The Artist's Guild
Aram Bartholl has created a number of video works in which regular people walk around European cities with World of Warcraft style avatar names floating above them. He has also done installations with Google Maps markers to remind passers-by of the ways that digital worlds can interpenetrate material ones. Bartholl will be staging another one of these performance pieces in connection with the WoW: Emergent Media Phenomenon exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum, which I attended yesterday.
Visitors are given a conference-style neck badge and a glossy catalog in which half of the artwork comes from the game or from fans. Blizzard, the company that owns the World of Warcraft franchise, is one of the sponsors of the show.
Yet the installation also featured some who have used game spaces as sites for resistance, although Ian Bogost might question if such ventures really constitute art of the kind that he argues videogames are capable of producing.
Others in the show included Velvet-Strike creator Anne-Marie Schleiner, and thirdfaction.org continued the pacifist theme with an entire room devoted to their "/hugs" project, which purports to be a humanitarian NGO in Azeroth.
Jacqueline Goss intercut CGI video of American cities from the Department of Homeland Security with machinima gameplay and a soundtrack with reflections by Muslim Americans synched to the action in "Stranger Comes to Town."
Other offerings ranged from Chinese cosplay photographer Zeng Han, Tale of Tale's The Endless Forest, Cyril Kuhn's paintings of inventories and screenshots as visualizations of desire, Jorg Dubin's highly representational works, and Robert Nideffer's Bosch-like triptych.
Heavily represented was Eddo Stern whose work ran the gamut from the charmingly Arcimboldo-esque Best Flame War Ever that provides visuals to a verbal feud between players about the conventions of chat in Everquest to the misogynistic MELF that shows a sword penetrating a mechanized transparent female elf who served as a kind of shadow puppet.