Game History: rebecca.cannon


Like the erotic airbrushed art found under fibreglass skateboards of decades gone by, the humble computer game is finally getting the cultural recognition it deserves. Indeed as we roll into an increasingly mediatised world, Rebecca Cannon from Some Underground Machine in Melbourne, plans to fill a gallery with art inspired by the games people play on those plastic box calculating devices. (mo-info? )

What attracted you to curate an art exhibition inspired by computer games?
I’m very interested in the evolution of culture, and in particular the way creativity responds to advances in tech. In the late 70’s to mid-80’s, we witnessed a technological revolution which allowed interactive game technologies to enter the home on a mass scale, and with it’s limitations came a whole new visual language, heavy in semiotics. This mode of entertainment, and the visual language which came with it – like all cultural phenonmena- had an immense impact on the creative development of a generation. I’m curating this exhibition to survey and document that impact. Twenty years after games entered the home, what have they done to the visual and conceptual styles of artists?

What works have X-cited u most?
WATAG by Rachel tempest and Julian Oliver. People in Western Australia get to upload their graffitti and attack a virtual representation of the Richmond train station. Victorian taggers have to sit back and watch while interstate crews take over their turf. “What remains of territory when it is carried over into the digital?”

Space Invader is a French Installation artist who has launched a global invasion. He sticks space-invaders on public walls in various cities. The space-invaders are permanently attached, and he doesn’t get anyone’s permission to do it. I admire the literal way he has followed through with the ideas fed to him in that early game. Space-Invaders themselves just keep on coming. Occasionally Invader, (the moniker he has taken) gets in trouble with the police. In a sense they are the game players; they get to shoot back.

Spookyville is a game which some Brisbane kids are building. They have put a lot of effort into the visual style, making it a freaky gothic house of horrors. They are experimenting with gameplay itself, avoiding violence as a motive for interaction. The luscious sound design instigates the play, as one must make environmental recordings to gain points. The final challenge is to mix the sounds down into a track inside the mad professor’s laboratory.

The challenges of electronic arts curation?
The easiest part is tracking down the work. Most people working with electronic media make sure they’re represented on the web. The problems arise when you want to start showing the work to the public. Computers, projectors etc are really expensive for short-term hire, and in a gallery context you end up needing a few of them. We’re fortunate to live in a country where the government values cultural output and does offer some grants for artists and exhibitions, but writing proposals can be a very bewildering and stressful process.

Your first computer game memory?
We had a commodore 64 when I was a kid, back before (really) floppy discs. So to load games, you had to do it by cassette tape. I remember playing a really simple game called TRAX, which was even simpler than PACMAN. It took an hour to load! Somehow the excitement of controlling the action on the screen made it worth it.

First photoshopped dream?
A collage of my friend Marnie looking femininely tough, with the top of an armaguard van ( those spunky numbers for helicopter-view ) running through her brain.

What X-cites about the potential for game-building today?
I think they can be put to really good educational use. Imagine studying chemical engineering or medicine by using a game where you were rewarded for the knowledge which you fed into it. You could use what you had learnt to prevent nuclear meltdowns caused by terrrorist aliens, or plaques caused by genetic mutations. It’d be more fun than rote-learning.

I’m also keen to see more feminine interpretations of gameplay. I have heard about some interesting and commercially viable alternatives to kill-thrill games. In Japan (of course) there is a big market for girls games, some of which involve social skills like conversing with game characters to gain points. These alternative styles of games lead me to another area I’m xcited about – the increasing application of narrative to games, where games can replace the mythological hunger we currently satiate with films.

What game inspired art are u working on?
NONE. please dont remind me!

What’s the motivation behind your lesbian vampire film?
Repressed desires.

Opinions on the X-Box?
I could rant but then I could just shout: Beware, corporations are smart. All submissions to the X-Box game art competition will be owned by microsoft – it’s in the fineprint somewhere.

Fave games at the mo?
Kill Osama Bin Laden, pacman, Oni and Half-life.


Rebecca’s fave gamey urls….

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