Lingering Patience

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Jon Rafman, A Man Digging (2013), Single channel HD video

Jon Rafman uses the intricate tableaux of Rockstar Games' Max Payne 3 as cinematic source material for his new machinima work, A Man Digging (2013). In this meandering and Robbe-Grillet inflected narrative, Rafman ruminates on the simulated sunbeams glinting through favela windows within the game, a melancholy sunrise in a deserted subway car, a heavy fog over a slate grey harbor. He can only do so, however, after killing every character—whether enemy or bystander—in the scene. In this way, Rafman makes visible the tension between the game as object of contemplation and the game as a continuous stream of connected events.

Although many makers outside of the industry have used video games as source material—Peggy Ahwesh, JODI, Eva and Franco Mattes, and Phil Solomon, to name a few—A Man Digging highlights a particularly frustrating issue in contemporary game design: namely, a pushy Artificial Intelligence system that goads the player into constantly responding to the checkpoints, achievements, and goals that are all in the service of what tends to be called a game's "narrative." Although these events don't necessarily develop plot or characters, they are seen as central components of driving (or forcing) the player toward a sense of completion and finality that can only be accomplished through linear gameplay. As a result of this insistent narrative-centric design, players are prevented from exploring the potential for triple-A games to take on the unique, interactive potential to create contemplative and self-reflective video game environments.

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AIDS 3D interviews Jon Rafman

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In Kaleidoscope, AIDS 3D interviews Jon Rafman: 

Aids3d: As an artist you’ve got a lot of different things going on. Do you think it’s important as an artist to have a seemingly cohesive body of work, or at least some kind of delineation between different sub-practices. Could you outline some structure that organizes your practice as a whole?

Jon Rafman: What ties my practice together is not so much a particular style, form, or material but an underlying perception of contemporary experience and a desire to convey this understanding. One theme that I am continually interested in is the way technology seems to bring us closer to each other while simultaneously estranging us from ourselves. Another one is the quest to marry opposites or at least have conversations between them, the past and the present, the romantic and the ironic, even though these conversations often end in total clashes. All my work tends to combines irony, humor and melancholy.
Rafman donated two prints from A New Age Demanded (2011) series for Rhizome's Community Campaign. Check out the other great artists who donated limited edition artworks available only during the Campaign, which ends January 14th.

 

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Community Campaign 2012 Limited Edition Artworks

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A New Age Demanded (Kline #2), Jon Rafman

Rhizome's Community Campaign is currently underway! Today, we're offering eight excellent reasons to make a contribution this year - the fantastic artworks generously donated by artists Anamanaguchi, Extreme Animals, DIS, Paul Chan, Ofri Cnaani, Kärt Ojavee & Eszter Ozvald, Joe Hamilton, and Jon Rafman.

Make a donation today at the following levels and you may choose to receive the following works:

Anamanaguchi and Extreme Animals, images courtesy of the artists

For donations of $25, we offer limited edition ringtones from the bands Anamanaguchi and Extreme Animals. Load these ringtones on your phone to ring with noise and chiptune style!

Contemporary Internet Lifestyles (2011), DIS

Contributions of $50 will receive this large photographic print titled Contemporary Internet Lifestyles by DIS. Featuring performer Paris Gotti, this photograph is a perfect piece to expand your growing collection.

 

Sade for Sade's Sake (2010), Paul Chan

A donation of $100 receive Sade for Sade's Sake (2010), a data CD containing 21 type fonts and a collection of digital artwork by Paul Chan. Each data CD is signed and editioned; it's fantastic gift for any collector, artist, or designer.

 

Slideshow #15 (no title, 1988) (2011), Ofri Cnaani

Donations of $500 include a lush digital print entitled Slideshow #15 (no title, 1988) by time-based media artist Ofri Cnaani. This print was donated by the artist specifically for Rhizome's Community Campaign.

 

SymbiosisC (2011), Kärt Ojavee and Eszter Ozsvald

A $750 donation will receive SymbiosisC, a heat responsive soft sculpture by Kärt Ojavee and Eszter Ozsvald. SymbiosisC is a unique decorative object that changes color with your body's warmth. Its cushion-like size will fit perfectly in any home or apartment.

 

Hyper Geography Print Set (2011), Joe Hamilton

For a $1,000 contribution, you can receive a ...

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Codes of Honor

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Jon Rafman, Codes of Honor, 2011


Chinatown Fair arcade closed down on February 28th, 2011, after over 50 years. Gamers are still in mourning. CF, as it was known, was one of the last video game arcades in America where one could count on finding top-level competition.  I spent the better part of 2009 in that dingy, dim-lit arcade at the end of Mott street, which was the battlegound for the best players in the history of pro-gaming.

The first Street Fighter release in a decade —Street Fighter IV —just came out, sparking a short-lived renaissance in the fighting game community. I got to know the regulars at the arcade and began conducting daily video interviews, asking them to recall their greatest memories at the joysticks. I set up a YouTube channel, which was widely followed and the comment section became a major forum for debate in the community. During that year, I learned that to be a top-pro one could not simply master the technical aspect of the game; to compete at the highest level one needed to have a strong character and a deep understanding of human psychology. I learned that pro-gamers ascribe to the values and virtues of the classical archetypes of yore: honor, respect for the other, and excellence. Hardcore gamers have an experience of acheivement so intense that, although limited in scope and time, it is forever difficult to equal. Although nothing can rival the high they get from defeating a worthy opponent or the reputation during their reign, the fame is as fleeting as the high of the win. And so I learned of the tragic element that is inherent to the experience of video gaming...

 

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Domenico Quaranta on Jon Rafman show, copyright issues

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Recently Jon Rafman removed several images from the Brand New Paint Job website after an artists' licensing organization based in Canada sent cease and desist letters. In an essay for his show at Fabio Paris Art Gallery, Domenico Quaranta, author of Media, New Media, Postmedia (excerpted on Rhizome) explains why the contested images are fair use:

Schwitters Alley, 2011

What makes BNPJ [Brand New Paint Job] a radical project, despite its apparent accessibility, is – on one hand – its not immediate identification as a work of art and – on the other – its referencing of a conception of intellectual property that is not shared by current legislation.

As for the first point, without entering into the legal motivations behind the cease and desist letters, it is interesting to note that neither of them refer to the artistic nature of the project. The first makes a generic mention of “images”, and the second refers to an “online game”. It has to be said that if Rafman had been recognised as an artist, and his work as art, it is highly likely that it would have satisfied the criteria for fair use: the limited use of copyright material for specific purposes, as normally applies to artistic appropriations. So how was it possible that a collective set up to protect the interests of artists did not recognise, or refused to recognise, the artistic nature of a work?

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