Artists have been using representational media to critique society and reimagine realities throughout history. By using digital technology, artists can create truly immersive and interactive universes for audiences to experience. Combined with the internet, we have the potential to share our ideas for alternate realities and collaborate on visions for the future.  

The artists and scholars interviewed through these programs create interactive spaces to reflect on current realities and for considering new possibilities. 

Videos

Maize Longboat: TerraNova

Maize Longboat’s Terra Nova is a two-player game that speculates on a first contact encounter between Indigenous and Settler peoples occurring thousands of years in the future. The project highlights the affordances of video games to convey messages through interactive storytelling. This video features a full playthrough of Terra Nova with live commentary from the artist. Live-streamed June 18, 2020.

Worldbuilding with Unity3D

Artists Hilarey Cowan and Simon Fuh learn the basics of creating and navigating virtual landscapes in the video game Unity 3D. Follow along to learn how to apply this powerful software to your own projects. Live-streamed April 23, 2020.  

Sandee Moore: Nowhere Anywhere

Nowhere/Anywhere explores the artist’s ongoing interest in what she calls ‘featureless places,’ spaces she identifies as lacking distinctive geography or architecture. Featured in DAiR v1: Video Games by Artists, Nowhere/Anywhere places the prairie and retail landscapes in discourse with one another, landscapes whose vastness is integral to their presence. The player is represented as a plastic shopping bag and moves gently through the environment. Setting itself apart from the standard of fast-paced action games, Nowhere/Anywhere invites the player to join their presence with that of an all-encompassing landscape. Live-streamed March 11, 2021. 

Simon Fuh: The Sky is Falling

Artist Simon Fuh presents “The Sky is Falling,” featured in the DAiR v1: Video Games by Artists exhibition. The project is inspired by the Chicken Little folktale wherein a farmyard chick is hit by a falling acorn and concludes that the sky is falling to earth. Fuh’s interpretation twists the moralistic tale into literal gameplay, with the audience navigating an apocalyptic island as a small yellow chick. Non-player chickens populate the island, offering the audience a choice between narrative and self-preservation. Live-streamed March 4, 2021. 

Cat Haines: (g)Ender Gallery

Cat Haines’ (g)Ender Gallery was an installation and performance series on the Ender Gallery Minecraft server. Over the course of her residency, Haines constructed digital representations of her body block-by-block, creating an ironic and playful transfeminist intervention into yonic art canon. Through theoretical research and autotheoretical praxis, Haines explored the possibilities of queer and trans intimacies in digital spaces. Livestreamed May 8, 2021. 

 

Content advisory: pixel representations and discussions of genitalia. 

Hilarey Cowan: Caring Capacity

Featured in DAiR v1: Video Games by Artists, Caring Capacity places the audience in charge of the wellbeing of “CareObjects,” virtual objects with a variety of needs. The piece subverts common game mechanics of destruction, emphasizing the audience’s actions of maintenance. The project is part of a larger body of work exploring connection and care in the context of power, production, and lifespan. Live-streamed March 4, 2021. 

Exploring the landscapes of Indigenous Futurism with Taylor McArthur

Artist Taylor McArthur gives a tour through her work as seen at the Art Gallery of Southern Manitoba’s !in.Site; digital exhibition. McArthur works across 3D modelling, animation, augmented reality, and game design to create immersive worlds informed by an Indigenous Futurist perspective. Live-streamed July 30, 2020. 

Dallas Flett-Wapash: Crappy Home Designer

Part of DAiR v1: Video Games by Artists, Dallas Flett-Wapash’s Crappy Home Designer examines the popular Animal Crossing game series and the underlying ideologies of its mechanics. Flett-Wapash identifies how the Animal Crossing universe normalizes colonialist and capitalist ideologies of debt and control. These in-game privileges are further emphasized by their limited access through their real-world dependence on expensive proprietary hard- and software. n Crappy Home Designer, the artist offers a freeware interpretation of the game, whose gameplay is consistent with the lived realities of low-income families. Crappy Home Designer offers cheery graphics and engaging gameplay, while asking the player to consider who can afford virtual escapism. Live-streamed March 11, 2021. 

Thirza Cuthand: Bipolar Journey

Featured in the exhibition DAiR v1: Video Games by Artists, Thirza Cuthand’s Bipolar Journey uses interactive gameplay to explore the artist’s personal experiences with Bipolar disorder. To win the game, you must successfully find your way through tasks such as medication management, psychiatric hospitalization, and community reintegration. Integrating a zine-inspired collage aesthetic with interactivity, Bipolar Journey seeks to explain the experience of madness. Live-streamed March 4, 2021. 

 

Content advisory: discussions of mental health and psychiatric hospitalization. 

Taylor McArthur: Line of Sight

Taylor McArthur’s Line of Sight turns the terrain into a manifestation of the artist’s past experiences. One of the works exhibited in DAiR v1: Video Games by Artists, the project is situated in the contemporary genre of walking simulators which trade reward systems and fast-paced gameplay for contemplative immersion. The artist invites the player into her visual vernacular, a juxtaposition of digital naturalism with neon shapes and geometric patterns. Together these forms represent the artist’s own memories, while illustrating her perspective on reminiscence. Line of Sight is an immersive personal reflection upon identity, memory, and their ties to the land. Live-streamed March 11, 2021. 

Simon M. Benedict: Odanak – at the Village

Odanak – at the Village is an installation and custom texture pack informed by Benedict’s ancestral community. Drawing from “Kinaw8la – She Takes Care of You,” an educational booklet co-authored by his sister Evelyne Benedict and Donna O’Bomsawin, Benedict’s exhibition remixes the default Minecraft environment to incorporate medicinal plants – both native and non-native – currently present on Odanak Abenaki territory. The exhibition features representations of both the natural and built environments of Odanak, reckoning with the ongoing colonial project as it pertains to the Abenaki people. In the wake of recent conversations regarding the Canadian residential school system, Benedict’s project addresses this history while creating virtual spaces for education and healing. Live-streamed July 10, 2021. 

 

This exhibition addresses the residential school system, genocide, and death.

Resources

Things to think about

  • If you could create your own world, what would it be like? 

  

  • In partners or small groups, discuss creating a world together. What ideas do you agree on? What things do you disagree on? How can you solve those disagreements? 

  

  • Think about either your own vision for a world or the vision you created with a group. What digital medium or technology would be best for creating that world and sharing it with others? Make a list of pros and cons for using that particular digital medium.