DOCTOR TECHNOLOGIES PROGRAM AT SERPENTINE
The Serpentine Arts Technologies program challenges and reshapes the role advanced technologies can play in culture and society through artistic interventions and collaborations. As part of Serpentine’s commitment to supporting new artistic experimentation, the program initiates and supports artists in developing ambitious works that deploy such technologies as a medium, tool or subject, often operating outside the gallery walls. One of the program’s initiatives is Artist Worlds, a commissioned experimental series that uses virtual world-building to provide insight into an artist’s practice and a comprehensive worldview. For 2023, Serpentine is working with Brazilian artist Gabriel Massan on a multilevel downloadable game and a complementary blockchain-based project built on the energy-efficient blockchain Tezos. Titled ‘Third World: The Bottom Dimension’, the mind-raising game ‘arose from frustrations with the centralization of power, knowledge and resources in contemporary Brazil, with inequality, difficulties in access and navigation, concentrated especially for black and indigenous peoples’, Eva Jäger, curator of Arts Technologies and co-researcher of the Creative AI Lab at Serpentine and King’s College London, tells designboom.
On November 25, 2022, Serpentine Arts Technologies will also release the third edition of Future Art Ecosystems (FAE), the annual strategic briefing by and for the cultural sector. Launched in 2020, the initiative provides concepts, references, language and arguments that can be integrated into operational agendas for building 21st century cultural infrastructure. The third edition, titled ‘Building Hybrid Worlds’, focuses on emerging Web3 technologies and their implications for practitioners, organizations, funders and policymakers. ‘Through a series of interviews with art specialists, Web3, cryptocurrencyDWeb, Innovation Policy and Civic, FAE3 formulates a series of prospective strategies for existing and emerging cultural organizations interested in the arts and advanced technologies (AxAT) and the latter’s role in supporting resilient democratic societies,’ Hunter explains. Read our interview below to learn more about Future Art Ecosystems, Artist Worlds, and the Serpentine Arts Technologies program.
Artist Worlds 2023: Third World: The Bottom Dimension, image courtesy Gabriel Massan, 2022
INTERVIEW WITH CURATOR Eva Jäger ABOUT Artist Worlds
design tree (DB): What is the purpose of Artist Worlds assignments?
Eva Jaeger (EJ): Artist Worlds is an ongoing series of commissions and live events that support artistic practices that engage with simulated realities, immersive storytelling and virtual world building. The projects invite the public into new virtual worlds built by artists to explore and discover their practices, processes and ideas. Since 2013, through our commissioning program, we’ve been working with artists (including Ian Cheng, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, Trust, and Jakob Kudsk Steensen) who use CGI and simulation technologies such as game engines to develop comprehensive, interactive, and cutting-edge projects. have seen this adoption and experimentation grow during this period, especially in the wake of the pandemic and the increase in the number of video game players in different demographics of society. Artist Worlds is committed to supporting artistic experimentation in this area while also supporting open collaboration with our audience and we hope to eventually get to the point of co-creation.
Gabriel Massan’s awareness game ‘Third World’
DB: How did the collaboration with Brazilian artist Gabriel Massan begin?
EJ: Gabriel asked many of the same questions we did about the possibilities of decentralization and interdependence. As a multidisciplinary digital artist, they see their practice as a process of creating decentralized life forms and ecosystems designed to subvert the spatial, social and socio-economic stratification of colonialism and its reverberations. We had a lot of studio visits during the commissioning process, but in the end it was clear that it had to be Gabriel. Their Artist Worlds commission, a video game called Third World, arose out of frustrations with the centralization of power, knowledge and resources in contemporary Brazil, with inequality, difficulties in access and navigation, especially targeting black and indigenous peoples. The collaboration began with an R&D period to develop the game proposal, enabling research into game design, critical theory such as Saidiya Hartmaan’s practice of ‘Critical Fabulation’ and consulting sessions with practitioners such as narrative designer Meghna Jayanth, while refining the core of the project . questions and intention. Leveraged by Tezos, Third World’s Web3 strategy will extend the game’s reach to online player communities by building an active and ongoing archive of gameplay.
‘Third World’ visual, courtesy of Gabriel Massan
DB: Massan describes ‘Third World’ as an ‘awareness game’ – can you explain what the game is about and how it focuses on raising player awareness?
EJ: As a player in Third World, you must navigate a disorienting environment; where night turns to day in an instant and there is no map to be found. As you explore the world, you will find collectible knowledge artifacts that will fill your memory throughout the game. As these artifacts are collected, they unlock parts of the game’s evolving story and discourse, which unfolds through in-game cinematics. The artifacts themselves were designed in collaboration with some of the performing artists and incorporate insight and knowledge from their own practices regarding principles and issues of transmutation, healing (cura), interspecific spirituality and lineage (Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro), pollution, resource extraction and environmental mismanagement (Novissimo Edgar).
From the beginning, Gabriel wanted to find a way to reveal and share stories of lived experiences without reproducing the same images or demarcating systems. This desire led not only to a decentralized and more abstract approach to representation, but also to an investigation into how games themselves could shift power relations, resurface knowledge and possibilities that were long lost by colonial design and intent, and how they generate value for players. .
One of the key features of the game is a built-in photo/video capture mode that activates custom distortion filters as the player navigates the environment, aligning with the game’s corresponding Web3 strategy. When shooting mode is activated, the view of the game switches to a first-person view, giving the player access to two different types of cameras, a super-sensitive camera with distorted axis angles (45 degrees skewed) that allows free movement around the player and a selfie camera (a gopro-style camera on top of the playable characters’ heads). It asks the player to save gameplay moments as beaten memories; seen as personal display of understanding and intent made possible by progressing through the game. The project plays with the role of memory and embraces the creation and retention of experience as a form of empowerment to facilitate navigation; an integral part of how the player becomes aware of the wider world that supports (rather than destroys) development, growth and evolution.
Gabriel Massan’s ‘Third World: The Bottom Dimension’ will launch online via Steam and onsite at Serpentine in February 2023, reinforcing Serpentine’s commitment to gaming projects.