Three collages, in situ in an exhibition at Unity Theatre, Liverpool alongside the work of six other artists, each responding to the theme of ‘Patterns and Poetry:
I appear to return to the premise of extracting poetry from video games a few times a year. Almost in a hobbyist fashion. I tend to use certain exhibitions as an opportunity to develop the premise, which has altered slightly from writing poetry about video games to extracting poetry directly from video game code: This offers only a finite and actually rather limited set of text to respond to – providing both a challenge to me personally yet also offering something more considered and nuanced to an audience, as the text directly references the very fabric of a video game. I shall persist with this body of work from time to time when the opportunity arises, as I feel that it is both worth undertaking and is becoming more disciplined in its application.
Patterns and Poetry runs at Unity Theatre, Liverpool until 13th February.
Positioned in between satisfying my crowdfunding rewards and waiting for perfume materials to arrive, I find myself in a brief period of reflection. Able to turn my mind away from the world of perfume briefly, and revisit something initiated last year – finding art in video games.
However, I wish to further my exploration into extracting poetry from video games rather than aping it. And so, I present to you poems creating by taking video game code and isolating parts of it, revealing text:
The idea remains – to extend the gaming experience into areas that reveal video games as a meaningful cultural force in a way that transcends their original purpose. Using video games as a platform for creative exploration illustrates a rich and full capacity for social, moral and personal comment. And assessing gaming from a fine art platform enriches our experiences with them. It’s a subject a great deal of passion for and something I wish to explore further. Indeed, hopefully at some point next year I’ll be setting up another open call about video games with fellow artist Sharon Mossbeck.
For now though, I’ll content myself with these pieces of work. They’ll both be on display at Arena Gallery, Liverpool, on the 8th and 9th August, along with work by other members of SOUP Collective. So do pop along if you can!
2014 has been a joyously productive beast with a tenancy to provide moments of reflection and a degree of transiency. My practice has meandered from the virtues of re-imagining still-life to exploiting the art found within video games to considering the studio space as a viable means of expression.
My identity as an artist has shifted. With a view to dismiss the problematic notion of being considered simply as ‘that guy who makes paint out of food’ I sought new ways of investigating the creative process, including looking at the nature of the idea, ways in which artists interact with their materials and their spaces and investigating the tension between the studio space and the exhibition space.
My year – in the context of my creative practice – began in February, as I threw myself into holding my first solo exhibition. Ironically, this particular endeavour provided me with a new found respect for collaborative work, as the strains of doing everything yourself left me exhausted and unfulfilled. Though it was a valuable experience overall.
March and April saw focus shift from our group exhibition in New York. SCIBase – a collaborative I’m a part of – was to hold an exhibition spanning two galleries in Jamestown, NY during April: Though of course the organisation and cash required to get artists over the pond required a great deal of planning. I cannot take much credit for the planning myself, I was just happy to be involved in this collaborative for the first time. Hopefully I will redeem such lack of direct planning with a collaborative I am trying to arrange for next year between SCI and Yorkshire Artspace.
There was a great deal of success to be found within our exhibition in Jamestown, not least because we became an example of a crowdfunding campaign that actually worked! Though, with regard to my actual practice, one thing became clear – My food based pursuits had reached a logical conclusion.
And so, to new directions: My work has always involved looking at ways to investigate creative processes and so, whilst the idea of ‘finding art in video games’ might have appeared to have come out of nowhere, I would suggest that the notion of taking something, removing it from it’s context and re-imagining it within another space is a subject I have always been concerned with.
From May to October I acquainted myself with the subject of video games and, through two co-devised and co-curated exhibitions at Millennuim Galleries and Access Space, met several artists who themselves are concerned with the themes found within gaming. On reflection, the exhibition at Millennuim Galleries was probably quite insular; a lot of work had to be done – from finding a place for artists to drop off work to finding exhibition walls in order to hang the stuff! – and I believe this amount of work had a negative impact on the execution. Perhaps I am being a little harsh due to the stresses of being directly involved in the organisation of it, but the exhibition on the whole seemed to lack a little atmosphere and perhaps became disconnected from its source material.
The lessons learnt during the Millenium Galleries Exhibition were applied to the exhibition at Access Space – a much more coherent, well-received, and fun celebration of what gaming can be. It’s probably the highlight of my year, and it’s success has allowed me to develop lasting relationships with artists and arts organisations – something valuable to an artist still within the relatively early stages of their career. Credit too should go to Access Space, who – as well as thinking the whole thing was a bloody good idea – were unparalleled in their support and guidance. I really hope I work with them again.
