+Commissioned by Rhizome.org+
Interview with Eddo Stern, by Thomas Beard
Last month at Cinematexas, Eddo Stern unveiled Darkgame (prototype), a videogame installation in which two participants, playing against each other, maneuver avatars around a two-dimensional plane, their movements projected against the gallery wall. What's unusual about this scenario is that the experience for both parties involves elements of sensory deprivation. One person is completely "blind," unable to view the main interface and responding only to nonvisual cues: the vibrations of a headset Stern designed to correspond with the location of the opposing player, and related audio signals. And while the other character is able to see the action play out in real time, the field of play becomes obscured when he or she is hit and small patches of gray begin to expand. Sure to open up new avenues for gaming, it's an education of the senses and a truly heady mod.
Well known for his work on such projects as Tekken Torture Tournament, where gamers endured electric shocks relative to the injuries of their onscreen fighters, and Waco Resurrection, in which players assume the role of David Koresh as government authorities advance on the Branch Davidian compound, Stern's art challenges and expands not only our relationships with videogames, but also the social and political histories from which they spring. In this interview, Thomas Beard speaks with Stern about his latest work, as well as MIDIs, memes, and the act of straddling the worlds of art, industry, and internet culture.