At Shift through Aug. 1
By Cynthia Hibbard
Art historian and curator Liz Patterson’s year-long pursuit of understanding digital gaming aesthetics and its nexus to art and architecture has led to a unique and edifying show.
“Game:Art:Architecture”, which explores the three mediums’ common use of “axonometric projections”— wherein a depicted object is rotated on one or more of its axes along a plane of projection–sparked in Patterson’s mind at the outset of her research into gaming.
She came across an on-line image of Seattle painter Cable Griffith’s game–like painting “Above the Clouds,” featured in the show, which invites the viewer to enter what seems like an incomprehensible environment.
“It bothered me that I couldn’t understand it—that I couldn’t put myself in that kind of space” Patterson said.
All three mediums use axonometric perspective and all three strive to move the viewer’s eye through passages, be it from game level to game level, through the rooms of a building, or into an artwork’s conflation of reality.”
She also learned that early designers of digital games used a similar perspective due to early technical limitations. She found the resulting axonometric aesthetic they created, beautiful in its own way, easily relatable to distorted-view art–most famously beginning with MC. Escher drawings and shared with the whole of architecture from the Bauhaus movement forward. All three mediums use axonometric perspective and all three strive to move the viewer’s eye through passages, be it from game level to game level, through the rooms of a building, or into an artwork’s conflation of reality.
The axonometric perspective also shows nicely in Artist John Diebel’s cut-paper collages “Onbetaalbaar “(Unafforadable) and “Habitat Archive Over Mid-Continental Ice Shelf.” Patterson pointed out that his paper collages evoke the practicality of architecture, which uses axonometric drawings—these days computerized—to reveal accurate building measurements.
Artist Damien Gilley’s two tape “sketches” in the show, “Marriott Announces” and “City View,” illustrate the influence of game aesthetics beyond similar perspectives. The virtual-space studies are preparation for large-scale installations in which the enclosing walls of a gallery are covered with the design so that the viewer actually stands inside of it.
An architect’s model, “The Black House, Montecito,” courtesy of Seattle-based Olson-Kundig Architects, as well as Tom Bies’ photograph of the house, allow Shift visitors to view the application of this practice. It’s usefulness is further illustrated in a You Tube video by an unknown artist who accurately copied the house’s design off Olson-Kundig’s website and used it to stage the action in one of his posted game’s levels.
London-based game designer Ken Wong moved the deepest into axonometric space with his “Penrose in the Dark,” a digital still from his popular game Monument Valley…”
London-based game designer Ken Wong moved the deepest into axonometric space with his “Penrose in the Dark,” a digital still from his popular game Monument Valley, to which he added a moebius strip that “constantly revolves above the play space, twisting in time and acting as a self-reflective metaphor for the user’s own experience,” Patterson said. This combined with his “Preparation for Monument Valley,” showing working drawings, and a still from the game, “Multistable Persception,” were well-received at the reception. “People said, my kids play that game. I can’t believe it’s here,” she said. “What was most rewarding to me was that they got to see it in a different way.”
Most appreciated by Patterson, however, was the praise from a young game designer who came out for the Art Walk not expecting to see his industry so interestingly represented. His enthusiasm for the show was Patterson’s reward for an intensive year of curating.