Bill Viola, of course, is semi-divine in the world of new media art. Not only does he push the boundaries of what video is capable of caputuring and manipulating, but like a contemporary Da Vinci, he also invents new devices and cinematic gadgets so that the very tools that shape his work are artistic innovations in their own right.
Cut to a chance encounter I had this evening with a video game developer from USC who worked with Viola on a ephemeral looking video game called The Night Journey. Of course, being a game, the interactivity that is integral to the project shifts the whole experience of consuming video art into a completely novel space. And it is one that I am starting to find very interesting. I like “line-blurring” in general – and if Bill Viola thinks the boundaries around video art and game technology are constructs that need to reconsidered, challenged and reimagined as a distinct aspect of an artistic genre, then I’m all ears (and eyes).
Throw all the nerdy gamers into padded room with geeky (but anxiously confident) art critics, art historians, museologists, toss in a few artists and stir. This seems to have been what happened at this conference earlier this year…..Video games are not just Super Mario-esque worlds of gold coins and dropping barrels; games that are more about the experience of being in an alternative environment, or of controlling a dream-like timespace aren’t so much about gaining points as they are about gaining a certain degree of insight into a concept.
I like the idea of wandering through Viola’s psyche, and that is certainly the feeling you get from watching some of The Night Journey, which pieces together footage from his past projects, of himself, of landscapes and architectural forms that are rendered in 3D with a rich grey scale. Apparently you can transform this into a colored environment if you interact with the program.
It seems that Viola’s work and some work by gaming artists like Jason Rohrer is more about encouraging audiences to think differently about their relationship to the “outside” world while relishing the experiences of a parallel video world. That’s not “Frogger” – that’s art. And it’s a whole different way to think about video.