Deadly Games

All too often, public memorials honoring the victims of atrocities fall prey to bureaucratic processes in place to appease the living masses. Joseph DeLappe's newest project represents the work of one individual to honor the thousands of individuals who have now died in the Iraq war. This micro-memorial takes the form of an intervention in 'America's Army,' the online first-person-shooter video game used by the US Army to recruit new soldiers. DeLappe logs into the game with the user name 'dead-in-iraq' and proceeds to use the game's text messaging system to type the names, ages, and dates of death of recently deceased US soldiers in Iraq. Then he does nothing. He simply waits to be shot by other players, dies, and then begins the process again, after being 'reincarnated.' Dead In Iraq is a thoughtful co-opting of the tools of digital culture to engage with the political issues raised in an era of high tech war. It is also one of a handful of recent online performances, staged in the diegesis of multiplayer games. The field of 'game art,' itself--of which this live performance is a unique extension--often meets criticism for its perceived lack of seriousness or its indulgence of nostalgia. But DeLappe's evocation of memory, in this game, is no laughing matter. He began the project in March of this year and has already input the names of 250 people killed in action since then. He plans to continue this action until the war ends. Until then, you can view screenshots of his participation in the game, and other users' responses to his messages, on the artist's website. - Marisa Olson