Pippin does Venice

The above image, taken by my parents, is of my game Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment: CPU Edition! in situ at the 2017 Venice Biennale. In Venice. For real. It’s part of an installation/show called #HYPERPAVILLION, with my own contribution forming part of a screen curated by NT2, a research lab based out of UQÀM here in Montréal. On the screen you can select to view a set of different pieces work, including my colleague and friend Skawennati’s Time Traveller™.

There are three main things this makes me think about this evening,

First of all, it’s a testament to the wonderful randomness of life that I’m even part of the show at all. I met the NT2 crowd via giving a talk about my work at the lab and having a discussion with them, and that connection was kind of activated by them being invited to have a screen in the #HYPERPAVILLION space and me having a piece of work that made sense with their key line of inquiry, which was “What if?” (in my case, the “what if” of a game that plays itself). It’s kind of amazing how possibilities interlock into opportunities sometimes - much luck on my end, anyway.

Second, the nature of the installation relates in an interesting way to the specific game. The works curator by NT2 all share a single screen with an interface for switching between the different artists’ contributions. While each of the other artworks is a video piece, Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment: CPU Edition! is obviously a game. Well, maybe not “obviously” since we can probably quibble over the definition, but it’s premised on code running very centrally - the entire point is that the computer is actually running the game, that it isn’t a video, even while it looks like one (and is indistinguishable from one for an onlooker). As such, NT2 technical support team were terrific in that they were very prepared to go the extra mile(s) required to make it such that, while the other works presented were videos, the game was presented on screen in its “pure form”, running as JavaScript. That tension between looking like a video and “being” like software is part of the work, so it’s really nice to have that play out in the actual process of exhibiting it, too.

Finally, the fact of my parents going to see the work (they were going to Venice and the Biennale anyway, don’t worry) really managed to lock in the sense of the exhibition being a real thing. They were sending me chat messages over the morning reporting on how the work looked in the space and showing me pictures of it (hard to photograph because of light levels, as you can see from the picture). My games are exhibited with some frequency (I have no idea if it’s a lot or a little, but frankly I’m thoroughly impressed that it’s “at all”), but it’s kind of hard to gain any emotional traction on the physical fact. My interaction with exhibitions tends to me emailing relevant files and rewriting bits of code to be “gallery ready” as required - as such, it turns more into an excercise in logistics, followed by a resounding non-awareness of the physical reality of the show itself. It’s only today that I’m registering a kind of sadness at not being able to feel more connected to the work as it heads out there.

(Though, finally finally, I’d also add that all the times I’ve been in the same room as my work being exhibited - which isn’t many - I felt a deep and unpleasant sense of discomfort with the experience. So maybe it’s all for the best to be blissfully unaware? Or maybe the moral of the story is that I should send my parents as emissaries to all the shows to text message me about them… just the right about of connection and alienation…)

4 September 2017
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