The Possibilities and Pitfalls of the Video Game Exhibition

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MINECRAFT (2011). Installation view, "Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games" co-presented by Museum of the Moving Image and IndieCade. Photo: Ben Helmer.

I woke up early on an overcast and windy morning in January and caught the M train up to Astoria to spend the morning playing video games at the Museum of Moving Image. The current exhibition, co-organized by Jason Eppink and Indiecade—an international festival of indie games—is entitled "Indie Essentials," and is home to 25 ready-to-play titles on various platforms. The diverse selection of titles on view were installed with a keen attention to detail, and the exhibition was carefully structured. However, as I walked around the space and played nearly every title on display (or at least every single-player title), a question kept nagging at me: do video games belong in the museum?

This is not to say that I agree with the short-sighted, yet fascinatingly stringent, argument presented by Roger Ebert that video games cannot be art. Rather, "Indie Essentials" posed as an interesting example for the ways in which the museum as a site seems unfit to house this kind of media. This is not the fault of the Moving Image, or the organizers of the exhibition, by any means. The exhibition elegantly exhibited the works, providing ample space for players and viewers. But I'd argue that some of the experience of playing these games gets lost when presented in public space.

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INSERT DISC: a digital flaneur’s guide

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For the traveler who desires a journey through space and time, a visit to Long Island City is highly recommended. The second iteration of Aram Bartholl's DVD Dead Drop project is available at the Museum of the Moving image until October 27th. Titled INSERT DISC (produced in collaboration with Robert Sakrowski), the project presents a journey to the heyday of artist produced interactive CD-ROM's: the 90’s.

⇸ Around the corner from the main entrance of MMI, one will find a CD / DVD sized slot carved in the side of the museum. Come equipped with a blank DVD-R. Insert the disc. After roughly seven minutes, your disc will be returned – its heat sensitive dye freshly encoded with a complex package containing relics of the past.

⇸ After returning to your personal computer, mount the disc on any Mac or PC (Linux or Windows) with at least a 2.2 Ghz processor and 8 Gb of free hard drive space. The DVD contains a virtual disk image (.vdi) virtual machine compatible with Oracle’s free and VirtualBox software. Following the simple setup instructions in the DVD’s README.txt, one will find themselves booting up a Ubuntu desktop...

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