Emoticon, 2007, computer animation, 3:43 minutes, sound, courtesy of the artist and Postmasters Gallery, New York
Eddo Stern: Flamewar
January 24 - June 20, 2009
Curator: Ilana Tenenbaum
Eddo Stern (b. 1972), an Israeli new media artist living in the U.S., works in different mediums - sculpture, performance, installation art and interactive media. His work questions manifestations of violence in contemporary culture, and their relations with the violence-suffused fantasy world of computer games. Combining cutting-edge programming with simple animation methods, these works are concerned with power struggles - wars, sports and ring fights - and examine the status of games vis-à-vis the urge to engage in war.
Computer games occupy an important position in the history of digital art, since they investigate its underlying principles: navigation and simulation, the creation of a 3D world, narrative links and multi-participatory environments. Stern examines the "transparent" structures of control that exist in the world of games by undermining the player's necessary control over his avatar - that is, over the character representing him in the virtual world. In the course of a regular computer game, the player's identification with the character is entirely imaginary. In Stern's "game," by contrast, the relations between the player and the game are disrupted in concrete ways, which create a two-way interface. According to the artist, he is interested in the moments in which the fantasy collapses into itself.
Stern frequently appropriates fragmented footage from different computer games, and makes use of his advanced programming skills in order to create an experience of estrangement and question the relationship between the player and his fictional avatar. He points to the strong ties between reality and the products of media and technology, which are perceived as illusory. His works examine the values of different computer-related subcultures, including the subculture of computer games and role playing, of chat rooms and fans and of users who created their own customized computers.
The exhibition features three 3D animation videos, which all feature a head composed of signs from the world of computer and online games. The two other works on display were created in the style of a shadow theater. Stern does not report dispassionately on the culture of computer games: he is intensely immersed in it. His work simultaneously reflects his enchantment with this imagined world and his criticism of it; by making it present, Stern invites us to examine the negative aspects of the violence it embodies. His work may be read as an invitation to extend "real" life into the virtual world - as well as a warning that we are spending to much time in it.