A Locally-Owned and Independent Voice in the City Volume 3 Number 7 - July 9 - 22, 2004
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War Games


Gamer-artist Brody Condon stages an all-out battle royale at the Machine Project Gallery.

BY MICHAEL ALEXANDER

At 6 p.m. on July 17, metal will ring on metal, helmets will glint in the light, and lances will crack upon shields. Mongols, crusaders, and knights will vie for victory. Only one brave hero will take the prize, but don’t give up on your favorite Roman centurion if it looks like he’s down for the count — just wait a minute, and he’ll be “resurrected” to continue the fight. And the whole thing will be caught on camera from almost any angle you could desire.
No, this isn’t a new “Lord of the Rings” game for Xbox — it’s Brody Condon’s “Untitled War,” the newest cutting-edge “art” at Echo Park’s freewheeling Machine Project gallery. Condon’s upcoming “performative event,” as he calls it, will pit more than a dozen retro-Medieval warriors from the Society for Creative Anachronism, or SCA, against each other in the claustrophobic space of an art gallery. The best seats in the house won’t be in the front row, though; they’ll be down the street at the Echo Park Film Center, where multiple streaming video feeds will be projected to complete that online-gaming feel.
Condon’s event takes elements of first-person shooter computer games like Half-Life and Quake — resurrections, counting “frags” (kills) for points, and streaming video — and inject them into the martial arts and monarchy characteristic of an official SCA event. The event, Condon says, “is a Petri dish for examining [these people’s] behavior in a controlled environment while at the same time shifting their normal activities to approach issues that come out of this incredible mix of extreme sports, fabricated history, fantasy role-playing, and 3D games.”
“Untitled War” is by no means the first work of Condon’s to break down the increasingly fragile boundary between gaming fantasy and gritty reality. His 2001 project “Adam Killer” (image on previous page) modified the popular first-person shooter “Half Life” into a bloodbath filled with endless copies of one of his best friends, highlighting the eerie way games separate images from their meanings.
Games were always somewhat of a presence in Condon’s life, but traumatic elements of his family life are what made them truly memorable. As he admits almost cheerily, “I think my relationship with games became more intense the day my mom smashed my Atari 2600 with a hammer. Little bits of the Atari console and my ‘Yar’s Revenge’ cartridge were flying all over the living room while she was screaming, ‘My children don’t love me!’ Give her a break; it was the mid-‘80s and there was a lot of coke around.”
In this post-9/11 world, Condon’s studies of violence have taken on new meaning. The true eye-opener was when he collaborated with fellow gaming artist Anne-Marie Schleiner on “Velvet-Strike,” which put visual war protests into the online gaming environment of “Counterstrike,” a popular game with a counterterrorist theme. “Suddenly after this,” Condon says, “we are receiving hate mail and death threats from the game community, and it all gets very serious.”

   
2004 by Los Angeles Alternative Press
 
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