“It’s about watching video games”
From Super Mario Clouds, Cory Arcangel, 2002
MARY HEILMANN: What game did the clouds come from?
CORY ARCANGEL: Super Mario Bros.
HEILMANN: I wonder if the designers who did Super Mario Bros. looked at Georgia O’Keeffe. [laughs]
ARCANGEL: I feel like it’s possible. Those games aren’t art objects, but they came out of culture. I always assumed those graphics were influenced by pop art. At least that was always my interest in those graphics. They are so simple. I thought, Oh, I could put this in a gallery and people would probably think it was art.
HEILMANN: And you’ve been using Photoshop to make your Color-Field works. It’s very basic Photoshop, right?
ARCANGEL: Just one click. If you have Photoshop I could show you. [At Heilmann’s computer] You open it up and there’s this paint bucket. If you click and hold it you get the gradient tool. Then you click up here and get to pick these different options. You drag it and it goes like this! That’s how you make them.
ARCANGEL: I did the clouds purposely slow and clunky. They don’t move very fast. I made this in 2002 but I had the idea a year or two before
HEILMANN: Was this your first animation?
ARCANGEL: No. I had done previous, similar animations on the Nintendo before. Also, even before I knew how to do something like this, I was just cutting and pasting graphics from video games and making little animations or cartoons. I was making animations in different ways on my computer ever since I can remember.
HEILMANN: So as soon as computers could do it, you could do it. The boy and the computer are developing at the same time, in a way.
ARCANGEL: Yeah, literally. That’s a great way to put it. The computers were new and I was new. I think the first big game was in the late ’70s. I remember going to my friend’s house, because my family never had a Nintendo, and my friend would never let me play his. I remember just sitting on his bed watching him play for hours. That’s how I kind of got interested in it. My real experience with video games was watching other people play. That’s why a lot of my work isn’t really about playing. It’s about watching video games.
HEILMANN: It’s not interactive.
ARCANGEL: One of my pieces for the Whitney in May is 14 video games. When you go into the gallery there are 14 projections next to each other, and they’re all showing bowling video games. They stretch from the beginning of bowling video games, which is 1977, all the way to the recent bowling games of the 2000s. You can see the progression. And I modified all of them so you can’t play them and they only throw gutter balls. All of them are gutter balls over and over and over again.
HEILMANN: Each one is on a loop, right?
ARCANGEL: I’ve actually made a system that plays the game in real time so the game thinks somebody is pressing the buttons, but it’s just another little robot.
HEILMANN: You got into social networking just as it started to become a real force. Like Facebook.
ARCANGEL: Absolutely. I like to try all that stuff out. I like to go on different social networks and search for different phrases. One of them is “Follow my other Twitter.” It’s kind of an inside joke about social networks. People often have two identities and they’re always asking people to follow the other one. Another phrase I like to search for is “Working on my novel.” These people are broadcasting the fact that they’re working on their novels, which obviously they are not because if they were working on their novels they wouldn’t be spending their time telling people. So these archives are little jokes about the situations that people get themselves into when they enter these new worlds of communication on their computers. Because computers make people go a little crazy, you know? Here is another one: “Sorry I haven’t posted.” This is a collection of posts of people writing about the different reasons that they haven’t posted. It’s actually a blog that I’ve started. The best one is a guy who wrote “I had a heart attack.” And this other person has had the same headache for a week straight, so that I can understand not posting.
View a slideshow of images from Beat The Champ here