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Video games subvert art at the Govett-Brewster

Video games subvert art at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

The impact of arcade games on contemporary art will be explored in Arcadia: the other life of video games, opening at New Plymouth's Govett-Brewster Art Gallery on 10 May.

Arcadia tracks a selection of leading national and international artists who use the structures and rules of video games to explore and challenge their impact on contemporary culture.

"Arcadia suggests artists are increasingly catering for, and competing with, the expectations of an audience conditioned to the interaction, simulation and stimulation that gaming delivers," said Gallery Director Greg Burke.

The exhibition is the latest in a series of exhibitions that examine the impact of popular culture on contemporary art and follows hard on the heels of the success of Extended Play: art remixing music.

Curated by Auckland Curator Hanna Scott, formerly of the Govett-Brewster, has curated the exhibition. Of Arcadia she says "Game technology has produced a new breed of audience that expect competition and confrontation from the arts. In this environment contemporary art is mutating as artists change the way they work".

The exhibition explores themes of interactivity, customisation and virtual architecture within games. A major feature of the exhibition is a fully interactive project by the Danish artist collective Superflex. Based on the popular counter-terrorist game Counterstrike, the work features 11 computers on which gallery audiences can play with other gamers around the world.

The work explores the social aspects of game play and includes an archive of videos about social and political change depicting scenarios where people have organised themselves collectively in order to achieve their aims, similar to the game itself.

"Counterstrike is currently one of the most popular games and the project's debut in Sweden last year was constantly packed with gamers. We expect a similar response at the Govett-Brewster", said Greg Burke.

Impending Doom, a work by Auckland artist Dan Arps, further investigates the interactive and architectural elements of games. Arps recalls from memory the environment of popular game Doom. Arps suggests that space as depicted in games is an expanding and contracting entity, ungoverned by the rules of physics.

Chinese artist Feng Meng Bo embraces the video game environment in his customised fantasy work Q3A. The artist has inserted himself as the main character in the game Quake 3 Arena, carrying a video camera to record his own daring exploits. A similar work by Meng Bo was a highlight of last years major international contemporary art festival Documenta.

British artist Julian Opie's This is Fiona also looks at the personalities assigned to figures within games. Featuring a subtly changing computer generated portrait, the work engages and confronts the viewer on an intimate level.

Arcadia brings together works from a range of international artists, and features a strong contingent of New Zealand artists, including Sean Kerr, Warren Olds, et al and Hye Rim Lee.

A major catalogue featuring new writing on the subject and designed by exhibiting artist Warren Olds will be available from the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery's Art and Design Shop.

Arcadia runs 10 May to 13 July and features a dynamic range of public events and activities and is generously supported by Creative New Zealand, Telecom, and Lamberts Business Systems and Magnum Mac.

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