Sep 04 2012

"Games Are Perfect Artmaking Tools": An Interview with Kent Sheely

456 Robert de Niro in Scorsese's "Taxi Driver", from Kent's project "Zappers" (2011).

Kent Sheely is an American digital artist living in New York City who makes art out of, and about, video games. His work includes real-life installations of Super Mario Boxes, classic war-photography in Day of Defeat and the photography-hack Grand Theft Photo. I wanted to know more about Kent's approach to video games and asked him a few questions by email. His portfolio can be viewed at his site.
VGT: Why video games? ;)
Kent: When I was a kid, I used to draw up new adventures for my favorite game characters, incorporating their 8-bit worlds into those from my own imagination. I was never satisfied with just playing the games; I was driven to take them to new places. I guess that sensibility just evolved as I grew up and started finding out about other artists who were using video games to create art. They were validating my obsession.
Games are perfect artmaking tools, because like art, they already abstract the real world and can provide new perspectives on it. They're also a window into both current and nostalgic pop culture, since they have grown up alongside our current generation. It's an ever-evolving medium. 
A majority of my work centers around taking elements from either the real or virtual realm and finding ways to interpret them in the other, like a mashup between simulation and reality. It's that grey area that I find most interesting. 
Aug 28 2012

Virtual Light: Exploring In-Game Photography And Photo History

440 Eron Rauch, "A Land to Die In (Every Player Corpse from 1-70)" from A Land to Die In (Detail)

A few weeks ago, LA-based artist, writer and VGT-reader Eron Rauch contacted me to discuss some of the finer points of In-Game Photography. This conversation led me to ask him to collect his thoughts in an essay about the relation of In-Game Photography and traditional photography and art. Here it is.  

If you are anything like me, you had friends who linked Rainer's "The Art of in-game Photography." If you are anything like me, you saw many of your friends duke it out on Facebook and Twitter over whether or not this was a legitimate art — whether it was  even photography.

The arguments, if I may dramatize them like a cheap real-crime TV program, went something like this: It's photography. No, it's not photography. Yes it is. No it isn't. Uh-huh. Nuh-uh. Your mother's not photography. Well your mother was photography last night.

Then: You own the image. No you don't own the image. Yes it is. No it isn't. Uh-huh. Nuh-uh. I own your mother. Well I owned your mother last night.

I have spent too much time drinking coffee and waiting in lobbies in League of Legends (to inevitably have the 5th PUG pick Feeder-Yi). I spent this time mulling over why this video-game-photography-thinger gets people so worked up. Here are two thoughts:

1) Both sides of these arguments seem to have good points.

2) What sides? The history of photography is way too weird for binaries.

The more I turned these two ideas around the more it occurred to me that they were related. Additionally, the more I pondered the original article on In-Game Photography (IGP) and the very polarized reactions it elicited, the more I grew adamant that these strong reactions mean that this subject is a very important notion to ponder and hence make art about.