Press Art: The Video Game Trend at Bushwick Open Studios

This weekend marked the sixth edition of Bushwick Open Studios, the largest such open studios event in, well, probably the entire world. With over 540 events, exhibitions, studios, and performances involved, it was impossible to take in all the offerings, especially given how crowded some of them were. But intrepid attendees certainly saw some trends emerge: the increasing dominance of exhibitions at galleries and pop-up spaces over actual studios (or, the growing importance of curation in a massive and inclusive event); a growing street art contingent; increasing interest from the Manhattan art world; and a conspicuous set of video game-influence art.

The clearest instance of this was, perhaps more accurately, an art-influenced video game. One of the works in Bushwick Gallery‘s exhibition “Vegan Pizza Party” — curated by Katarina Hybenova — at The Active Space, was a touch-screen game by Brad Henderson based on a painting by Ryan Michael Ford. In the game, users had to — how to put this — “stimulate” a naked woman astride a galloping horse, so that she in turn would shoot at the police cars chasing her, and thus evade capture. The app-based game is still a work-in-progress, though once completed it will likely not be available in the Apple Store as it’s very sexually explicit (playfully so, but still).

In the exhibition space at Brooklyn Fireproof, one of the biggest studio buildings in the neighborhood, ARTINFO encountered an old favorite from “SPRING/BREAK,” Fall on Your Sword‘s “Sea of Fire” (2012). Though not strictly speaking a video game, the clips of disaster movies rigged to piano keys, all augmented with operatic scores, certainly conjure the manic delight in destruction enabled by shoot-em-up-style games.

Lastly, a new solo show of works by Justin Berry at Interstate Projects, “Fissure and Fracture,” included a series of color and black-and-white photographs that, at first, seem to portray melancholic, pastoral landscapes. On closer inspection, details of each Ansel Adams-esque image featured some inexplicably blurry and pixelated details: they are photos of the rarely contemplated yet impressively lush and dramatic environments from video games, like the above, “Purple Dusk (Medal of Honor)” (2012).

These three projects — in-game landscape photography, a painting-inspired-game, and a controller-like audio-visual interface — marry a nerdy love of video games as a fertile territory of pop culture, with an interest in the ways their workings and imagery mimic more traditional art forms. Seeing them in quick succession this weekend at Bushwick Open Studios suggested that, despite what Caroline Kaplan thinks, video games are art.

— Benjamin Sutton