The Witness: Japanese woodblock prints

Vertical screenshot banners from The Witness game’s official site were placed together and tweaked in Gimp for an hour:

The banners were first arranged horizontally in order of brightness, one each side, before being resized to 4K

Then their relative brightness was flattened out, and some of the brighter light sources in each banner inverted

Various film, anti-aliasing and chromatic aberration filters were then used

Finally, a Wikipedia reference to Japanese woodblock prints – 木版画 ‘moku hanga‘ – were retro-fitted to their design to suggest a possible imaginative / aesthetic context


Xilitla and the shallow art of Culturally sanctioned Play

Who cares for you? said Alice – You’re nothing but a pack of pixels!
– Alice In Ludoland

Alice as wonderland Ludologist
Alice as wonderland Ludologist

What you first consider is Just Another Lousy Art Nor Game (‘jalang’) that turns out just to be a messy, yet all too understandable symbol of (what must be by now the long standing) role of Interactive Digital Art in the largely philosophically-devoid world of officially (Culturally) sanctioned Play. It’s bright, slick. Who’s the audience for this?

It’s the glitch, not as a signal of an interruption, but as a symbol of the (/art) system’s continued wellbeing; a reification of continuing commodity fetishism

Bromidic, Wittgensteinian Language Game “Xilitla” by Rosa Menkman

The Making Of Video for this jalang appears interesting for the potential insights provided into the lofty, twilight virtual world of International Art; of the world of important, oh-so smart people (with The Right Connections) who are able to speak convincingly, fluidly and at length about their various Research Projects and come out with they assume is intelligible explanations andor loose theoretical justifications for whatever on digital earth they think I.T is they’re doing, making, performing (or mostly it appears) Selling

It’s a world of Artistic Directorships, grand (yet narrowly esoteric) festivals, of ‘artists in residence on the forefront of this immersive digital media revolution‘ – of Research Grants, densely worded conference papers, elite fellow peer review, digital be-ins. One becomes a museum quality piece of living installation, permanently installed in the Artistic System – entire Institutes Of Networked ©ulture

..And as a Ludologist, oh how you’d love to be up there with them, giving overly long, deliberately dry, po-faced interviews about What It’s All About. International travel at leisure. Fancy magazines in the business class waiting lounge featuring elite postmodern typefaces. Complementary drinks and self-complementary analysis over one’s Culturally acceptable, family friendly videographic achievements

The ‘uncanny glitch art’ mentioned by Kill Screen – just their sort of thing – does indeed do what it says on the tin; it causes deep existential crisis through being perfectly self-inserted up its own Arts. A perfectly sealed Klein Bottle (that is, sealed from the outside) from which Players are unable to escape, penetrate, connect with meaningfully or co-assimilate (unlike the International Art World to which they concede their brittle plastic forms); shallow surfaces masquerading as deep rivers of delicate theoretical conception and tangible meaning

The most interesting aspect of “The Game Xilitla” is the “Xilitla Manual .txt” file which comes with the game’s executable. It reads like video game art gallery ad copy. One wonders just how remotely interesting the ‘Xilitla’ Art Experience would be without it. Cultural context masquerading as actual content appears king here:

Manual Xilitla

> Here you cannot die and you cannot win If you fall of the world you come out right on top
> Please look for the staircase that will bring you down again

> I am a very nasty movement programmer
> But I made you a cheat which will make it easier for you to move
> Now isnt that nice?
> ===> When you push Alt / Cmd key you will change from camera 1 to camera 2 and vice versa <===

> use A / S / D / W to move space bar to jump and control to restart. Happy gaming!

> Rosa Menkman rmenkman@gmailcom
> =====================

> Shout outs go to da Unity_cr3ws
> Alex Myers Rick Silva Kevin Carey Nick Kegeyan and Bryan Peterson for (ᴳ̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇̇litch) Art > Genealogies
> Alfredo Salazar-Caro and William Robertson for unity support
> Tamas Kemenczy / jonCates Jake Elliott / Theodore Darst
> VADE for Syphon

> Nick and Jon == best of chi
> MSHR Pussykrew Goodiepal Sister0 and Emma for magick
> My MX families HD XD / Mafer and Funkee / Elisa and Alex
> Jodi and Glitchmom


> A first iteration was made possible by Cante Impakt, The Netherlands Embassy in Mexico, The Mondrian Foundation, CONACULTA and FONCA

> Kristoffer Gansing for the moveforward catalogue August 2012

> Wrong Places Inbetween One Code and Another

> Contemporary art in the contexts of global economical and informational networks belongs to Janus the god of transitions in space and time such as between physical places or between past and future Miwon Kwon in her seminal One Place After Another (2002) investigated the transformation of the notion of site-specificity in contemporary art from one of “permanence and immobility” to one of “impermanence and transience”