As we approached Autumn it became apparent that the transition from food-based work to something else still remained. I returned to the source of why I had been looking at food in the first place; namely, in an attempt to disrupt the process of creating works of Still Life. I began to develop work around the Physical properties of items, the materials we use and the choices we make in order to form a relationship with those materials and so, the idea of the ‘Speculative Studio Space’ was born, almost fully-formed, to act alongside my upcoming residency at Bank Street Arts as a strong springboard from which to leap into 2015.
There was other stuff too, of course, not least mine and Sharon’s ‘Reviving Leviathan’ collaboration and the exhibition I hosted at Funky Aardvark Gallery, Chester. All valuable experiences and all contributing to a fruitful and productive year overall.
Indeed, it isn’t over yet. I still have paint for sale at Cupola Gallery. Yes, the whole year has passed and I’m still ‘that guy who makes paint from food!’ I’m more than happy to make it if people enjoy it though. I just don’t want it to be all I’m known for; which hopefully I’m not anymore.
Anyway the paint, made from chocolate, retails at £5. A great gift for those chosen few who are fond of both painting and chocolate at this festive time of year. …Oh, that reminds me, happy ruddy holidays everyone 🙂
My Chocolate Paint for sale at Cupola Gallery, Sheffield
Last Thursday I attended ‘In Our Corner’ – an open mic might at Bank Street Arts which highlighted the fact that politics is able to exist within innumerable defined spaces, including within creative practice. I already knew this, but what it highlighted was the concept of removing something from its original context and providing a platform for it to be assessed within a different space, thus drawing alternative conclusions.
Via a few leaps of logic, a few cups of tea and a few sessions of Final Fantasy IX I began to realise that my Pixel Poetry series organically aligns itself to the notion of removing something and placing it within a new space. Taking a game and turning it into a poem is able to create a space where video games can exist away from the trails of moral and political context: They may exist with purity and may well illustrate the original intent of their makers – as vehicles for fun, play and to harness the virtues of social experiences. Games are great, and my poetry seeks to highlight that; extending the experience into the physical world and allowing alternative conclusions to be drawn regarding the nature of video games, the themes within gaming and gamings effect on the human condition.
Equipped with this new found esteem, I set about conducting a job I’d intended to do for a while, but now with added personal reasoning: To write my poetry on the walls inside Electric Works, Sheffield:
My poetry on some walls. This is the first time it has existed in any tangible way.
This is the first time my poetry has existed in the physical world. It won’t be the last; with two of my poems and a zine containing my poems due to appear in PLAY! – an exhibition around the theme of video games due to open this coming Friday (3rd October.) I am also hoping to do readings of my poems within a poetry group at Eten Cafe, Sheffield, from the end of October.
I now feel armed with a strong reason to further my poetical endeavours. As a model, the fact that I am allowing gaming to exist within another space greatly intrigues me, and I wish to further this practice to see where it leads. Possibly even away from poetry and text works.
PLAY! will open on 3rd October at Access Space, Sheffield and will continue until 31st October. There is an opening event on Friday 3rd October from 5.30 – 8pm. Everyone is invited and it’s free! The exhibition promises to be fun, and may well just alter and further your perception of gaming and what gaming can be.
Video games. It’s a subject I have tried to grapple with in the context of art for some time. And while I can’t deny that video games are a form of art, I have struggled with ways to pull the concepts of gaming towards my practice.
I want to, as I believe that when gaming is placed within the context of memory, it is prone to nostalgia and the trappings of being perceived at face vale. This, in turn, has a great deal of creative mileage as I seek to extend the experiences found within gaming into the physical world, enriching an audiences perception and engaging with the shared experiences a game has to offer in a way applicable to reality.
My current Pixel Poetry work seeks to isolate concepts found within certain games that are either hidden, abstract or even entirely speculative. The aim is to disrupt pre-conceived notions of games, for both players and non-players alike. I enjoy creating them, I believe they have a place within poetry and they seem to engage a certain audience. But what interests me further is the fact that gaming, as a subject, is increasingly set upon by artists as a means to instigate artistic practice. I saw with Far Lands – an open call exhibition I co-devised and co-curated – that gaming within the context of fine art exists and exists healthily. However, I wish to extend this notion and see how video games with art can be furthered. With that said, I present to you PLAY! – an open call invitation for artists at any stage or their career to submit work in a response to the theme of video games:
PLAY! is an open-call exhibition featuring artwork based on video games. The exhibition will be held at Access Space, Sheffield, from 3rd – 31st October 2014.
We (Myself and Sharon Mossbeck) are looking for submissions from artists whose work takes a critically engaged approach to computer games within a fine art context. Within such a broad theme, we are specifically looking for conceptually strong work which seeks to isolate aspects of gaming for suitable artistic reflection and contemplation.
