Meet the Innovators Behind DIG 2018
Slamdance’s Showcase of Digital, Interactive, and Gaming Art in Downtown Los Angeles
This September, Slamdance brings its 4th annual DIG (Digital, Interactive & Gaming) showcase to Los Angeles featuring new and unseen works by emerging visual artists and indie game developers from around the world.
DIG 2018 features works that cover a fully immersive array of topics —including life after death, intersectional queer existence, artificial intelligence, anxiety and escapism in a modern world, and the revisiting of a person’s first teenage experience with pornography.
Meet the artists behind this year’s projects and learn more about how they got started in this unique medium, what excites them about it, and what they hope to see in the future.
Data Mutations by AAA Collective
AAA is a collective of artists hijacking commercial game engines and web code based in Berlin with nodes located in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. AAA work centers around the exploration of decentralized and collaborative forms of art/game production.
As a collective, our emphasis is on a cross-disciplinary approach to the heterogeneous and chaotic mess of products which are commonly referred to as “video games”. Games, as a medium, have long been part of the cultural landscape. Yet, the ensemble of what we call “games” is a complex and constantly shifting bundle of increasingly different objects, pulsating on the spectrum between art and entertainment.
The word “Games” might refer to classical million-dollar-budget mainstream video games (think Grand Theft Auto for example) as well as to more independent productions, non-representational low budget experiments, non-playable self-navigating video-programs (the work of Ian Cheng for example), conceptual films made inside game engines, or even interactive experiences which completely avoid computers — resembling theater more than anything else.
Instead of criticizing the concept of games or trying to determine what games should be, our work aims to take advantage of the highly unstable and constantly moving borders of the “game” definition. We come from a number of backgrounds — from social sciences, to writing, to filmmaking — and will continue to navigate these troubled waters by embracing their complexity and adding to it, mutating the medium ever further.
As a collective with members coming from all sorts of backgrounds (writing, painting, programming, social science, filmmaking) a lot of the discussions that we are having are already centered around bridging gaps in knowledge, presenting particular skills and experiences and in the end synthesizing all of these things. Game Engines are essentially platforms for setting up interaction between different objects (programming scripts, 3D models, texts, 2D textures, sound, video etc etc). Through the process we followed making Data Mutations we want to make this visible, creating interaction as the way to creating meaning.
Thinking of this on more of a meta-level we see that art, film, tech etc all have their own collective codes and ways of utilizing language which can lead to problems communicating outside of one’s “silo”, a very common problem with any type of collective of humans really. Oftentimes, one might see projects incorporating trends and technologies of other fields in which it is very apparent that there is this gap in understanding, resulting in (the best case) something less than effective or (in the worst case) in obnoxious/offensive appropriation.
Through awareness that we possess these different codes and languages we might be able to actually have successful conversations about intersections of these fields. There is a need for weaving together some of the discussions that happen internally in those spheres, in parallel in some form or another: unviable financial models, precarity, the role of platform politics are topics that affect all of them and might require a much broader dialogue and synchronization of agendas. In the long run, this dialogue might also result in a climate in which hybrid/avant-garde forms will strive and there is more of a literacy and understanding there to create meaningful interactions between all of these spheres.
Learn more: http://datamutations.aaartgames.xyz
Ferris’s Room VR by Sarah Keenlyside, Ryan Mains and Arv Slabosevicius
Step inside the mind of one of the coolest teenagers ever with Ferris’s Room. Like most teenagers, Ferris Bueller’s bedroom is much more than just a place to sleep. A sanctuary, laboratory, recording studio, office, and shrine to the bands he loves, Ferris’s bedroom is an extension of his larger-than-life personality, a place to explore his interests, and of course, to cook up schemes. Recreated by Canadian artist Sarah Keenlyside as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in Chicago in 2016, every inch of Ferris’s Room was photographed to create a 3D model, allowing you to visit and interact with the room in virtual reality. Toss around Ferris’s baseball (Go Cubs!) or play his synthesizer. Sarah will share details on how she found or made Ferris’s prized possessions as you explore the room.
In 2016, Ryan Mains, a producer at Hollywood Suite, read an article on Sarah’s re-creation of Ferris Bueller’s bedroom at the art festival Come Up to My Room in Toronto, and reached out to her about the possibility of doing a short documentary on her process. Ryan and Sarah met for coffee and Sarah immediately invited him to come with her to film the re-creation of the room at Ferris Fest, the 30th anniversary celebration of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Somewhere along the process of making the film, they decided to make a VR version of Sarah’s re-creation so that it could be preserved and experienced by people that hadn’t been to either of the three events the room has been setup at.
