2015 Exhibition: To Utility and Beyond. Interface Experiments in New Media and Game Art.

To Utility And Beyond.
@ InterAccess (9 Ossington Avenue)
Opening Reception: Wednesday February, 18th. 7pm-9pm.
Exhibition Running From February 18th-March 13th.

Featuring Works By: Connor Campbell (Can), Kieran Nolan (Irl), Juliana Riska/Dorian Reunkrilerk/Loriane Stary/Kim Boldt (Fra), Kara Stone/Nadine Lessio (Can), Kim Hoang/Ben Swinden/Zachary Soares/Hamish Lambert (Can) And Jochen Zeirzer (Aut)

What makes an interface? What characterizes a successful (or a failed) attempt to interface with a game, a machine, an algorithm, or another human? What are the politics of interface design, and what are its aesthetics? How are desires, hopes and fears expressed in interfaces?

To Utility and Beyond surveys recent works by a selection of international new media artists and game makers who explore these and other questions through playful, critical, and self-reflexive experimentation. The works featured in the exhibition include machinima, kinetic sculptures, experimental videogames, interactive installations, and text adventures.

Kieran Nolan’s contribution is emblematic of the complex perspectives explored by our artists: CONTROL (2014) is a playable meta-game in which the functionality of classic game controllers serves as the basis for abstract dexterity puzzles. In this fiendishly difficult game about touching buttons, human-computer-interfaces that are commonly pushed to the periphery of our attention assume the central roles of both avatar and adversary.

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In contrast, Connor Campbell’s interactive kinetic sculpture Cootie Catcher with Balls (2014) modifies a conventional ‘match-maker’ paper toy in such a way that the most obvious modes of interaction become unavailable. Here, a toy originally made to be touched is removed from our reach, and through subtle (and not so subtle) play with the semantics of color, language, and texture, the piece reflects on gender biases built into many interfaces designed for (and by) children.

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Jochen Zeirzer’s Coin (2013), another kinetic sculpture, also plays with the meanings of interaction, but it does so by completely decoupling the human agent from the machine with which it may want to interface. In this installation, a seemingly peripheral moment – dropping a coin in a slot – is framed as an intricate mechanical loop that becomes an event in its own right when the machine continues to feed itself the same coin over and over again. Unable to interfere with this automated cycle, in which the machine itself is both interface and interfacing agent, we are left to imagine what rewards the perpetual coin drop could hold (a game of pinball, a load of laundry, a soda pop?).

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Kara Stone and Nadine Lessio’s Sext Adventure – a non-linear text adventure with more than 20 different endings – is more straightforwardly interactive, but no less subversive. Through the viewer’s own cellphone, which here serves as an all-too familiar interface, the game invites users to engage in simulated ‘sexting’ encounters that explore current cultures of mass-mediated sexuality and speculate on the sexual identity of artificial intelligences.

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Kim Hoang, Ben Swinden, Zachary Soares, and Hamish Lambert’s Mouffe (2014) is a room-filling interactive sculpture, an interactive ‘dream simulator’ reminiscent of the blanket forts of our childhood days. Visitors are invited to explore a collection of digital objects whose movement and projection is controlled through what may be the most unusual interface of the exhibition – a custom-made quilt controller.

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The exhibition’s final piece, Liquidation (2013) by Juliana Riska, Dorian Reunkrilerk, Loriane Stary, and Kim Boldt, is a machinima video that uses footage from The Sims 3 to create a mesmerizing collage of in-game wallpaper, virtual home decorations, and interior design furnishings. A non-narrative film, Liquidation foregrounds the pleasures of pure ‘interfacing’ that characterizes sandbox games like The Sims.

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Ultimately, To Utility and Beyond aims to ask how we can forge functional interfaces between different spheres of creative expression – such as media art and game art – beyond the commercial discourses dominating much of the new media landscape. As such, the works included here are emblematic of the blurring lines between aesthetic discourses that are often still considered as separate (even incompatible) entities.