> More recently in the context of the algorithms guiding our computational everyday the work of the Dutch artist and researcher Rosa Menkman continues our poetic education in ongoing transformations of time and place and in the paradoxes of the never-ending search for specificity and authenticity within transience

> For Kwon the notion of site-specificity is intrinsically tied to our understanding of the identity location and authenticity of art In the 1960s site-specific art she claims was related to an interest in the physical properties of a particular place then with institutional critique this interest was expanded to the socio-economic structures governing art In the global art market Kwon identifies a move towards a nomadic model where site specificity is predicated on mobility

> With the increasingly itinerant artist of the 1990s going from residency to residency or from biennial to biennial the value of a site-specific artistic practice is no longer grounded primarily in a physical place or in a particular institutional arrangement but in the particular set of skills that an artist is bringing in going from one place to another Site-specificity may seem anachronistic in a world in which socio-economic structures are mobile and fluid but site-specificity itself was effectively transformed in order to comply with network culture It is in this context of specificity in transience of “relational specificity” that Kwon puts her trust in the encounter with the “wrong place” as one that “may expose the instability of the right place”

> Arguably the aesthetics of the “wrong place” is since long an established artistic trope spanning for example surrealism situationism and netart Architecture is obviously also a stronghold for all kinds of seductively “wrong places” and in the context of Menkmans new work Edward James surrealist sculpture park Las Pozas located just outside Xilitla springs to mind

> In 1990s media art the notion of site was dealt with in the artistic exploration of new media spaces seemingly dislocated from traditional notions of time space and embodiment (the utopian promise virtual reality)

> Equally however with the rise of critical net culture there was an artistic interest in what Manuell Castells dubbed the “real virtuality” of a world increasingly defined through electronic mediation

> Evocative of the idea of the “wrong place” the recent genre of so called “glitch art” seems to be ambiguously situated in between these two directions of media art one devoted to the joyful creation of new hybrid realities and one devoted to critically exposing the borders and materiality existing also within apparent hybridity New art genres such as glitch increasingly function in a meme-like fashion as Berry van Dartel Dieter et al (2012) explore in their thorough analysis of “The New Aesthetic” (an Internet meme put forward in 2011)

> Inspired by Laurent Berlants work on aesthetic genres they write that “Aesthetic relations take shape as trackable genres or forms which enable contemporary subjects to attach to and at least inhabit the contradictions and ambivalence of this Now”

> But glitch as artists such as jonsatrom or Rosa Menkman demonstrate holds an edge over the technology obfuscating tendencies of The New Aesthetic which revels in 8-bit consumer nostalgia and a superficial overlapping of old and new On the contrary the best of glitch art is not afraid to manipulate the machinery and provoke the emergence of wrong places that disturb our sense of the real in computational culture

> If the sites of site-specific have been progressively transformed from material to immaterial then glitch art suggests a return to materiality

> The structures that allowed one to move from one place to another were indeed never immaterial not even when that movement took place in so called virtual space

> The transience of network culture is defined by codes in the form of algorithms that shift data around be it money audiovisual content or interpersonal communication

> Standard file formats for text and image files and the associated compression codecs for text image audio and video data such as rtf jpg wav or mpeg belong to this domain of data shifting and they constitute the quintessential artistic material for the glitch artist If there ever was a “relational specificity” then these highly transient informational sites revel in it

> This relational specificity also defines the art of Rosa Menkman as virtually everything in her work is generated out of something else not in a serial progression but precisely through constant feedback in between one thing and something else between one code and another

> Appropriately one of Menkmans earlier projects is called A Vernacular of File Formats demonstrating the research component of her work as it was disseminated through workshops and published as a guide to databending compression

> It was the scarce information available at the time of writing on Menkmans new work Xilitla an interface for her Videoscapes series that prompted me into the detour of exploring site-specific art

> Currently Menkman is developing this as a new tool for audiovisual live performance using the glitch methodologies with which she created earlier acousmatic video landscapes In her prototyping we see a surreal 3d character “dancing” over a vast plane of live analogue video feedback

> Everything about this place seems “wrong” in the deconstructive way associated with Menkmans work and it is clear that we are here situated in a site with things existing in a multilayered relation to one another

> It takes Menkmans work of deconstruction to a new level this being a software that will eventually be used for the generation of new kinds of wrong scapes by others than the artist herself

> But rest assured that it will not be a straightforward software tool where all is transparent

