MetaPhoto explores the extent to which contemporary media artists might activate video games as found topologies by way of the existing medium of photography, resulting in new artistic objects that reconfigure and transcend the aesthetic intentions of a game’s original creators. The “meta” in the title is an acknowledgement of the active mediation by which these resulting digital objects transform audience into artist.
Since the initial appearance in the 1970’s of the medium we now understand as video games, its position and reception within the cultural landscape has undergone a profound shift. Fifty years on, video games have evolved from mere play-things for an avid but specialist audience, to a prominent paradigm at the forefront of contemporary digital life. As early as the 1980’s, an evolution was underway, with the inclusion of video games in consequential exhibits like “Hot Circuits: A Video Arcade” (1989) at the Museum of Moving Image suggesting a new view of these play-things as objects for serious aesthetic consideration. In the 1990s, new media artist Jodi took up the video game as a form of found object, much like the bicycle seat had been for Picasso and the urinal for Duchamp in the previous century. The early 2000s saw creators like Porpentine, Paolo Perdiccini and Joseph Fares explicit in framing their video games foremost as works of art rather than as entertainments. At the same time, increasingly elaborate games like Halo and Minecraft ushered in a novel turn: that of video game as platform, in which the player-audience is afforded unprecedented levels of agency to craft original aesthetic experiences within a game’s topology. This latest stage of maturation of the video game medium has been decisive and defining. An expanded and expansive state of objecthood means video games hold dual status as both object and world; as a result, artistic acts, no longer limited to the game’s creator, are available to any of its participant audience.
—Rene G. Cepeda & Kat Mustatea, January 2023
Rene G. Cepeda
René G. Cepeda is a Mexican multidisciplinary designer/art historian specializing in new media art. His studies include Information Design and software development, museum studies and art history master’s degrees in the UK
Kat Mustatea is transmedia playwright and artist whose language and performance works enlist absurdity, hybridity, and the computational uncanny to dig deeply into what it means to be human. Her hybrid work, Voidopolis, is forthcoming in 2023 from MIT Press as an augmented reality book made to disappear. She is currently an artist member of ONX Studio, a member of The Orchard Project’s 2022/23 Greenhouse Lab, a project fellow at NYU’s ITP/IMA Program, and a 2023 artist in residence at the cell Theatre, NYC. Her TED talk, about puppets and AI, takes a novel approach to the meaning of machines making art.