A Chip on the Shoulder of Art

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Far from frivolous recreational diversions, computer games are not only prototypes of the post-industrial period, but were already, circa Pong, 'testing out the new possibilities of ''digital capitalism'' long before artists (just like companies, politicians, and the rest of society) discovered these possibilities for their own purposes.' So argues German media art critic Tilman Baumgartel, one-third of the curatorial force behind the Games: Computer Games by Artists exhibition on display through November 30 at Phoenix Wests Reserveteillager warehouse in Dortmund, Germany. Nearly 30 works by international media artists including Vuk Cosic, Tom Betts, and Cory Arcangel 'modify' (i.e. tamper with and transform) commercial juggernauts like Tetris and Counter Strike. Arcangel's witty Super Mario Clouds (2002), for example, boasts a hacked version of the ubiquitous Nintendo cash cow in which our mustachioed hero has completely vanished -- all that remains (after Arcangel literally cracked open the game cartridge and replaced the factory graphics chip with his own) are white clouds on blue sky. -- Andrew Comer