The machine, of unclassifiable form and aesthetics, seems to breathe in the room plunged into gloom. Some colored balls moving around her suggest that she is engaged in a kind of game that leaves her breathless. What is clear is that you have no interest in interacting with visitors. What’s more, if they approach her, she yells at them to go away and leave her alone. The machine that plays alone, by Mónica Rikic, 2021 National Prize for Culture of Catalonia, is an interactive audiovisual sculpture produced expressly for the exhibition Homo Ludens. Video game To understand the present, a reflection on the central role of the game in our culture based on the phenomenon of videogames.
After registering more than 50,000 visitors in Madrid, the exhibition produced by the La Caixa Foundation arrives at CaixaForum Barcelona, where it can be visited until April 18 and will subsequently be presented in Seville. “Videogames are the most contemporary representation of the playful dimension, essential for socialization and learning. In them, universal mechanics, symbolic speeches and ancestral activities are embodied and life is dramatized in real time. They are an expression of current culture and they touch all areas of society in a transversal way ”, affirms the curator Luca Carrubba, researcher and digital craftsman, according to his own definition, and director of ArsGames, an association that promotes transdisciplinary cultural projects related to video game.
Carrubba has selected 58 works by 36 creators, including video games, photographs, sculptures, videos and installations, which address this essential phenomenon of contemporary culture from different perspectives and claim its critical and transformative power. “It is not about a celebration of the video game, but about an analysis that focuses on its lights and shadows, from the anthropological, artistic and of course economic point of view … It is a sector, present in all countries, that moves huge capital ”, explains Carrubba, recalling that currently, more than 2,500 million people, a third of the world’s population, are gamers, video game fans.
The curator, together with the Barcelona studio Domestic Data Streamers, responsible for the design of the exhibition, has surprisingly transformed the room of the modernist factory headquarters of CaixaForum, to create a space where (as in a video game) everyone can choose the itinerary that he prefers, starting from a central space, around which five areas are distributed.
The crescent gamification of society is revealed in an installation that demonstrates the influence of the aesthetics and dynamics of videogames in some of the app most used in our daily lives, such as location tools, news portals and platforms for interpersonal contacts. “Video games have been used in the research of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s and also for collaborative urban design, as in the Craftea program by ArsGames, which involves children in proposals to improve public space,” says the curator.
There are games intervened by political objectives, to promote citizen participation in collective decision-making or to make visible the discrimination suffered by certain groups, for example the gold farmers, the gold farmers, who are dedicated to playing to discover new resources and tools to succeed in the fictional world of the game, who sell for real money in the real world.
In addition to Rikic’s machine, the creative potentialities of the video game are materialized in a generative projection on discarded Game Boy pieces by Daniel Canogar, an installation by Hamilton Mestizo on the scourge of programmed obsolescence, photographs of fictional pathologies caused by video games from Matteo Bittanti and The Night Journey, Bill Viola’s game that depicts a path of introspection towards enlightenment, marked by the slowness characteristic of the famous video artist’s work.
Interaction in times of covid
Contrary to predictability, the visitor to Man playing You do not have the possibility to play, something that usually requires time and involvement and that in times of covid involves obvious restrictions. However, the interaction exists, more subtle and even more revealing. Thus, upon entering, the visitor receives a device that allows him to answer questions that he encounters during the tour. With the responses, the system assigns each visitor a profile of gamer: from the most skeptical to the most addicted gamer, which will be displayed in real time along with the profiles of other visitors on the large screen that closes the show. “This visualization indicates that the video game does not isolate, but rather favors collaboration and collective dynamics,” concludes curator Luca Carrubba.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.