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Space Invaders at FACT


Play Tetris in the Cafe

Space Invaders: Art and the Computer Game Environment
18 December 2009 – 21 February 2010

Part of a season of gaming at FACT, Space Invaders: Art and the Computer Game Environment is a group exhibition exploring the increasingly blurred boundaries between videogame spaces and real spaces. From the detailed, complex worlds of Grand Theft Auto to zen gaming and augmented reality, the exhibition brings together world renowned new media artists and innovative games designers who are pushing the limits of the medium.

I’ve never been into computer games myself despite working in Computing for about 40 years but I still enjoyed the exhibition.

Of course I like some of the artwork and animations and the curator’s intent to ‘explore the increasingly blurred boundaries between videogame spaces and real spaces’ is interesting. Riley Harmon’s installation is quite a gruesome example, ‘What It Is Without The Hand That Wields It’ is a row of blood bags hanging on the wall, whenever gamers make a kill in ‘Counter-Strike’ some ‘blood’ is released. The trail of blood down the wall and pool on the floor makes the consequences of the killing game seem a bit more real.

I may not be much good at using a game control device but even I can enjoy waving an umbrella around as if it’s a sword or lightsaber. Visitors at the opening event were showing off their skills using the ‘Amagatana’ (rain sword) created by Yuichiro Katsumoto from Japan. It is just an ordinary umbrella that he has adapted so that it lights up and sounds are emitted from a nearby loudspeaker as you wave or make stabbing motions. Its good fun.

Yuichiro Katsumoto and his Amagatana
Yuichiro Katsumoto and his Amagatana

I spoke to Yuichiro before the opening, he speaks some English and Minako helped with translation. He is still a PhD student in Tokyo so it is not easy for him to spend a lot of time on activities such as this though he is hoping that there is some merging of these projects with his studies. This is his first visit to England and like so many young people in Japan he has a keen interest in the UK music scene so he was spending as much spare time as possible checking out all the art and music places around the city.

Yuichiro is particularly interested in connecting games to everyday objects and trying to get away from sitting in front of a monitor, he is hoping to develop ideas involving the human body, the skin or organs. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him here again in future years.

I enjoyed the video ‘COSPlayers’ by Chinese artist Cao Fei which features teenagers on the streets of Guangzhou dressed in various martial arts superhero outfits (cosplay = costume play).

You can, of course, play some games including a basic but oversized Tetris which has been installed in the Cafe and Michael Johansson from Sweden has created a Tetris-like installation under the stairs.

Also on the opening night there was an excellent performance of electronic music created by the DS Orchestra – children from Our Lady Of Perpetual Succour Catholic Primary School in Widnes using their DS’s with PixelH8’s chiptune software and conducted by Ross Dalziel of Soundnetwork .

There is a lot to see and interact with – all Free as always – and there are plenty of related events, workshops, films etc.

The DS Orchestra
The DS Orchestra