Interview with Anne-Marie Schleiner

An Interview with Anne-Marie Schleiner by Megan Lykins, Emily Hall Tremaine Curatorial Fellow for "All Digital" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, showing January to May 2006.

1. How did you come to gaming, or game modding, as a medium for artistic expression? Do you consider gaming an art form in and of itself? Is game modding recognized in the gaming culture, or is it more of an artistic movement?

I was playing games while I was in graduate school at CADRE(Computers in Art Design Research and Education) at San Jose State University in the late 90's with my friends. I recognized computer games as a cultural medium ripe for artistic exploration. I think game modding is both a phenomenom that occurs independently of traditional art contexts as well as a tactic employed by artists with an education in art and awareness of contemporary art contexts.

2. In PS2 Diaries you reference many of the games you played as a child and young adult; is this how you commonly arrive at your material, through your own experience with the games? Are there any games you specifically do not or will not use? If so, why not?

No, I am often interested in games that I dont like to personally play. I enjoy voyeuristically watching other people play games to learn about what kind of modes of play and environments there are. For instance I don't play often online role playing games but I think they are an interesting form of electronic community space and I like to talk to players and learn about their online lives...kind of like being an anthropologist of gaming culture a la Jullien Dibbel but less diligently. I also enjoyed a lot when I went to Seoul, Korea going to the electronics part of town where I found many romantic dating games for teenage girls...a demographic that is pretty much overlooked in the West. I played these games out of curiosity, without understanding the language.

3. In addition to the gaming culture, what are some of the art historical, philosophical, and political references or influences that affect your work?

I am influenced by contemporary art, net art and historical movements like Dada and 70 performance art and conceptual art. I'm also influenced by post-modern theorists, media theorists, culture studies, feminism and gender studies...from Roland Barthes to Judith Butler to Friedrich Kittler to Guy Debord and many others. I am also a science fiction addict--my latest discovery is Louise Marley.

4. Role-playing has become a major aspect of many gaming experiences. Viewers are able to adopt new persona and exist in virtual, or as you call it, "game reality". In what ways does your work explore notions of identity? Having dubbed yourself a "cyberfeminist," in what ways do you specifically explore, analyze, critique and modify the female identity in your work?

It depends which work and when I made it. In the online collection of game hacks Mutation.fem I specifically address early female avatars in shooter games and the dialogue that took place among their mostly male creators about what they should be like. In my thesis project way back in grad school, Madame Polly, I was interested in the Lara Croft Tombraider phenomenom and explored different player/avatar combos, like that of drag queen ... In later works my exploration of gender is less in the foreground but still a component ... its hard not to be when you are a woman working with material in a very male dominated cultural arena ... that of computer games ... also digital and net art can be like that. In OUT, (Operation Urban Terrain) a live wireless series of performances in the city and game interventions, I wanted the ground unit of 2 players in the city to be women as a kind of visual female affront on Americas Army, the game were were intervening in.

5. Though PS2 Diaries is derived from video games, it is not interactive. Are any of your previous works interactive or do you have plans for interactivity in the future? How do you think interactivity would or does change the conception of your work by the viewer?

Machinima is not interactive since it tells a story much like narrative cinema using game environments ... I have just completed another project with machinima components (a documentary about MOUT games and a performance called OUT) and have plans for yet another.

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