Repercussion Exhibit at USC
Documentation by Gabriel Peters-Lazaro
This exhibit helped highlight and reinforce the role of play in constructing socially meaningful and academically informed art work. Nonny De La Pena’s “Hunger” virtual reality game presents a new immersive model of documentary in which the audio is based on actual event but the environment is rendered digitally and explorable. The VR goggles combined with the audio create a living environment in which you are able to explore with your body, turning your head to view the space.
The physical intensity of the piece causes a strong sense of empathy for the characters while making you reflect on how you would react if you were in the scene and then possibly in a larger social context. Adam Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz and his team at RUST LTD created “Bullet Hell”, “80 Minutes”, and “Assent”. Each of the games are playful and often conceptual interrogations of video game conventions and assumptions. “80 Minutes” based on a scene from Hitchcock’s “Rope” (1948) is an endurance piece of trying to entertain your pixelated guests to distract them from the dead body in the other room.
But in order to win you have to play for 80mins thus critiquing or exploring the separation between embodied time vs diegetic time in video games. “Bullet Hell” allows you to take on the position of a bullet as it slowly spins towards a man’s head in order to subvert the role of violence in many games. “Assent” then is a beautiful digitally rendered game that takes place in a darken and seemingly endless space of M.C. Esheresque stairwells climbing to the sky. In order to move forward you must rely on bright bouncing lights coming down the stairs well. Yet the very thing that you rely on the progress also knocks you off the stairwell back towards the beginning. Because the game begins with a phone next to a 1929 Stock Market crash headline, it contextualizes this debilitating progress within the socio-economic woes of history. Thus the abstract movements become a larger reflection on the failures of capital or maybe general post-Enlightenment assumptions.