War GamesCurated by Benjamin Godsill
War Games is an offsite exhibition curated by Benjamin Godsill, held in Detroit, Michigan, at an abandoned cathedral. This show gathers works of art, which relate to an emergent practice, that Godsill conceptualizes as “technological misuse and abuse.” Specifically, artworks that use the form, structure, architecture, and aesthetics of contemporary technology (digital and otherwise) to ends that are divergent from their instrumentalized and normative “use value.” In other words, works which somehow shape the feeling of innovation to absurdist but elegant ends.
The exhibition’s title refers to the 1983 Hollywood film of the same name, starring Matthew Broderick. In the movie, Broderick plays a high school computer wiz who hacks into the U.S. Missile Defense System and begins to play the game of “Global Thermonuclear War” with a semi-sentient computer that does not compute it as a game. The film’s allegories are still true thirty years later, and have become important hallmarks of our cultural landscape and the visual arts.
Perhaps more poignantly, it is one of the first films to normalize the digital, positing a world wherein teenagers live with computers in their bedrooms. While the anxieties of the film were centered around global destruction, predicated on the Cold War and the theoretical possibility of Artificial Intelligence, the anxieties of our own time feel that much closer. We exist in the age of fuzzy logic and learning algorithms, which increasingly construct our reality – a world rife with pending ecological calamity and endless wars increasingly fought by unmanned killer drones.
Most important to this exhibition is the hacker ethos that Broderick personifies; the brilliant desire to understand systems by taking them apart has influenced an entire generation of artists, and is exemplified by the artistic practices and works represented in this exhibition. Drawing on earlier art movements, including Surrealism, Conceptualism, and Minimalism, the varied artists assembled for War Games are all trying to disassemble the world around them and reassemble it in ways that offer aesthetic, cultural, and even political solutions. As opposed to tearing down the dominant culture, these artists use the very tools of domination to reorder and rethink possibilities. And to a degree, like Broderick’s character, they do so because they are just as interested in the results of their interventions as we are in viewing them.
A special project by Anders Ruhwald accompanies the exhibition.
DatesJune 02 - July 24, 2016
Opening ReceptionThursday, June 02, 6-9pm
Location1945 Webb Avenue
Detroit, MI 48206
All images: War Games, 2016. Photography courtesy of Morán Morán