Ahead of the Game

Columbia brings two game-based exhibitions to DEPS galleries this fall.

When The Museum of Modern Art acquired 14 video games in 2012, critic Jonathan Jones at the Guardian argued that "no one 'owns' the game, so there is no artist and therefore no work of art." MoMA curator Paola Antonelli defended her decision, saying "design is the highest form of creative expression."

Enter the Department of Exhibitions, Performance and Student Spaces (DEPS) with two new game-based exhibitions to move this debate forward. DEPS’s exhibitions not only take us into digital gaming age, but investigates its analog antecedents through pinball, delving even deeper into the age-old question of: what is art?

Game Art vs. Art Game erases whatever preconceptions the word “gamer” brings to mind and replaces them with interactive artworks that push the viewer’s experience far beyond expectations. One work, Ryan and Amy Green’s That Dragon, Cancer, is the couples’ emotional story of losing their son told through a point-and-click video game. Much of the exhibition depends on user participation, turning visitors into newfound gamers immersed in the artwork.

Skillshot: The Collaborative Art of Pinball is a collection of collaboratively designed machines and pinball culture so comprehensive it might make Antonelli question why the MoMA hasn’t acquired a single machine yet.

Mark Porter, director of exhibitions at DEPS, says “A pinball machine is a succession of mechanical gizmos and light bulbs wired together working both with and against the player.” These gizmos and light bulbs are the products of programmers, electricians, designers and sculptors, but are only brought to life when the player launches the ball.

“Both exhibitions seek to expand the types of work typically exhibited in the gallery context,” says Meg Duguid, director of exhibitions for DEPS.

DEPS is reminding us that the best art is the kind that takes traditionalists aback, it’s the kind that moves us into a place of uncertainty, of confusion, and hopefully – of surprise.

Additional information:

Game Art vs. Art Game: Aug. 18 – Oct. 28
Reception: Sept. 23, 6-9 p.m.
Skillshot: The Collaborative Art of Pinball: Sept. 6 – Nov. 5
Reception: Sept. 23, 6-9 p.m.

Game Art vs. Art Game: The Arcade, 618 S. Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor
Skillshot: The Collaborative Art of Pinball: The Glass Curtain Gallery, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., 1st Floor

For information on additional programming, visit students.colum.edu/deps.