They’d love to see artists working in VR and 360 video, continue to push boundaries in storytelling and have the mediums grow into the mainstream.
Sarah Keenlyside is a visual storyteller, artist and creative collaborator on projects ranging from documentary films, large-scale art installations, community events and culinary experiences. She is also co-owner and creative director of Toronto’s Chocolates X Brandon Olsen (2017 Wallpaper Magazine International Design Award winner) and Restaurant La Banane, both of which she co-founded together with her fiancé, chef Brandon Olsen.
Ryan Mains was born in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada, and began making movies as a kid on his parents’ 8mm video camera. He attended the Emily Carr Institute of Art Design and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Film Production from Simon Fraser University. Since 2010, Ryan has worked in commercial, promotion, and branded content production as a director, producer, and editor, working with numerous brands from conception to completion. Ryan began work at Hollywood Suite in 2015, producing promotions and original content, including the feature length documentary Ferris’s Room and its accompanying project Ferris’s Room VR.
Arv Slabosevicius is an award winning director and digital artist. Arv has spent the last decade working on a variety of video/media based projects with a vastly diverse client base. These projects range from large corporations like Microsoft to TV brands such as The Sopranos to non-profit organizations like the One Laptop Per Child initiative to smash hit video games like Guitar Hero. In 2002 Arv co-founded Pyramid Attack. As a partner of the company he has had the opportunity to work on and oversee a broad array projects.
Learn more: www.hollywoodsuite.ca
Good Girl by Tonia B****** and Ana Carolina Estarita Guerrero
Good Girl is a mixed reality installation highlighting the negotiated relationships within Tonia’s intersectional existence as a queer Middle Eastern American. Visitors are cast as researchers in a fantastical world where Tonia’s spirit has left her body. A lab technician invites researchers to plug into Tonia’s subconscious with VR to study her inner microcosms. Inside, performance art personas inhabit surreal environments representing Tonia’s specific social, economic, and cultural dynamics. Researchers can triangulate this abundant archaeology to deliver a diagnosis on the paradoxical demands and desires of American’t life.
“Coming from Net Art, VR provides the ultimate tabula rasa of empty pixels within which we can reorient our references. What excites us about VR is the ability to experience non-continuous landscapes, soundscapes, and performances that are physically impossible. The options this opens up from an installation and performance perspective both inside the headset and to set the context outside the headset inspire us to make accessible location based experiences. The concept of alternate reality and mixed reality can also be a therapeutic way to re-negotiate power over the narrative placed on society and literally craft your own space that prioritizes yourself thriving.
In terms of form, we would like more pieces that feel like experiences in the sense that they are multi-sensory and allow for movement within a space. Promoting a kinetic nonlinear medium and immersive learning styles, opening up the ability to share spaces and systems as points of view.
Most importantly, content-wise, we are interested in how emerging technology can be used by communities who are underrepresented in the media to re-calibrate the present, re-focus the past, and re-envision the future.”
Tonia B****** and Ana Carolina Estarita Guerrero are multimedia collaborators who met at University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Tonia is an interactive artist and co-founder of the creative methodology collective, Browntourage. Tonia’s process builds intimacy through collaborations that respond to social issues with fresh aesthetics and radical imagination. Ana Carolina is a Colombian Visual Artist and International Artist Fellow in Animation and Digital Arts at USC. Ana Carolina uses film, animation, and installation techniques as experiments to materialize time and question space as modulated by the human experience. Tonia and Ana Carolina have exhibited internationally and spoken about methodologies of design and diversity.
Learn more: https://goodgirlvr.weebly.com/
Islands/Seom by Shih-lien Eugene Yen, Anna Libbie Grossman and Jeffrey Huang
“Our physical bodies will disappear, but through remembrance and metamorphoses, a part of our being shall live on. Islands/Seom is about creating the extended existence of the people that we admire and care for. We wish every time someone interacts with our interpretations of them, their perspective of the world will be conveyed.
You will see a series of cube sculptures, each containing the belief of a significant person who is also an emerging artist. Together, we preserve their ghost and transform it into a landscape. View the sculptures through our custom-made mobile app. The avatar of the artist will reanimate on top. Listen to their manifesto. Send them to a virtual world called Lacus, where they grow organically into unique ecosystems. Through gaming, we catalyze collaboration with their persona, against the odds of distance, personalities, and culture.
We are interested in experiences that transcend between the virtual and physical world. Islands/Seom birthed from a laboratory course led by instructor Peter Flaherty, Donovan Keith, and Jackson Campbell about augmented reality. AR is one of the technological links and approaches to both worlds. Being able to materialize the spiritual or entities originated from the mind is both challenging and rewarding. We wouldn’t call what we are making is “REAL”. It’s the option of doubt as well as the possibility of believing in alternative realities that truly excites us.
