July 26, 2006

[giantJoystick] erupts from Game/Play!

by Mary Flanagan · , 12:02 am

well, the opening of Game/Play at London’s House of Technology Termed Practice [HTTP] 22nd July was fantastic! This was the premiere of my [giantJoystick] (see below… ah… you can’t miss it)

as well as several amazing screen-based games pieces.

I was impressed with the games in the show,
co-curated by Giles Askham, Louise Clements, Marc Garrett, Ruth Catlow, and Corrado Morgana. Morgana wrote an essay for the catalogue entitled ‘Critical Gaming,’ and in a short space gives a solid introduction to the field. Folks will be familiar with my fellow blogger’s Facade project… this work was certainly a hit at the show; one girl played four times and had to be asked to share her station with others! The Endless Forest by Tale of Tales, was shown — it is a beautiful multiuser game in which players take on the role of a deer who wanders through a magical forest occupied by other creatures, such as deer with human like faces. Players can interact with each other and even dance together. This art game is beautiful, noncompetitive, and frankly just stunning.

This game ran counter to Jetro Lauha’s Truck Dismount, where players interact with a physics demo type of environment with the goal of maximizing the destruction of the crash test dummy character ‘DJ’. Yes, you actually try to crush the dummy, and yes, there is gore. Furtherfield, the organization affiliated with the HTTP gallery, showed their Visitor’s Studio, which is an online multi-user play/jamming environment: an online place for real-time, multi-user mixing, collaborative creation, many to many dialogue and networked performance & play.

I have to say, objects are gratifying.

My hopes for the piece were certainly met, and then some. Not only was the stick a magnet for collaboration, but it also became a play object in and of itself. Adults seemed to want to touch it (the stick part is coated in a nice rubber to get that 2600 feel) and kids just did ‘ring around the joystick’ laps when they weren’t whooping it up over Asteroids or Breakout.

The gallery was abuzz with discussions: some regarding the stick concerned the role of the body, the scale, nostalgia, the reinvention of childhood, having ‘permission’ to play…

I made new friends. Giles is one. He earned high scores on all of the games; he can also solder and is handy with duct tape.

Sondra is another! I met a slew of people actually and would love for those node.Londoners to drop me an email!
And the valiant Marc Garrett and Ruth Catlow, who run the gallery. They are the most wonderful organizers and very generous humans. Good energy comes forth from them! Unfortunately due to the crowd I don’t have a photo of them together!

Finally, old friends came to the show: Sara Diamond, Tom Donaldson, and Lizbeth Goodman held out til the end of the opening. I didn’t get to chat too much about Stanza’s(pictured below with self and Tom) new work, but I will keep an eye on his web site. It was thrilling to catch up with Tom, with whom I was once locked in a 24 hour habituation cage by Sara Diamond at the Dutch Electronic Arts Festival as a social experiment– it’s how we met and have been friends since!
Many folks are asking if the [gJ] can show in the US. Its spoken for at the moment, however, touring in Europe until 2008. However it is part of an edition, so may soon appear in a park or museum near you! Look for forthcoming giganticisms from yours truely…

6 Responses to “[giantJoystick] erupts from Game/Play!”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Talk about a emphasizing the phallic nature of the joystick.

  2. marc garrett Says:

    Hi Mary & all,

    Yes – it was a great evening. We have also been opening the doors to people who have been arriving on the wrong days, at the wrong times. It seems that the exhibition has inspired many to to pop round – we have had all kinds visiting. I would like to remind everyone on here that, we are (with a crew at the gallery, eating food and drinking) meeting online with others from different regions around the world, for an online performance by Tale of Tales – Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn, in The Endless Forest; tomorrow evening.

    To play:
    Download the Endless Forest ‘social screensaver’

    Meet yer there between 7-8 (BST)

    Wishing everyone much respect.


  3. andrew Says:

    Mary, tell us a little bit about your process of constructing the stick, what the challenges were… It looks great, and great fun, in the photos.

  4. Anti Patterns Says:


    L’art moderne s’empare de plus en plus du média ludique pour créer ses œuvres, et c’est tant mieux. Tous les jeux vidéo ne sont pas des œuvres d’arts (loin de là), mais elles en ont assurément le potentiel.   C’est l’objet de l…

  5. mary Says:

    anti –oui, oui… c’est à demi vrai. Dans mes oeuvre, j’ai travaillé pour la plupart avec des jeux et l’interactivité -est-que c’est “l’art moderne” ??
    je ne sais pas. ca dépende — qui crée des définitions?

    l’expérience est, pour moi, c’est pous ou moins pour créer une expérience sociale.
    je m’inspire de l’art de Joseph Beuys et d’autres artistes dans Fluxus et Dada…

  6. mary Says:

    andrew– lots to talk about there! Thx for the questions. [giantJoystick] represents a significant new direction in my work, taking many of the themes i’ve been working with for years in game design and artwork and manifesting them in real space. I first wanted to make a 30 foot + high, statue of liberty style work, for MASSIVE collaboration… but this type of thing was not right for the game/play context, so for the commission I scaled down a little. Perhaps soon…

    My goal was to encourage participation with something very familiar, very friendly, so that folks who are not necessarily interested in contemporary art or who are not serious computer gamers could find the work approachable and the play meaningful and fun. Meeting the range of folks who came to the opening, the stick succeeds in that. re: construction, I have a lot of wonderful, generous, talented, and just plain smart people to thank, including my fantastic fabrication staff!! Challenges– first and foremost, the main objective was making the object durable and safe. The stick can hold many people, is structurally sound, and made of durable materials. This is especially important given how things can happen in large scale work: on the weekend of the opening, there was a tragedy in northern england (durham) where an inflatable interactive sculpture (a public art work) became torn from its moorings in the wind and two participants were killed. I’m sure you heard this terribly sad news…

    Shipping a 1 ton joystick has its own unique challenges; luckily, the object comes apart in convenient segments and can be assembled in a few hours with four people moving the larger elements!

    once I get a few things off my plate (including another collaboration, in progress) i’ll post more info about the project on my web site, so look for that in a week or two! a press kit can also be ordered by emailing me. thx!~

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