition was a fully painted Warhammer 40K army, that would have looked good, or a selection of gem like geometric dice from the role-playing games. Well, as an old gamer, a lot of things were missing from this exhibition but it was good to see it because it is so long over due.
The history of culture rarely focuses on the creators of games and toys. The origin of many games is lost in myth. The ancient Greeks believed that they were only remembering far older competitions when they added new events to the Olympic games. In the past games were an alternative to the real thing, a practice, and a heuristic devise for training. A culture does not require that many games until all position for games in that culture have been filled. One or two running around games, a target game, a strategy board game and a couple of gambling games will suffice, any more diversity is simply competing for player’s leisure time. So games like chess lasted for centuries and were able to successfully colonize game players in other areas.
Games as entertainment do not have a long history; their development is often smothered by their popularity. Increased leisure time afforded more time to play and more variety of games. In the 20th century the variety of games has increased; there is now a lot more games than chess and playing cards.
Just after looking at the “Game/Play” exhibition I ran into my friend and gamer, Sean Doyle, who works at ACMI. Sean was telling me about being up in Brisbane installing an exhibition of computer games. In past discussions, Sean Doyle compared the time line of computer game development to the development of movies. The first 20 years of computer game development are comparable to the first 20 years of movies. Computer games, like movies, were a novelty and not to be considered art. ACMI regularly exhibits computer games involving moving images; it is good to see that the NGV are catching up with “Game/Play”.
Often I can be found around at my friend TC’s house, playing computer games with him on his X-box or Wii. Computer games are a big part of TC’s life, they are a major part of contemporary life but how to begin to discuss these games critically rather than just review them? It was Paul Callaghan, who writes a blog about games and culture, got me thinking about this subject. And this post has ended up being more about the difference between reviews and criticism than computer games.
I have read a couple of excellent articles about computer games in The Guardian. These articles demonstrate the difference between reviews and critical writing. Reviews are for the consumer; the articles are for everyone else.
The articles in The Guardian were not about the latest game or the best game, they were about games that are familiar to many people: World of Warcraft and Farmville. (See Sam Leith’s “World of Warcraft video game is every bit as glorious as Chartres Cathedral” and Naomi Alderman’s “Farmville gets its global game on”.) Even if you haven’t played these games, even if you might never consider these games you are aware of their existence and the articles were written for you, as well as, people who play the game. In writing critiques of computer games the game is not the subject being examined.
The writers in The Guardian are not reviewing computer games on release dates; the choice of games is not related to a promotional schedule for the games public release. Criticism needs time for reasoned judgment about a game rather than faddish enthusiasm. The choice of the game or games under examination is due to their significance for reasons other than newly released. You can review a token example of a game, the one that you play, but computer games exist in multiple and played at very different levels of competence. In critically examining games the critic is looking at the players as much as the game. This is a crucial distinction between a review and critique: a review is focused on the subject whereas a critique looks around rather than directly at the subject.
Back to TC’s house where playing computer games have moved from the computer in the study to the TV living room. I’m thinking about the way the players rotate on the couch, the kind of kibitzing that goes on when someone is playing the game. I have not written a lot about computer games as part of the “culture notes” in my blog. I guess that I haven’t really written about them here either as I have been using games the subject for this discussion of the difference between reviews and criticism. I have written one see my blog post about the Wii game De Blob because of its relevance to Melbourne’s street art.