No matter what the mediums are or how they intersect, a source of context that’s rooted in personal history is always the fuel to push our work forward. The form of art will progress, but we wish to see the human touch and emotions always remain.”
“We are a collective of artists interested in the fusion of games, art, and performance. The creation of Islands/Seom is led by Shih-lien (Eugene) Yen, a visual artist interested in utilizing mediatized art forms to revive the memories, emotions, and mysteries embedded within tangible objects from daily life. Recent works: Fore! (theatre), I am the Composite of You (installation). Jeffrey Huang, a game designer, audio designer, and shader artist who generates aural and visual landscapes. Recent works: Superconductor(game), Stage Fright (game). Anna Libbie Grossman, a West Coast-based sound designer and programmer focused on interactive and immersive environments for theatre, film, and experience design. Recent works: Terra Incognita(VR), Solidus (dance).”
Learn more: https://www.eugeneyen.com/islandsseom
100 Year Plan by Emotional.Store
Live performance Thursday, September 13th at 7:30pm
“100 Year Plan is a multi-disciplinary performance project set to probe our physically and virtually hybridized minds in the midst of automation takeover. Through a web of live-stream performance, immersive installation, videos, websites and wearables, 100 Year Plan follows two creatives who put everything into a path for success beyond the present-life.
We began this work through a combined fascination with capitalist-oriented online identities. Our new media live performances came about by combining our respective work in media art, live performance, and set design. We are excited about producing work together that would not be possible individually, about participating in the tradition of live performance, and about creating a critical dialogue around the politics of media production online.
When it comes to the relationship between technology and art/film, we would like to see technology used in creative production to further our understanding of contemporary life or deepen our insight into a particular subject related to technologies used, rather than be an instrument of novelty, shock and awe, or as a tool for media domination.”
Emotional.Store is the collaborative duo of artists Scotty Wagner and Bailey Hikawa. They create large scale, multimedia projects that explore the newly forming collective consciousness brought about by the union of the physical with the virtual, and the onset of obsolescence. Through comedic storytelling, magical language, and technological seduction, Emotional.Store projects weave audience members through a viscerally weird conversation around the interplay between systems that drive technological progress and the phenomenology of engagement in a digitally and physically hybridized world.
Learn more: https://emotional.store/
Press E to Forget by Toby Do
“Made earlier this summer for Wine Jam, Press E to Forget is a game about anxiety. It was made in response to people who say that video games should only be for escapism and that developers should keep politics out of their work.
Last year, I went to a Q&A for Kogonada’s film Columbus. During the interview, he said that cinema, quoting Andrei Tarkovsky, was the art of time and that architecture was the art of space. That got me thinking about how if that’s the case then video games are the art of time and space. And so basically, I want to be Dr. Who.
I’m like half-joking? Honestly, I’ve always just really loved video games and a lot of the people I looked up to growing up were either video game designers or critics. I’m Vietnamese-American and Minh Le was actually the first Vietnamese artist I’d ever heard about. People like Fumito Ueda, Amy Hennig, Adam Sessler, Austin Walker, and Nina Freeman are huge role models for me too and so… here I am!”
“What’s really exciting to me right now are all the amazing Japanese AA games that have come out recently because I’d love to see more studios in the U.S. funding and/or creating mid-budget games. Japanese studios like PlatinumGames have started to treat game development the way film studios often treat film productions. They have outside auteurs and teams come to them with ideas for projects and help them hire people to create their vision. Can you imagine what Brendon Chung or Robert Yang’s work would be like if they had a 20 million dollar budget? In the same way that movie studios are now funding more female and PoC directors as well as joining the interactive space e.g. Annapurna Interactive, it would be amazing to see more marginalized game developers creating on a bigger scale.”
Ascii Printer Project by Burps + Pinguino [Fuel]
“The ascii printer was created by Burps and Pinguino from the art group Fuel to share a love of vintage textmode art in the modern age. The selfie station converts the image to ascii (text) characters, which are printed to thermal receipts.
I got into ANSI in the early nineties as it was the only way to display graphics within remote communication between computers. ASCII/ANSI consists of a limited set of characters and only 16 colors that can be used to create graphics. The limitations of the medium are interesting as they provide a challenge to create something with very few ‘building blocks’.
Technology is just another tool for artists to use; they move hand in hand as technology progresses. We hope that the future holds a more seamless fusion of digital experiences with reality.”