We encourage artists to consider areas of gaming that can be considered for their artistic value: Glitches and beta games, for example, are distinguishable in their ability to reveal the hand of the individuals involved in creating the game. Whilst linear narratives and inaccessible areas create a tangible tension between gamer and desire to play and re-play. However, these are just examples of the conceptual mileage found within video games, and artists are invited to respond to the theme in any way they choose.
We are looking specifically for 2D and small 3D work, such as painting, photography, sculpture and printmaking. We may consider digital and video instillation work – but keep in mind that the space will only be able to accommodate one or two works of this nature.
Artists at any stage of their career are welcome to submit their work
How to apply
This open call invites submissions from artists working in 2D, though small 3D works may be considered. Your work should be ready to be wall mounted, and should exceed no more than 2 meters squared.
Artists may submit up to 3 pieces each.
All submissions should include:
– A description of your work, max 300 words
– Max 5 jpeg images of your work
– Artist statement (Or link to website)
Please email your submission, or any questions you may have, to email@example.com
Submission deadline: 8th September 2014
You will be notified by 15th September whether or not you have been successful. Applicants that are successful will be able to deliver their work to Access Space from 29th September – 3rd October.
…So there we have it. If you’re in any way inspired, intrigued or informed my video games, or the concepts found in video games. Please submit your work. I’d love to witness further ways in which artists have embraced video games in their practice.
With the arrival of the highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto 5 comes the considerably less anticipated time for endless newspapers and websites to make the self-proclaimed ‘daring’ claim that video games can be regarded as works of art. Whilst this is lovely (and well done them, really) it’s pretty clear for anyone who isn’t an idiot to see that games have been works of art for well over a decade now.
I first became consciously aware of it during my first play-through of Metal Gear Solid 2 – a game which is now 12 years old. The whole thing felt like a film interspersed with instances of playable intermissions. As the narrative unfolded the bits where the gamer became directly involved faded into irrelevancy. Yet the story was compelling enough for it to not matter. This was a game that transcended the preconceptions of gaming: it could have worked as a piece of cinema, theatre or performance. That’s because empathy – a keystone of all coherent artistic endeavours – enabled the player to develop meaningful correspondence with the protagonists. We cared about their fate, their lives, as they resonated with us.
As I ascended from the glittering heights of teenage years into the grudging despair of my early 20’s my appetite for games waned. My life was still punctuated by the odd spurt of Pokémon and Sonic the Hedgehog (and still is), but seemly I stumbled into the realms of what would now be considered a ‘casual gamer’ as other commitments and facets of reality took hold. It was not that I outgrew games, or that the quality of games declined – I simply didn’t have the time, money or resources to make gaming a staple part of my life.
However, this comes with its own set of advantages. For, akin to when one takes a step back from a painting in order to assess it, so my step back from gaming allowed me to assess my opinion and persistent admiration for the industry. Moreover, I am now able to develop a correspondence that draws parallels to the very structure of a game and the processes achieved through my own practice. I am talking about the notion of the Beta Game.
Some months ago I became re-acquainted with Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Whilst I enjoyed several nostalgia-filled attempts at beating the Death Egg, I also stove to consider the processes used to create the game. As I conducted a bit of research it became clear just how much preliminary content is removed from the final game: Whole levels have been manipulated from fragments of design into the levels we know and love. This echoes the processes I go through when contemplating a piece of work. For, when I apply the paint I have created onto a surface, allowing it to depict something; I always consider the fact that the paint – my own creation – is becoming altered. The paint is removed slightly from its pure intention, yet potentially able to express something with more coherence than it originally could. Moreover, it still exists within the work – the same way the Beta Levels of Sonic 2 still exist, within the architecture of the game. A Beta Level forms the basis of contemplating something complete, the same way paint does.
A particular level – The Hidden Palace Zone – is the most complete of the Beta Game zones from Sonic 2, and was removed due to the game cartridge not having enough space to fit it on. This echoes the painter’s struggle to achieve a work of art within the confines of a canvas. Indeed, the very reason why I attempt to remove the idea of a canvas – or any surface – from my work is so the work can exist without limitations.
Does this lost Sonic level resonate with my own practice? I certainly think so!
Perhaps, on some level (excuse the pun) my practice of paint making pays homage to the Hidden Palace Zone. The zone can be accessed and played – by downloading it – but it can’t be completed: My paints, too, are not complete – they remain unused, yet with the purity and potential that makes the notion of using them irrelevant. And if a level from a game cannot be completed, and therefore devoid of function, then is it not a work of art?