[-empyre-] First posting...
ccp9 at cornell.edu
Tue Mar 12 02:17:11 EST 2013
Thank you Joseph for your wonderful story. Your thoughts on childhood games
made me think of what might be the first computer game by an artist, Random
War 1967 by Charles Csuri, one of the pioneers of computer art. Csuri was a
WWII veteran who went on to become a force in computer graphics research.
He is now 90 years old and still quite skeptical of war efforts, thought he
was the first one to alert me to the complexity of the 60s moment as far as
computers and art goes. The work, which consisted of plotting images of toy
soldiers which were then fed into a random number generator, was done
during the Vietnam war on a college campus in a very subtle commentary on
the clinical logic of war fought on mathematical models (Game theory).
Csuri assigned his name and fellow veterans' names, as well as historical
figures (Reagan, Ford) and administrators at Ohio State where he founded
the Center for the Arts and Design; the computer then determined the
outcome: who was killed, wounded, etc. In a very real sense the work is
also a monument to war victims.
Here is the link:
The work was updated in various ways recently:
On Sun, Mar 10, 2013 at 9:27 PM, Joseph Delappe <delappe at unr.edu> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hello all,
> First off a big thank you to Claudia and Renate for asking me to take part
> in this online discussion. Hello as well to Soraya Murray, I do hope we
> meet in person some day, your scholarship and teaching sounds fascinating -
> thank you for posting the various links (looking forward to reading your
> Grand Theft Auto essay).
> Quite honestly I am not entirely sure where to begin here. I find myself
> in a rather pensive mood these past few weeks, perhaps it is the
> approaching 10th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq or maybe the approach
> of my 50th birthday in May (or maybe a bit of both). I think it best, as
> have others, would be for me to further introduce myself to the discussion
> - although somehow I feel it necessary to go beyond previous "artist's
> bios" to do so. I've been wargaming in terms of "playing war" since I was
> a child. It was my house on 25th avenue in San Francisco growing up in the
> 1970's where the neighborhood gang would gather in my father's workshop to
> build various crude replicas of machine guns and bazookas with which we
> would use to stage mock battles in the neighboring zephyr groves of the
> Presidio (at the time a functioning military base). I grew up obsessed
> with World War II, watching just about every war movie ever made, reading
> military history books, building militar
> y miniatures and model railroad empires in my basement bedroom. I fully
> embraced a very romantic view of the military and had planned for years to
> join the army on graduating from high school. I am not sure why World War
> II although I am sure my mother's family experience, having lived through
> the siege of Budapest in 1945 and their escape as refugees through the Iron
> Curtain soon thereafter, had something to do with it.
> It was in my sophomore year of high school when I first read Erich Maria
> Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front", the classic antiwar novel of
> World War I. This text led to others, including Dalton Trumbo's "Johnny
> Get Your Gun", "The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane, "Catch 22" by
> Joseph Heller, "Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut and eventually, at
> the time, more recently published books (this around 1977-78) by Vietnam
> vets such as Ron Kovic's "Born on the Forth of July" and James Webb's
> "Fields of Fire". Films such as "The Deer Hunter" and "Apocalypse Now"
> were as well significant cultural and personal benchmarks. Just prior to
> graduating from high school in 1981, with little sense as to what to do
> upon graduation besides my life-long dream of joining the army, I very
> nearly signed up. Oddly enough, it was an army recruiter who came to my
> house to talk to me about the army who actually talked me out of joining
> up. As I recall, he had served in Vietnam (
> although not in a combat role) - his honesty and the aforementioned books
> changed my life.
> The answer question asked of my one art teacher in high school, "do you
> think I could be an artist?" (a class taken at the girls school a block
> away from my all boys Catholic High School) she said "yes!". The next year
> I entered City College in San Francisco to study graphic design and
> illustration, completing my AA degree and entering San Jose State
> University's program as a transfer student. Thus, in 1983, as a design
> major I was encouraged by one of my professors to take a new course
> entitled "Computers in Art and Design" through a new program called the
> CADRE Institute (Computers in Art, Design, Research and Education). I
> really had absolutely zero interest in computers. I found this course,
> however, to be not about computers per se but about what one might do with
> them and what they might signify in regards to culture, society, politics,
> art, etc.
> In what was the first class taught for this new program, I created my
> first project that one might consider the be at all game like. Working on
> an Apple II computer, I created a program modeled on Joseph Weizenbaum's
> "Eliza", replacing the non-directional therapist with a Catholic priest to
> create a "Computerized Confessional". This was a playful piece wherein
> visitors to the work would actually kneel before the computer to go through
> the steps of the Sacrament of Confession. I soon thereafter found myself
> becoming less and less interested in becoming a commercial graphic designer
> - it was a combination of becoming politicized in the early Reagan era in
> general (due in no small part to my education in Bay Area punk rock, The
> Dead Kennedy's, MDC, Flipper, etc.) that led me to essentially reject of
> the notion of heading into a career designing graphics for advertising
> consumables for the rest of my life. I was as well reading a variety of
> books about media technology and cr
> itical theory during this time-frame, several key works in this regard
> would be Jerry Mander's "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television",
> the aforementioned Joseph Weizenbaum's "Computer Power and Human Reason",
> Neil Postman's "Expanded Cinema"/"Amusing Ourselves To Death" and Jean
> Baudrillard's "Simulations" to name a few. I pretty much missed out on
> the 1980's as far as video games are concerned although I did become fairly
> highly ranked/addicted on the Starwars arcade video game that was available
> in the recreation room of my dormitory in 1984.