Learn more: http://fuel.wtf
Hypnobuckets by Eliot Phillips
“The human experience is an individual one. Everyone observes through their own biological filters. The Hypnobuckets provide a way to bypass these evolutionary visual filters and experiment directly with the brain via a physical interface. It overcomes our selfish existence by letting you export your psychovisual experiences to a second person: not an observer, a receiver.
I enjoy this work since it’s built upon the idea that even though we’ve made a lot of progress developing personal computers in the last 40 years, they can still be explored by amateurs. The hypnobuckets play with a part of human physiology that everyone has, but no one is aware of until it’s specifically twiddled. The same way an optical illusion makes you suspicious of reality.
The right tools are getting into the right hands right now. Whether it’s only being able to edit 6 second film clips or only having 1MB of storage to work with it’s amazing to see the internet connecting people to tools, fellow creators, and an open minded audience.”
Learn more: robotskirts.com
You Must be 18 or Older to Enter by Seemingly Pointless
Panel Discussion: Censorship in Interactive Media (Saturday, September 15th at 8:00PM)
It’s the early 2000s, you’re alone at home, and you heard about this thing called porn at school. Seemingly Pointless’ 18 or Older is a game about exploring adult worlds without supervision. It invites you to relive a first exposure with the NSFW internet and asks you to rethink your relationship with adult topics. Is it as scary as you remember? Discover for yourself with this simulation of a Millennial rite-of-passage.
This Slamdance installation will show three iterations of this game side-by-side: the interactive fiction prototype that started it all, the free infamous cult-classic game, and a demo premiere of the new dynamic final game. How does censorship change development on such a project? And where are the lines drawn between topic and content?
“It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster since showing You Must be 18 or Older to Enter at Slamdance two years ago. The middle iteration of this game was always meant to be a test for expansion; a gauge for a potential indie-scale version. So, while we now know for certain that there is an audience and that the game’s message resonates, it was also banned from a major distribution platform and mislabeled as porn. With the new game in development, we hope the positive message of the work will resonate with players regardless of what people label the game as. We also hope it inspires reflection in players: why was exploring adult topics scary? Especially considering how accepting we are of violent media.
We want more games to push beyond fun; games that nudge players to feel sad, anxious, or worried. All things accomplished in film. Fun will always have a place in interactivity, but we need games that can make us feel embarrassed and games that can tell us that we’re ok.”
Seemingly Pointless is a brother run studio of James Earl Cox III and Joe Cox. Making quirky media, they provoke audiences to ask questions about themselves and their world. Their work has globe trotted, winning awards from IndieCade, Serious Play Conference, Meaningful Play Conference, and Come Out and Play Festival. They are joined by Ben Sironko on making the game 18 or Older.
Learn more: www.seempoint.com
America the Beautiful by James Kaelan and Blessing Yen
Two live performances at The Ace Hotel: September 13th and 14th at 7pm.
William Reynolds was convicted of first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Anthony Vegas. Video pulled from Reynold’s phone was used to support his conviction, but Reynolds’ wife Carly believes the footage tells a more complicated story. Slamdance DIG will present the unedited video evidence presented in the trial, followed by a talkback with Carly Reynolds.
The artists have asked for Carly Reynolds to speak on behalf of the project.
“No one really “made” America the Beautiful. In some sense, Billy meant to make a sort of live-stream documentary about our home remodel. But obviously what he recorded — the videos that were shown at the trial — were an accident. However, I think it’s extremely important for everyone to see what he shot. My husband didn’t have a single hate bone in his body. He wasn’t racist against any group. And yet he did what he did. America the Beautiful really shows, I think, how slippery the slope is. It doesn’t take a lot to make us do terrible things. And that’s why I’m going around sharing his story: to caution people, to ask them to look at their own behavior, to figure out how they might be susceptible to the same fears that afflicted Billy and resulted in Anthony’s death.”
“I don’t consider myself an artist, so I’m probably not qualified to talk about “form” or “medium.” And excitement probably isn’t the right word. But I do feel it’s my duty to explore the really difficult truths that come to light in the footage that my husband shot, and to share my experience with as many people as I possibly can. Gun violence and racism, I’ve noticed, have somehow become politicized. Like, only Democrats are allowed to care when people get shot, or minorities get targeted. I don’t think that’s the case. I think all of us, regardless of our political views, want to live peacefully with all types of people. So, in that sense, I am excited to give this talk, and show the footage that was presented in the trial. Not because I enjoy it. Actually, it gives me a lot of pain to go through this. But I think if I can heal through the process, other people can to. And that gives me a lot of hope.”
