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May 01, 2006

Interview with Anne-Marie Schleiner


Disrupting Static Environments

An Interview with Anne-Marie Schleiner by Megan Lykins, Emily Hall Tremaine Curatorial Fellow for "All Digital" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, showing January to May 2006.

1. How did you come to gaming, or game modding, as a medium for artistic expression? Do you consider gaming an art form in and of itself? Is game modding recognized in the gaming culture, or is it more of an artistic movement?

I was playing games while I was in graduate school at CADRE(Computers in Art Design Research and Education) at San Jose State University in the late 90's with my friends. I recognized computer games as a cultural medium ripe for artistic exploration. I think game modding is both a phenomenom that occurs independently of traditional art contexts as well as a tactic employed by artists with an education in art and awareness of contemporary art contexts.

2. In PS2 Diaries you reference many of the games you played as a child and young adult; is this how you commonly arrive at your material, through your own experience with the games? Are there any games you specifically do not or will not use? If so, why not?

No, I am often interested in games that I dont like to personally play. I enjoy voyeuristically watching other people play games to learn about what kind of modes of play and environments there are. For instance I don't play often online role playing games but I think they are an interesting form of electronic community space and I like to talk to players and learn about their online lives...kind of like being an anthropologist of gaming culture a la Jullien Dibbel but less diligently. I also enjoyed a lot when I went to Seoul, Korea going to the electronics part of town where I found many romantic dating games for teenage girls...a demographic that is pretty much overlooked in the West. I played these games out of curiosity, without understanding the language.

3. In addition to the gaming culture, what are some of the art historical, philosophical, and political references or influences that affect your work?

I am influenced by contemporary art, net art and historical movements like Dada and 70 performance art and conceptual art. I'm also influenced by post-modern theorists, media theorists, culture studies, feminism and gender studies...from Roland Barthes to Judith Butler to Friedrich Kittler to Guy Debord and many others. I am also a science fiction addict--my latest discovery is Louise Marley.

4. Role-playing has become a major aspect of many gaming experiences. Viewers are able to adopt new persona and exist in virtual, or as you call it, "game reality". In what ways does your work explore notions of identity? Having dubbed yourself a "cyberfeminist," in what ways do you specifically explore, analyze, critique and modify the female identity in your work?

It depends which work and when I made it. In the online collection of game hacks Mutation.fem I specifically address early female avatars in shooter games and the dialogue that took place among their mostly male creators about what they should be like. In my thesis project way back in grad school, Madame Polly, I was interested in the Lara Croft Tombraider phenomenom and explored different player/avatar combos, like that of drag queen ... In later works my exploration of gender is less in the foreground but still a component ... its hard not to be when you are a woman working with material in a very male dominated cultural arena ... that of computer games ... also digital and net art can be like that. In OUT, (Operation Urban Terrain) a live wireless series of performances in the city and game interventions, I wanted the ground unit of 2 players in the city to be women as a kind of visual female affront on Americas Army, the game were were intervening in.

5. Though PS2 Diaries is derived from video games, it is not interactive. Are any of your previous works interactive or do you have plans for interactivity in the future? How do you think interactivity would or does change the conception of your work by the viewer?

Machinima is not interactive since it tells a story much like narrative cinema using game environments ... I have just completed another project with machinima components (a documentary about MOUT games and a performance called OUT) and have plans for yet another. I seem to be moving away from interaction and away from collaboration in my recent work whereas previously everything was highly interactive and also collaborative with the audience and other artists (like Velvet-Strike). Maybe it is just a phase. I feel like I have some things I want to say on my own with more control over the process.

6. What are some of the misconceptions about digital art and game modding that you've encountered from viewers, artists, or critics?

Many people in the art world, even younger generations, are turned off by computer games, viewing them as a low class popular pastime so they may have built in aversions to engaging with computer game related work. In the 90's it took a while for even the proponents of virtual reality art to recognize the potential of 3-D game environments, which were below their cultural radar. And of course digital art in general poses the problem of being very ephemeral and difficult to collect to the art world...(the lack of the aura of the singular object). Also the quickly changing formats make the work difficult to view even a few years after it has been created.

7. What projects are you currently working on and what direction do you see your work taking in the future?

I plan to do some work with machinima relating to police brutality that will probably be displayed on portable playstations (psps). Im also interested in developing some game work for cell phones in collaboration with my husband Luis Hernandez ... going to smaller portable formats ... and I plan to do some work that departs from the arena of games following subjects that I am interested in such as disruption of static environments and personal rebellion.

8. Who is Parangari Cutiri, from where does she come, what is she like and what does she do?

She was an alternate persona I created to make net art and visually more formal game and software and music pieces ... somebody who felt different from my usually more conceptually informed artworks who allowed me to explore other things (if I had another life sometimes I think I would be a software programmer) ... she came into existence when I was curating the game/net art show Cracking the Maze and felt like something was missing so I made a game mod to include in the show under her name. A CD of a VJ/Hip Hop Game that she made has been published recently called Heaven711. Check out my website opensorcery.net for more info. Since I so rarely have an "object" resulting from my work I was happy with how the folding cover of the Heaven711 CD came out, with an essay booklet included and music from collaborating artists.

http://www.mocacleveland.org/exhibi tions_details/ex_details_2006-ws.asp

Posted by jo at May 1, 2006 11:55 AM