Every Wednesday, even when my brain is mush from working assignments for far too long, Itching For More comes creeping up behind you, like a spider slowly crawling up your neck, placing a tiny cap on the top of your head made out of spider web, before skittering away. This week, art piece: Charcot: Brume 1.5
I have been looking forward to a new piece by Robin Moretti ever since playing Brume, a surreal experience, one that I described almost a year ago as “loud, abstract and bizzare”. Charcot (which Moretti has subtitled Brume 1.5) borrows Brumes scene focused structure, along with its claymation-like human figures, but tones things down. Gone, are the brash pinks and highlights of yellow, replaced with a duller pallette.
Before I delve into Charcot, it is worth noting the context in which Charcot was made — an artistic residency program in a centre focusing on child psychiatry, specifically autism. This is immediately noticeable in Charcot through its central theme of repetition. The entire game is built around repeating actions: the game repeats over and over and over again each scene, with slight variations, the music (tied directly to one of the scenes) loops over and over and over. Even the controls in Charcot are linked to repetition — the first key you press is the only key you may press for the rest of the game. Failing to repeatedly press your chosen key causes the game to end.
The second variation within Charcot (one that is tied directly with repetition), is that each scene (ignoring the introduction) focuses on one specific action. The first scene is of a singular finger pressing down onto the same key on a keyboard. Whenever the key is pressed, part of a track plays. Once unpressed, the music stops. However, the sequence you pressed the key in is remembered: the game repeats this same loop for the rest of the game. When we return to this scene, the camera begins to pan out, yet you continue to press the same key (this time emitting a different track).
The second scene in Charcot’s loop focuses on a figure running to get to a lift door, but being snatched away each time he gets near to it. I love the urgency in this scene, the figures rushing stance, followed by the sudden reveal of two huge hands, swooping out of the sky to carry you away from your goal. This scene is one of the most effective in Charcot — it brilliantly ties together player interaction with the idea of wanting to get to somewhere and other forces stopping you before you get there. In doing so, it raises the question: what are you running to? Where are you trying to go?
MORE FUN CONTEXT TIME!
In his blog post detailing his residency, Moretti details that his main takeaway of his residency was that Charcot Hospital had changed tactics, to trying to treat autism whilst taking into context the outside world. Charcot’s opening scene reinforces this, through the slow focus change from the inside of Charcot Hospital to the outside, as a car drives away.
In an attempt to leave some space for you to enjoy the rest of the scenes within Charcot, I will not detail them in this discussion. However, each scene within Charcot focuses a goal, and the humanoid’s unfailing effort to reach that goal. This is reflected in the fact that Charcot is a continuation of Brume — Brume meaning mist. The characters within Charcot (not necessarily voluntarily) cloud out everything around them apart from what they’re focusing on. They will continue over and over and over again until they reach their goal.
Charcot, feels like a study on the interaction of autistic people’s interaction with the world around them. It brings a fascinating portrayal of actions and consequences surrounding autism (both by the person with autism and the world around them) and as with Moretti’s previous game, I feel like I could continue to analyse it for double or triple my current word count and still find more things to say. Charcot places the viewer in the shoes of someone with autism and lets them deal with it. People will stare, your goal will be unreachable. People will laugh and play with you. But you keep going, keep repeating and keep pushing through the cycle, because it is the only way forward you know.
Charcot is pay-what-you-want, available here