> I eventually completed the first MFA degree through CADRE in 1990, taking
> a first teaching job at the University of South Florida (teaching on aging
> Amigas) through 1993 when we moved to the Reno, Nevada where I have taught
> "Digital Media" for the past 20 years in the Department of Art. Much of my
> creative work over the first ten years out of grad school involved digital
> imaging and kinetic, electromechanical sculpture/installation - much of
> this work sought to critique or question our relationship with emerging
> technologies, simulation, etc. Worth mentioning is likely the piece,
> "Masturbatory Interactant" of 1996-97
> http://www.delappe.net/masturbatory-interactant-1997/ The repetitive
> action of the rotating drums allowing for the random scanning of barcodes
> by the mechanically thrusting scanner eventually scratched the barcodes to
> such an extent that they could no longer be scanned. I was intrigued and
> inspired by this type of mechanical mark-making to create "The Artist'
> s Mouse" http://www.delappe.net/sculpture/the-artists-mouse/. This
> piece led to my first use of computer games directly in my creative
> practice in 1998. I played levels of "Unreal" using "The Artist's Mouse"
> to create a series of abstract graphite drawings, each representing a
> complete mapping of my experience completing levels of the game.
> I first came to play FPS games a few years prior to this - buying
> equipment for our computer lab at UNR from various catalogues (this well
> before the existence of the Apple Store), some vendors would include CDRoms
> of various game titles in the shipping boxes with ordered equipment and
> software. The first game of this type I played was the original "Marathon"
> by Bungie Software. My students were as well starting to play such games -
> I was intrigued. To make a long story short, playing "Unreal" to make
> drawings opened up a world of creative possibilities.
> It was in 2001 that I first "performed" inside a computer game. I had the
> idea to read poetry through the text messaging system of a FPS match online
> (inspired in part by reading a biography of Andy Kaufman). "Howl: Star
> Trek Elite Force Voyager Online"
> http://www.delappe.net/play/howl-elite-force-voyager-online/ was the
> first of a series on online, text based performances. I typed through the
> text messaging system, word for word, as "Allen Ginsberg" first in the
> guise of the wonky Doctor from the TV series (my avatar choice was
> wonderfully, randomly changed to Seven of Nine after a computer crash).
> The entire reading/performance took 6 hours.
> From this work sprang a variety of online, interventionist performances
> within various FPS and online communities, ultimately culminating in
> "dead-in-iraq", 2006-2011, http://www.delappe.net/project/dead-in-iraq/.
> I mention all this past history as it was truly through my work in
> computer games that I became politicized as an artist. I should likely
> save more details here for future posts this week but would like to note
> that I agree with Soraya in that I am not particularly interested in
> whether computer games are accepted as an art form. I am as well much more
> interested in how computer games function as culture and how as an artist I
> might bring to the surface aspects of these ludic arenas that might shed
> light or question aspects of our larger cultural constructs. I would also
> posit that I make art to change the world. Games are arguably changing our
> world - for better or worse - I hope my actions and use of games as
> locations and iconography might in some small way contribute to positive
> What I would like to address as the week goes on are a number of aspects
> of how to perhaps think about and critically engage computer games from an
> artistic/activist/interventionist's perspective. I am as well interested
> in discussing some of my efforts towards engaging in new curriculum
> surrounding "serious games" and just where to go from here (I am presently
> evolving my "Digital Media" program into a new area of emphasis "Art,
> Technology and Social Practice" where I imagine fitting computer gaming
> into the mix). I am very interested to hear others perspectives on such
> issues as well.
> In answer to Claudia's questions regarding the "Returning Fire"
> documentary - yes, I look to focus attention on the world of gaming and the
> larger geopolitical consequences of games - in this instance the America's
> Army recruiting game. When the army recruiter came to my house in 1981, he
> may have very easily convinced me as an 18 year old to sign up for the
> military. He discouraged me to do so. My actions within the America's
> Army game were intended as a similar gesture, albeit to unknown fellow
> gamers. I hoped that through naming actual military casualties in a
> shooter game designed to entice young people to join the military I might
> have a similar effect in providing a type of conscientious objection - a
> moment of reality to perhaps temporarily pierce the "magic circle" of
> simulated warfare. There are many other reasons for my actions but this is
> the basis of my intent.
> I was fortunate to work with Steve Lambert, the Yes Men and dozens of
> other activists/artists/writers on the Fake NYtimes Project in 2008-2009,
> http://www.delappe.net/projects/fake-new-york-times/. I met Steve at
> Eyebeam in 2008 where he was a Fellow and I was a Commissioned Resident. I
> do see much of my work very tied to conceptual art in that ultimately it is
> the idea of intervening in computer gaming spaces that is central to much
> of the work. In 2003 the New York Times reported on my piece
> "Quake/Friends", http://www.delappe.net/game-art/quakefriends/ a
> performance by an ensemble group of performers within a Quake server of an
> entire episode of the TV show "Friends". I was quite honestly as thrilled
> by the very notion that potentially millions of NYtimes readers simply knew
> of the idea of the work as I was by actually performing the piece to the
> handful of intrepid souls who actually showed up for the performance at the
> Sheppard Gallery at the University of Nevada, R
> eno. The story resulted in threatened legal action by Warner Brothers
> for what they perceived to be copyright violations, but that perhaps is for
> another time. I could go further here connecting the work to conceptual
> art practice but I think I have rambled on enough for today!
> Anyway, I will stop now and write some further thoughts tomorrow.
> Looking forward to the discussion!
> Joseph DeLappe
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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