> The font for the interface of the software has already been released on Menkmans website a very hard to read lo-fi version of a Charles Rennie Mackintosh font common on buildings in Mexico City

> It is these kinds of subtle displacements of recognizable standards that ultimately allow us to respond to the glitchy and wrong places of Menkmans work

> They are not simply demonstrations of technical feedback but also attempt however contradictory to take on the shape of characters and narratives that seem to explore the negotiation of misplaced identities and loss of self searching for relational specificity regardless if it is a technical or a human one

> This was clearly an issue in Menkmans performance The Collapse of Pal – a piece commissioned for live TV by Linda Hilfling and myself to commemorate the death of analogue transmission

> In that work technology was clearly Janus-faced as PAL the outgoing television format was filtered through Benjamins Angel of History there is a nostalgia for what was lost but at the same time the past is forming a debris relentlessly pushing forward the acceleration of the increasingly chaotic future

> In this work the narrative definitely involved the moving from one code to another from PAL to MPEG but it also refused to think this shift linearly as the glitch methodology jumbled the analogue and digital audiovisual feedback together

> I am intrigued by the possibilities of Rosas new work to further “wronging” of past present and future media scapes

> – Kristoffer Gansing (SE) Artistic Director of the Transmediale festival in Berlin

Whatever you say. There’s a distinct lack of danger here. When “Glitch just = Crap“: something’s laughing out loud at uncritical acceptance of highly polished, culturally sanctioned, alienating electronic niceness being professionally dumped on your theoretical doorstep, Player

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Brian Eno and Games: Ambient Design by Indie Scenius

Consider ‘Brian Eno’ the intelligent answer to most interesting questions still unasked by modern game designers

Video games as I understand them bore me to tiny, clear, dry plastic tears which fall silently at irregular intervals on the sticky beige carpet of a sealed room full of endlessly self-congratulatory undead nerds that smell slightly of wee. The whole idea of wasting irreplaceable Life Time, pseudo-interacting with any parasitic system of soul calcifying ego-reinforcement that sucks the untameable creative impulse from a whole generation seems abhorrent, pathetic and desperately tragic. I’d rather let a lover casually play with my flute than be played for a fool by some video game [..]

– B.E, circa ’95, unknown New York underground art zine (cover missing)

Brian Eno and Video Games
Brian Eno and Video Games

Digital sci fi art: Hard Tech Fusion

Digital art – “Hard Tech Fusion”: Triptych using Doom 3 textures – Gimp, 3868 x 1024, 8.1MB

Hard Tech Fusion
Hard Tech Fusion on The Gamma Conjecture

Example Artist Statement

As the Quantum Superstring fire hit the pulse drive, main bridge and the recreation pods, the effects were catastrophic – not for the crew, long since disappeare* – but for the unique bio-reality field generated by a sentient deep space fighter (The Gamma Conjecture)


The artificial meta game of Proteus

Consider that the only true strength of Proteus lies in the parallel universe of meta gaming it in inspires – specifically, the heated discussion about What Games Are – and its potential for Modding

Other than that, Proteus seems a potentially-interesting if overpriced screensaver that should be released for free, and become donation based

Firstly, a remix of “What Are Games?” by Proteus developer Ed Key:

What Are Games

Players of Proteus often find writing burdensome, but given recent rumblings now it feels necessary to set out their thoughts once again

It matters if developer Ed Key calls, or doesn’t call Proteus an Antigame or a Notgame. Sure, someone somewhere is always calling it something, but despite this, Ed seems at pains to seemingly ‘make it clear’ that it doesn’t have explicit challenge or win states. Yet in doing so he doesn’t clear anything up at all

Perhaps Ed imagines it does, since the wider ongoing conversation of Gaming often seems ambiguous anyhow – it often seems about people’s false insistence that they don’t subscribe to the term Game, rather than signing up to another new / old term

Despite this, Ed says he’s absolutely not against game mechanics, or what he labels Traditional schools of design – whatever they are

If Ed wants to narrow definitions of Game for the purposes of the academic study in personal taste he’s calling Proteus, fine – but the vagueness in the term protean has been around as long as the things players call Barely Interactive Screensavers (by the way, screensavers can be cool)

For example, Snakes and Ladders is our favourite example of Ed’s conceptual inconsistency and mildly disingenuous, uncritical pseudo-philosophizing over Proteus: in comparing it with Snakes and Ladders, no decision making is involved and therefore – at least for Ed – both seem well outside of any useful definitions, and therefore both are somehow ‘clearly’ games as far as Society is concerned (whatever that is)

More recently, he also states videogames like The Sims and SimCity are also “not games” according to some unknown group

