"Arte Six": Quick Hits: ART: San Francisco: "Bang the Machine: Computer Gaming Art and Artifacts"

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents an interactive multimedia exhibition that explores the synergy between computer game culture and contemporary art.

The primary exhibition, entitled "Game Scenes", showcases the work of international artists whose works are heavily influenced by computer games and associated technology.


Katherine Isbister and Rainey Straus recreate the look of "The Sims Online" environment in the physical space of the YBCA complex. Visitors will be able to occupy the virtual and physical space of the location simultaneously.

Fur present their interactive "Painstation" console. Players use their right hands to control a bat on screen, and must keep their left hand on the console's "pain execution unit" to avoid ending the game. If a player's bat misses, his/her left hand suffers the consequences through the application of heat, electric shocks or a quick whipping.

In yet another take on ‘what is reality’, Jon Haddock presents his "Screenshots" series. Each visual stages a socio-political event(such as the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.) swapped with fictionalized events (such as the picnic scene from "The Sound of Music").

Italian artist Mauro Ceolin presents a series of portraits of videogame designers and portraits of electronic musicians who sample old computer game music in their dance mixes.

Artist Brody Condon presents "600 Polygon John Carmack", a 5-foot tall sculpture of legendary programmer John Carmack. The sculpture is not a portrait of Carmack, but a portrait of the low polygon game avatar of him that he developed for "Quake III".

Paul Johnson and Korean-based artist Sunny Kim present "Budaechigae", a collaborative videogame project (Budaechigae or "army soup" is a spicy dish popularized during the famine conditions of the 1950–53 Korean War). In this game, Kim and Johnson create individual avatars which function as self portraits. Although both artists have designed the appearance, role and behavior of their respective avatars in advance, the relationship between them will evolve over the course of the exhibition.

The Game Scenes exhibition will also include a machinima movie series, curated by Galen Davis and Henry Lowood.

Machinima are made and best viewed with the same software that is used to produce and play 3-D action games, usually "first-person shooters" like “Quake” and “Unreal”.

Just as software developers use game engines to produce the sophisticated graphics, lighting and camera views in their games, machinima makers take advantage of this sophisticated software as a found technology that can be applied to making animated movies.

Game Commons, an exhibition "plug-in" developed by the online floating work-space, Kingdom of Piracy (KOP), will accompany the exhibition.

KOP celebrates game culture as an open sphere of exchange, interplay and re-appropriation.

KOP was launched at Ars Electronica 2002 and keeps re-inventing itself in different arenas and on different platforms. KOP is co-curated by Shu Lea Cheang, Armin Medosch and Yukiko Shikata.

About: "Bang the Machine: Computer Gaming Art and Artifacts" is produced in partnership with the "How They Got Game Project" of the Stanford Humanities Laboratory.

Find it: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
700 Howard Street at Third
San Francisco, CA 94103-3138
Metro: MUNI/BART to Powell or Montgomery St.
Get info: (415) 978-ARTS

Read about more art events in the March 2004 issue of "Arte Six".