The Frequently Asked

4 April 2008

Eight-hour performance/discussion event. 2007. Curated by Tim Etchells and Adrian Heathfield. Videography by Hugo Glendinning.

An invited international group of 16 artists, writers, curators and thinkers ask each other questions relating to contemporary art, to their own practice and its place in the wider cultural, philosophical and social landscape. The questions range from the experiential to the metaphysical, from the practical to the hypothetical, from the mundane to the absurd. This is no normal talk-session, but instead a rolling marathon lasting eight hours in total, taking the form of a playful and exhausting relay interview, in which participants first ask and then answer a series of questions during a specified time-slot ‘on stage’.

The Frequently Asked aims to accumulate through an evolving sequence of relations and questions, a dynamic picture of the current stakes and states of thinking around aspects of art, performance and cultural practice.

The audience for The Frequently Asked are free to arrive, depart and return at any point.

First presented 24th November 2007. Commissioned by Tanzquartier Vienna.

Participants: Rebecca Schneider, William Pope.L, Bojana Kunst, Alan Read, Alastair MacLennan, Goran Sergej Pristaš, Boyan Manchev, Jonathan Burrows, Joe Kelleher, Irit Rogoff, La Ribot, Emil Hrvatin, Matthew Goulish, Lin Hixson, Tim Etchells, Adrian Heathfield. 




2 April 2008

Knowing my interest in computer games, or more precisely my interest in descriptions of them (!) my friend Graham (via boingboing) pointed me to this great text. In it Metafilter user Aeschenkarnos gives the low down on Outside (AKA the real world), as if it were a massively multiplayer game:

…how does Outside actually rate? The physics system is note-perfect (often at the expense of playability), the graphics are beyond comparison, the rendering of objects is absolutely beautiful at any distance, and the player's ability to interact with objects is really limited only by other players' tolerance. The real fundamental problem with the game is that there is nothing to do.

In terms of game play the game sets few, if any, goals: the major one is merely "survive". What goals a player sets, are often astonishingly tedious to actually achieve, and power-ups and gear upgrades, let alone extra weapons, are few and far between. Some players choose accumulation of money, one of the many point systems in the game, as a goal, but distribution of this is often randomized and it can be hard to tell what activities will lead to gaining points in advance, and what the risks will be.

Other players choose to focus on accumulation of personal abilities, the variety of which greatly exceeds the capacity of any individual to accumulate; again, the game requires players to engage in years of grinding to achieve any notable standard with a skill or ability. Players are issued abilities and characteristics largely at random, and it is entirely possible for a player to be nerfed beyond any reasonable expectation of being able to play the game, or to be buffed to the point where anything he or she does is markedly easier. Unfortunately over time, player abilities tend to degrade, unless significant effort is made to keep skills up. This reviewer cannot emphasise this enough: Outside requires a huge time investment to build up player abilities, exceeding any other massively multiplayer game on the market by some three orders of magnitude.

You can read the rest of the text, which is very smart and funny. Can't help thinking of my own book The Broken World at this point, since it  takes the form of a walkthrough for an imaginary computer game, and which will be published in July. More of that before too long.

Towers Open Fire

1 April 2008

A Guardian piece here about Tom James and Tom Keeley, who were both involved in the Echo Cities, Venice Architecture Biennale 2006 project that Hugo and I also participated in. Telling the sad story of how Sheffield won't get to keep the iconic cooling towers out near Meadowhall, the Guardian piece also gives a grim view of the current scene in British urban regeneration (rebranding might be a more appropriate term) and public art. Tom and Tom have the analysis down pretty well. I was out that way in the city yesterday. Hard to imagine it with the towers down. They look amazing and it could have been such an amazing site for something.

"There is this assumption that local authorities are inexperienced when it comes to public art," she [Ann Gosse, the city council's director of culture] says. "It's not amateur night here. The council has a track record of producing stunning public art." She cites the newly renovated train station, with its array of complicated steel and stone fountains, and the well-liked Winter Gardens, an oversized wood and glass conservatory in the city centre, as proof that the council is well-placed to guide the process.

But this is exactly the kind of outlook that is the problem, according to Keeley. "Bins and benches might make the city nicer, but they are not public art," he says. "The council just doesn't get it and is not capable of creating something on the scale we want." He predicts: "It will be made of stainless steel, it will be a safe option, and it won't change anyone's perception of Sheffield."

A recent story in the local paper, the Sheffield Star, hints that this is not an unreasonable concern. Richard Caborn MP mooted his vision for the city's work of public art: a giant, stainless steel football. He told the paper: "It's an opportunity to celebrate what Sheffield has given to the world. We have the world's oldest football club and produced the first stainless steel."

James compares the idea to replacing the Angel of the North with a bottle of Newcastle Brown made of coal. "It would be funny if it wasn't so tragic," he says.