“I guess that by showing a film and giving a talk changes how the audience sees the footage they’re watching. If you just came across the video evidence from the trial on Youtube (and it’s out there), you might not know what to make of it. You might even look at it and go, “You know, I think Billy did the right thing.” But I was there, too. I went through all the same events as Billy. And I didn’t get a gun and shoot somebody. So, if my presence at the screening can give a different kind of context to the story, and help show why Billy’s actions aren’t inevitable, then I guess that’s a “unique method of interaction”? Either way, I’m looking forward to engaging with people and having what I hope is a difficult but enlightening discussion.”
Carly Reynolds is a nurse and public speaker. Her husband is serving a 30-year prison term for the first degree murder of Anthony Vegas. To honor Vegas’s memory, and to explore what led to her husband’s crime, after Slamdance she plans to give talks on the dangers of hate and intolerance at community centers and universities around the country.
Exceptional Children’s Foundation (ECF) Community Project
DIG is presenting an online 3D exhibition of works created by artists during their time at the ECF Art Centers. Slamdance and Clever Fox have provided technical support to bring the work of these artists to life in an augmented reality gallery setting accessible to any Snapchat user as a lens effect. Follow the Slamdance Snapchat account at SlamdanceFF.
Heon Choi was born in Seoul, South Korea and lives and works in Los Angeles. Choi’s body of work is characterized by her distinctive aesthetic — an attention to labored and intricate arrangements of geometric shapes and compositions ripe with hidden figures of anthropomorphic figures and portraits. Working primarily in watercolor, ink, and acrylics, Choi’s practice represents an acutely observational eye and a commitment to discovering the small wonders of the everyday world. Using watercolor and ink on paper, she intricately renders shimmering wings, scales and natural patterns, while placing her subjects in a complex choreographed dance; her delicate and refined ink-work compliments her soft watercolor washes. More recently, she has been exploring a new direction by adapting her work to the medium of printmaking.
Milton Davis was born in 1949 in Fordyce, AR, and now lives and works in Inglewood, CA. He practices at the Exceptional Children’s Foundation Westside Art Center and has been developing a prodigious body of work for 52 years. Davis works primarily in pen and ink and his technique can be described as draftsmen like. He uses repetitive lines to create pattern, shape, and figures. He pulls from a strong visual language of African American art, media, and a surreal imagination. His work is meticulous, utilizing a fine line that references geography, wood grain, and a meditative state of making.
Tiffiny Boyd’s paintings are characterized by their expressive color, bold marks, and dramatic sense of movement. Working primarily with acrylic paints, Boyd paints with an energetic, determined hand using a variety of brushes and unconventional tools that enhance the swirls, drips and gestures that give her work its distinct look. Boyd is a professional artist living with a developmental disability who has worked from the ECF Art Centers’ San Pedro studio for over 25 years. She is represented by DAC Gallery, where she regularly exhibits. ECF Art Centers is an adult program of Exceptional Children’s Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that provides services to adults and children with developmental disabilities.
Judy Lopez’s visual arts practice spans two decades, throughout which she has created a robust body of work that resonates with the aesthetic sensibilities of abstract expressionism. Her work is almost exclusively two-dimensional, typically produced using acrylic paints, watercolors, and various inks. Lopez’s oeuvre is characterized not only by the dense, crosshatch style marks recurrent in every work of art she produces, but also for the stream of consciousness-like approach to a myriad of processes she has undertaken throughout her career. Judy Lopez is a professional artist with special needs who has been working out of ECF Art Centers’ Downtown L.A. studio for twenty years. She is represented by DAC Gallery, where she regularly exhibits.
Vickie Uyeda’s body of work reflects a decades long practice of committed draftsmanship and rigorous work. Drawing from a range of source material and paying particular attention to various representations of nature, particularly animals and landscapes, her paintings, drawings, and sketches are an amalgamation of classic subjects resulting from her commitment to honing classic artistic skills. As such, her time in the studio is spent quietly and diligently working to perfect her craft, never settling for the result of a particular artwork because she is certain that she has much to learn, and to make perfect, and it is this motivation that has driven her practice for decades. Uyeda is a professional artist with special needs who has been working out of ECF Art Centers studios for over a decade and is represented by the DAC Gallery where she regularly exhibits her work. ECF Art Centers is an adult program of the Exceptional Children’s Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that provides services to adults and children with developmental disabilities.
Learn more: https://www.dacgallery.com/
DIG opens on Thursday, Sept 13th at 5pm at the LA Artist Collective as a part of the DTLA Art Walk, and runs through Saturday, Sept 15th.
**Admission is Free and Open to the Public**