|Mobile Projection Unit, Snake the Planet!|
courtesy the artists, opening night photo Kate Blackmore
The casual flavour is more potent as the background of its creators, Lukasz Karluk, Rene Christen and Nick Clark (aka Mobile Projection Unit, http://mpulabs.com) who have between them worked on enough high-budget commercial interactives that it is clear they could have opted for a more seamless and slick surface. But for now they are all about insinuating themselves into the crevices.
The game is a homespun version of the arcade classic Snake, whose pixellated arena weirdly traces the shapes of the wall itself. Documentation shows the shopping jeep in the company of a ragged sofa and assorted living room furnishings, touring down back alleys and culs-de-sac, resting, it seems, in this most back-alley of galleries before the tour continues. It's the enactment of an anecdote from writer and activist Jane Jacobs or social theorist David Harvey on the multiple uses of the sidewalk, but here we're meshing those earlier democratic urban visions with the arcade games of the creators’ childhood milieu. Or, if you like, claiming that earlier politics for the armchair video game generation questions the idea of such games as a cause of urban alienation, countering with an 8-bit social urbanist manifesto for the next wave of space invaders.
|George Khut, Distillery II|
photo Kate Blackmore
The core theme throughout is biofeedback. In Distillery II your physiological signals are translated into minimal, asymmetric rings of brightness on an iPad display, the unconscious processes of life made explicit and external. The hook is the visceral way you have to buy in to the work in order to experience it. If you have taken the time to use the machine's help to change your very heart rate, then it is a contradiction to claim being unaffected.
As raw as this avowed prototype is, it is more polished than its progenitor works, say, Cardiomorphologies v2 from 2007. In that piece the retrofuturist reclining couch recalled ancient room-filling supercomputers, but this iteration, given the tenor of the moment, is necessarily on iPad app. Your heart-rate is measured by a slimline slip-on ear-ring, the visualisations displayed on a solipsistically personal screen.
One day, Khut explains, this experience could be in sundry app stores; he just needs to work out how to get decent biometric data into the phone. And with that, it looks different to me: not so much a feature on the underground terrain of new media art, rather a niche consumer item on the mainstream landscape: a takeaway meditation aid for the modern yogi-on-the-go.
This is not to dismiss it for mass-marketability—the opposite, really. Distillery II is elegant and more minutely worked than the typical eye-candy on your smartphone app-store of choice. The distinctive lines of the portable Apple fetish item do invite us to consider the relationship to Angry Birds and all the other virally unsociable fruit of this decade’s commuting habits. There is nothing wrong with exhibition as focus group, although I think the exhibition opens me to a work that would be invisible on an app-store promotion page—it’s the physical presence of the artist as he greets me that tells me to set that time aside
|Paul Greedy, Untitled (Air 1)|
photos courtesy the artist
|CJ Conway, i am so into you|
vertical photo courtesy the artist; horzontal photo Kate Blackmore
Dorkbot Group Show 2012, curator Pia van Gelder, artists CJ Conway, George Poonkhin Khut, Peter Blamey, Paul Greedy, MPU (Mobile Projection Unit): Lukasz Karluk, Rene Christen, Nick Clark, Serial Space, Chippendale, March 6 -11; www.serialspace.org
This article first appeared as part of RT's online e-dition march 20.
RealTime issue #108 April-May 2012 pg. 22
© Dan MacKinlay; for permission to reproduce apply to email@example.com