Future Gestalt: Brody Condon at Machine Project

Brody Condon Future Gestalt

Brody Condon returns to Machine Project this Thursday night to present a new performance titled Future Gestalt, described as a '70s group encounter session set in the far future.

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Condon, who earned an MFA in Visual Arts at UC San Diego in 2002, began making very compelling work in the late 1990s and was greatly influenced by his location -- Southern California -- and the collision of two disparate communities here, namely that of media theorists, such as Katherine Hayles, a literary critic who was at UCLA at the time and wrote about post-human subjectivity, and Lev Manovich, a new media artist and theorist at UC San Diego, who was considering the database as a symbolic form; and video game hobbyists, who were busily "modding" games such as Quake, Doom and Half-Life by altering the gameplay and then sharing their ideas in online communities.

"Being triangulated between these two," Condon said in an interview, "so that I was taking the technical skills from the hobbyists and an articulation of ideas through the theorists, was a way of stepping outside the boundaries and trying to do something else."

One of Condon's first pieces was Velvet Strike, co-created with Anne-Marie Schleiner and Joan Leandre, which modifies the first-person shooter game Counter Strike such that players "shoot" anti-war graffiti rather than other players.

Condon also collaborated on Waco Resurrection, which invites players into the purview of Branch Davidian David Koresh and his experiences during the 1993 standoff between his compound and the FBI. Here, Condon's fascination with trauma and apocalypse comes to the foreground.

Death AnimationsIn his Death Animations, Condon simulates violent computer game deaths in achingly slow motion, calling attention to the rich visual spectacle of video game violence in a work that revises artist Bruce Nauman's performance video Tony Sinking into the Floor, Face Up and Face Down from 1973. And in his DVD compilation Suicide Solution, Condon collects a series of documented suicides performed in first- and third-person shooter games, considering death in a realm where it has very different ramifications than in the physical world. In each of these projects, Condon fundamentally transform the game he's working with, making it suit his conceptual goals.

Twentyfivefold ManifestationCondon has continued to step outside boundaries, and in his more recent work, has been exploring performance as it connects with 1970s group awareness training. This work began in 2008, when he worked with 80 players from a Danish Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) group to create a performance titled Twentyfivefold Manifestation in which players adopted characters, which they played for several days on the grounds of a sculptural exhibition in the Netherlands. They created rituals, treated the sculptures as gods, and involved viewers as participants by imagining them as ghosts.

Condon has created several of these multi-day performances at venues throughout Los Angeles, and continues to work through issues of identity, trauma, projection and the body, as well as the art object itself. Future Gestalt offers a great chance to see an artist exploring very rich territory. The performance begins at 8:00 p.m., Thursday, January 26, 2012.

About the Author

Holly Willis teaches in USC's School of Cinematic Arts and writes about new media art. She is the author of "New Digital Cinema: Reinventing the Moving Image" and editor of "The New Ecology of Things" on pervasive computing.
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