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WORLDBUILDING: Gaming and Art in the Digital Age

Intersections in gaming and time-based media art

Credit: WORLDBUILDING: Gaming and Art in the Digital Age, Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf, 2022

2022 marked a significant milestone—15 years since the Julia Stoschek Collection's inaugural public exhibition in Düsseldorf, followed by the opening of the Berlin space in 2016.

The Julia Stoschek Collection stands as one of the world's preeminent private collections, with a dedicated focus on time-based art. Over the years, it has orchestrated more than 40 exhibitions, along with numerous activities and international collaborative ventures dedicated to conserving and researching artworks spanning from the 1960s to the present day.

In celebration of the collection's 15th anniversary, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist orchestrated the group exhibition "WORLDBUILDING: Gaming and Art in the Digital Age," which opened in Düsseldorf, June 2022. In June 2023 the exhibition moved to the Centre Pompidou-Metz.

"WORLDBUILDING" explores the intersection between gaming and time-based media art, considering the myriad ways artists have interacted with video games, using them as an art form. To quote the curator, Hans Ulrich Obrist, "In 2021, 2.8 billion people—almost a third of the world's population—played video games, making a niche pastime into the biggest mass phenomenon of our time. Many people spend hours every day in a parallel world and live a multitude of different lives. Video games are to the twenty-first century what movies were to the 20th century and novels to the 19th century."

Credit: Installation view: WORLDBUILDING: Gaming and Art in the Digital Age, Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf, 2022

The aesthetic influence of games has permeated artistic practice for decades as artists integrated, altered, and subverted video game visuals to probe the human experience within virtual realms. Some artists have uncovered and critiqued discriminatory and stereotypical facets of gaming, shining a spotlight on commercial and gaming logic from within the system itself. More recently, artists have harnessed the immense power of gaming to engage with a global audience. "WORLDBUILDING" showcases over thirty artworks from the mid-1990s to the present, including works adapted especially for this exhibition from the Julia Stoschek Collection, and newly commissioned pieces. These artworks span video, virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), and game-based mediums, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in a tapestry of alternative realities crafted by artists, bridging past, present, and future.

This exhibition unites artistic pioneers like JODI, Peggy Ahwesh, Cory Arcangel, and Sturtevant, who have repurposed existing video and computer games for their creations since the 1990s. It also showcases interactive works by artists such as Suzanne Treister and Rebecca Allen, with the latter sharing a special bond with Düsseldorf due to her collaboration with the iconic band Kraftwerk. "WORLDBUILDING" features large-scale, game-based installations, immersing visitors in the worlds envisioned by a younger generation of artists, including Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, Keiken, LuYang, Lawrence Lek, Gabriel Massan, and The Institute of Queer Ecology. These artists critically explore socio-identitarian themes, offering utopian visions and glimpses into future worlds. Others blur the boundaries between artwork and the social dimensions of video games or the metaverse, as exemplified by Lual Mayen, Cao Fei, Frances Stark, Angela Washko, and LaTurbo Avedon, an artist who is both an avatar and an enigma.

The exhibition deftly incorporates elements from the world of game programming, such as 3-D and VR, into the time-based media art of Ed Atkins, Meriem Bennani, Ed Fornieles, Rindon Johnson, and Jakob Kudsk Steensen. Additionally, narrative-focused video works by Harun Farocki, Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, and Sondra Perry offer insights into various facets of the gaming industry.

Credit: Installation view: WORLDBUILDING: Gaming and Art in the Digital Age, Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf, 2022n

The anniversary exhibition is a dynamic, evolving spectacle. It will continually transform over its one-and-a-half-year run, with software components of select works further developed. An extensive program, both online and on-site, will complement the exhibition, along with a booklet and a comprehensive catalog. These accompanying materials will offer diverse perspectives on the gaming phenomenon.

The exhibiting artists includes Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, Peggy Ahwesh, Rebecca Allen, Cory Arcangel, Ed Atkins, LaTurbo Avedon, Balenciaga, Meriem Bennani, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, Cao Fei, Ian Cheng, Harun Farocki, Basmah Felemban, Ed Fornieles, Sarah Friend, The Institute of Queer Ecology, JODI, Rindon Johnson, KAWS, Keiken, Kim Heecheon, Lawrence Lek, LuYang, Gabriel Massan, Lual Mayen, Sondra Perry, Jacolby Satterwhite, Frances Stark, Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Sturtevant, Transmoderna, Suzanne Treister, Theo Triantafyllidis, Angela Washko, Thomas Webb.