Brody Condon: Meditations on Drugs, Death, Suicide and Gameplay

July 15, 2009 · Print This Article

I have always longed to play an old-style D&D role playing game “live,” as it were, ever since I was a kid and saw that TV movie starring Tom Hanks called Mazes and Monsters (any of you old enough to remember it?).  In it, Tom played a troubled game nerd who, along with his game-nerd friends (including a chick, which was cool for those times), found these secret deep twisty caves and decided to role-play Dungeons and Dragons in them, like for real. They all got totally obsessed by the game but in the end, poor Tom went crazy and had to be institutionalized because he literally got lost in the game world, unable to tell what was real and what was pretend. Because I want to share the absolute and utter amazingness of this movie with y’all, I grace you with this clip:

So anyway, I came across Brody Condon‘s work a few weeks ago on the L.A.-based experimental media blog Blur + Sharpen (written by the incredibly gifted writer and super-smart maven of medias old and new, Holly Willis, a former classmate of mine at USC’s School of Cinema Television from way back when) and I’ve been fascinated with it ever since, largely because it seems to tap into a lot of the crazy that Tom was suffering from in the movie, that desire to transcend dull reality and experience something visionary and heroic, but Condon projects this desire into the era of video games rather than the book, paper and pen way of playing RPG’s.

Condon is an American artist born in 1974 in Mexico, and is currently based in New York. His 2008 DVD Without Sun is a 15 minute compilation of footage found on the Internet of various random people tripping HARD on psychedelic substances. Condon’s website describes the piece’s focus as on “the exterior surface of the ‘projection of self’ into visionary worlds,” noting that it was named after Chris Marker’s classic video work Sans Soleil. Click on the image below to be taken to Condon’s website and a brief clip of the video. If you’re in Los Angeles this weekend, you can check out a live performance on July 18th at Machine Project that features two actors recreating scenes from Condon’s video.

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Death Animations is a three hour performance that also took place at Machine Project. Inspired by Bruce Naumann’s 1973 work “Tony Sinking into the Floor, Face Up and Face Down”, it featured nine dancers wearing video game type armor who recreate Naumann’s performance in slo-mo as “high volume binaural beats” play in the background, apparently in an effort to induce some form of out-of-body experience among the audience and/or participants. (Click images below to be taken to a performance excerpt).

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And Condon’s Suicide Solution, 2004,  is a compilation of suicide scenes from various first- and third-person video games.  (Click image for video clip).

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But what seems far coolest of all to me is this massive performance piece organized by Condon, titled TwentyFiveFoldManfestation and performed for three days straight at SonsbeekLive in the Netherlands. From the website:

Combining the fantasy Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) subculture, public sculpture, and ritualistic performance art, Twentyfivefold was a series of physically and psychologically intense live games involving 80 players which evolved over the Summer of 2008. The events were organized by the artist Brody Condon for the Sonsbeek International public sculpture exhibition in the Netherlands.

Set in a distant future where civilization as we know it had almost been lost, players from different worlds met deep in the holy forest and inhabited a 40 feet high tower “in character” for 3 days at a time while worshiping invented deities embodied by the other artworks of the exhibition.”

Here’s a short clip documenting the performance:

Looks kind of amazing, right? If Condon ever wants to organize something like that in Chicago I am so there. Strangely, I see echoes of Mazes and Monsters in Condon’s project. Going back to real life must feel pretty sucky after playing a fully immersive game like that. I wonder if any of the participants went crazy afterwards, unable to come down from the high of worshiping the broken mirror god. I’d be willing to take the risk.




Wednesday Clips 6/3/09

June 3, 2009 · Print This Article

marina_towers_plan_filmHere’s what’s caught my eye since last time we did this….

*Why not take Aderall? (Chicago Weekly).

*Forget the death of print–the revival of cassette tape is well underway.

*Joyce Owens tells President Obama to give living artists a shot at the White House.

*In second round of layoffs, MOCA cuts Robert Hollister, its director of registration and collections (Culture Monster).

*Muralist Frank Romero sues Caltrans over mural washout (Culture Monster, again).

*David Lynch launches online Interview project (via Boing Boing).

*New Chicago journal The Point wants you to read articles. Long ones. Printed on paper. Yeah I know! Crazy f&%ks. (Chicago Reader).

*Curator Jeffrey Grove to leave High Museum for Dallas Museum of Art (UnBeige).

*In the nick of time, Scope Basel announces new location (Art in America).

*A really interesting assessment of the etsy craft aesthetic on the artblog.

(above image credit: Bertrand Goldberg Associates. Marina City South Elevation, ca. 1962. “Marina City” on view at ArchiTech Gallery from June 5-August 29, 2009).




Friday Clip Show

April 3, 2009 · Print This Article

Are re-blogged links the blogger’s version of the sitcom flashback episode? Uh, maybe, but in any case, here’s a partial and purely subjective roundup of the past week in art, culture, etc. in Chicago and beyond, via a whole mess o’ handy links, of course….

*Artists selected for the 53rd Annual Venice Biennale have been announced; find the list here.

*New City art editor Jason Foumberg has a nice recap along with some thoughtful analysis of last week’s “The Invisible Artist: Creators from Chicago’s Southside” panel discussion at the School of the Art Institute. UPDATE 4/4: There is some very interesting, enlightening, and pretty damn sharp back-and-forth going on in the comments section of this article by panel participants and others who strongly disagree with (or have misunderstood) Foumberg’s assessment of the panel and the issues it addressed.

*The mass firings of adjunct fine art faculty at Parsons The New School for Design: blogger Hrag Vartanian’s coverage has been some of the most thorough thus far. Check out his posts here, here and here as a start.

*Time Out Chicago writer Lauren Weinberg has a piece this week on the ways in which Musuems in Chicago and elsewhere are using social media.

*Big yawn: on the Twitter front, an update on @platea’s Twitter happening I blogged about a few weeks ago. UPDATE 4/4: NewCity reported on what happened during the Twitter Island project discussed in that same blog post, here.

*A huge Pose slideshow available on The World’s Best Ever.

*Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes provides an excellent, two-part summary of a rare Robert Frank public talk this week with National Gallery of Art curator Sarah Greenough; part one and two.

*Via C-Monster: The Architecture of the Drug Trade. A fascinating look at  the landscape of weed and the architecture of the grow house. Especially loved the comparison of the latter to Max’s bedroom in Where the Wild Things Are.

*Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City writes for The L Magazine on why Jenny Holzer is not the patron saint of Twitter in her review of Holzer’s Protect Protect Project, which originated at the MCA and is now at The Whitney.

*Via ArchitectureChicago: iTunes offering free download of the first movement of John Cage’s 4’33″.

* Get your art on at Chicago Artist’s Resource (CAR)’s Creative Chicago Expo tomorrow (Saturday) from 10-4. Workshops and Consult-a-thons galore for individuals and arts organizations.

*And finally, the hermeneutics of “pin diplomacy”: via Artnet Magazine, Madeleine Albright’s pin collection to be shown at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York.  Pins weren’t mere jewelry for Albright, they added a subtle layer to her diplomatic efforts.  She wore a bee pin when talks were getting pointed, a balloon pin when she felt hopeful, and a snake pin after Sadaam Hussein’s people called her a serpent. I’m so there!