Thing is, the stricter Ed’s continued avoidance of defining what he falsely regards as an ‘inherently’ nebulous (protean) concept, the more absurd the implications

Should Dear Esther and Proteus also be excluded from stores that sell barely interactive screensavers? Sure, why not? Should they not be covered in the mainstream games press with gushing, uncritical praise as to seem legit? Undoubtedly. Since Sim City is neither truly a toy or a simulation, perhaps that should be excluded too, along with flight simulators

Ed asks if all comics are “comical” yet then states meanings are fluid – as if stating something profound. All words don’t mean what they meant ‘originally’, Ed – that’s just how the seemingly everyday artificial construct called Language fails to work

If you’re a game designer and are focusing on a particular formal definition, or have a guiding principle – eg. Sid Meier’s infamous bumper sticker “A game is a series of allegedly uninteresting decisions” – then go ahead. Yet Ed’s repeated, insistent implication that his lack of Definition is a good thing is a foolish obsession

Arguably, Proteus both has, and in some ways aspire to the same systemic complexity as SimCity, since both are abstract systems

With Proteus however, its 5% optional whether you engage with its protean meta game over What Games Are – and it doesn’t give you any confirmation when you do. There’s probably a lazy non-design reason for this, too

But, as another headline stated: Who doesn’t care? Would adding more elements harm Proteus? No. Or is deliberately seeking not to clearly define Proteus just another artful box-ticking exercise that harms what it could be designed to express clearly? Yes

Outside of the academic discussions of wily modern game devs, encouraging avoidance of defining “game” does little but foster conservatism and defensiveness in a culture already notorious for both

Witness the intelligence and legitimate criticism of threads on the Proteus Steam forum, most of which are posted and re-posted by people who don’t own the game, nor need to

Yet the difference between this kind of what Ed calls ‘activism’, of claiming Proteus is the latest fashionable cut of the Emperor’s New Clothes and-or individuals trying something and deciding it’s not for them, is in no way clear

While Proteus was made uncertainly by a game developer / musician working in the context of videogames, using game design and development techniques to express a particular set of nebulous things, its Ed’s contention that none of that’s really important, since the proof is entirely in the Playing. It isn’t – it might be in what you’re trying to prove by saying it isn’t

The Dubious Idea In Proteus

Right off the bat, the official launch trailer for Proteus uses an ideological framing device – that (according to early advocate of the preservation of wilderness John Muir): “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”

However, one may read this as Ed’s attempt to mean “This game’s deeper than it appears (and you have to be as intelligent as me to Get It”) – or even “Despite the fact Proteus is often seen as a poor game, with every purchase I receive far more than its possible for players to find inside it”

Perhaps the only true game in Proteus is the meta-game of arguing (ie. Socially playing) if its A Game Or Not

There’s also nothing natural in or about Proteus whatsoever – it’s closer to a bad parody of poor, long pre-existing Romantic ideas about a mostly false idea called Nature

How many players of Proteus would ever consider spending a wondrous, frozen night out under the burning stars, completely away from keyboard? By implicitly demanding that players automatically see and find art and natural beauty in it, Proteus displays what Satre calls bad faith

It’s for this very reason that Proteus isn’t protean and all, and is in fact saying several very concrete things about itself, and its developer – least of which is that “It’s A Game”

Ed’s Misreading of Zhuang Zhou

In a poor defence of his product, Ed also completely misreads Zhuang Zhou; indeed, even by evoking this ancient sage of spiritual chaos, he somewhat pretentiously assumes Proteus is something holistic and wholesome

The emperor of the South Sea was called Shu [Brief], the emperor of the North Sea was called Hu [Sudden], and the emperor of the central region was called Hun-tun [Chaos]. Shu and Hu from time to time came together for a meeting in the territory of Hun-tun, and Hun-tun treated them very generously. Shu and Hu discussed how they could repay his kindness. “All men,” they said, “have seven openings so they can see, hear, eat, and breathe. But Hun-tun alone doesn’t have any. Let’s trying boring him some!” Every day they bored another hole, and on the seventh day Hun-tun died

Ed’s contention is that we’re meant to read this passage as: define ‘Game’ too strictly and gaming will die – yet since the concept ‘Proteus as a Game’ is itself already a strict definition entirely constructed from artificial meanings such as ‘Nature’, the question becomes: what on earth is there in Proteus that’s Alive?

The only thing about Proteus that actually lives is the gaming community, and its cool Modding potential. Other than this, its just a dead, fake, entirely non mysterious and existentially alienating electronic nowhere

In other news: Ian Bogost also seems to be enjoying the acute analytical fragrance of his own, slightly stale Protean wind

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