Cory Arcangel: Beat the Champ


It's been an historic week, so what shall I write about today? The Royal Wedding? The death of Osama Bin Laden? AV? Nope: media art inspired by computer gaming, that's what.

Cory Arcangel is one of the best-known artists working with computer technology, including video games, software and the internet. His digital interventions are pleasingly subversive, playful and often tongue-in-cheek: I love his weirdly hypnotic Super Mario Clouds (2002) in which he transforms Nintendo's classic Super Mario Brothers game by removing all the elements except for endlessly scrolling clouds. Another appealing piece of work is Drei Klavierst√ľke, op 11 (2009) - a note-by-note, frame-by-frame version of Klavierst√ľke op 11 (1909) by Arnold Schoenberg, recreated entirely using Youtube videos of cats playing pianos.

I was intrigued, therefore, to pop along to the Barbican's Curve Gallery this week to see the newest installation by Arcangel, Beat the Champ, which brings together a series of 14 bowling video games from consoles from the 1970s to the present day. Projected along the length of the dimly lit gallery, which itself becomes a kind of virtual bowling alley, the consoles have all been programmed by the artist to play continuous - but scoreless - games. The result is an entertaining collage of endless 'gutter balls' and 'no scores', whilst the combined sounds of all the different games create an intriguing cacophany of sound. It's a clever piece: fun, slightly mocking, but also genuinely thoughtful about the roles technology and gaming plays in our lives - in this case, their failures as much as their potential.

Beat the Champ is on show until 22 May 2011. If this sort of thing is up your street, there's also a talk linked to the exhibition taking place next Wednesday at 7.00pm: Ear Candy will be exploring the role of music in video games from the Commodore 64 era to the present day.

Also here's the film with the cats, because... um... well, just because...


[Photocredit: Eliot Wyman]

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