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'Chicago Games' Exhibit Runs Thru Dec. 2

Northwestern University Dittmar Gallery exhibit features work of video game artists

EVANSTON, Ill. --- “Chicago Games as Art & Culture” -- the first exhibition of digital interactive work hosted by Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery -- invites visitors to reconsider the power and vibrancy of video games as a medium for artistic expression.

Chicago, a worldwide hub of arcade manufacturing and distribution in the second half of the 20th-century, now hosts an exciting new wave of independent game designers poised to retake gaming's crown. “Chicago Games” features the work of some of those talented young artists.

“Chicago Games as Art & Culture” opens Oct. 30 and runs through Dec. 2 at the Dittmar Gallery, located on the first floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. The exhibition, an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, and an artist’s panel scheduled for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23, are free and open to the public.

The platforms featured in the show demonstrate that games have moved behond a controller sprawled on a couch in front of a television screen. 

“This set of games also eschews twitchy reflexes and rote memorization of button-presses in favor of reflective, aesthetic experiences that don't require a childhood of gaming to appreciate,” said show organizer Thomas Rousse, of GAMESat.NU. The broad group, which Rousse recently founded with other Northwestern School of Communication students, supports games culture and community on Northwestern’s campus.

Dittmar’s “Chicago Games” showcases the work of game developers and graphic designers Greg Wohlwend, Rob Lach, Patrick Segura, Brian Patrick Franklin and Christopher Wille.

The core of the exhibit consists of four pieces, including “Currency” by Wille and Franklin, “Gray” by Wohlwend and Boxleiter, “Gardalku - Land of Rocks and Pillars” by Segura, and “Pop Methodology Experiment One” by Lach. The show also features a non-interactive untitled sculpture by Sarah Rooney woven out of Category 6 Ethernet cable. Additionally, the “Indie City Arcade,” a community-created and curated games platform maintained by the Indie City Collective features many different games.

Their contributions, curated by Rousse, speak to the protean nature of games as art, spanning themes from acceptance to bodily disorientation and technologies from pixel-art to virtual reality.

For example, “Currency” by Wille and Franklin, is an electronic and custom game constructed from an obsolete Burroughs adding machine and a microcontroller that monitors the exchange rate of bitcoins to U.S. dollars. This data generates a game level that prints out on a roll of receipt paper. For more on “Currency,” visit www.brianpatrickfranklin.com/currency.html.

Thomas Rousse

Rousse, a Louisiana native, received his undergraduate degree in American studies from Northwestern University in 2010 and went on to earn a master of science in games analysis in 2013 from the IT University of Copenhagen. Currently, he is a student in Northwestern’s JD/Ph.D. program in the School of Communication’s Media, Technology and Society Program.

He organized the Dittmar show to bring some of the energy and excitement from Copenhagen’s independent games scene back to Northwestern’s campus.

“Groups like the Copenhagen Games Collective and PlayIT created a diverse and welcoming community that inspired people to take risks with their creative projects,” Rousse said. “I discovered that games are experienced differently in public spaces; they give players the chance to perform and turn a private experience into a communal one.”

Rousse has participated in numerous game exhibits in settings that ranged from galleries and alleys to the middle of a weeklong rock’n’roll festival in a massive meadow in Denmark. 

“Games have tremendous power and potential as an art form, but experimental and independent games that don't fit popular conceptions of what games are can be difficult to discover,” he said. This is especially true for audiences that might not be interested in the sports simulations, platformers and first-person shooters that make up the public face of video gaming.”

Rousse’s most well-known game is “Laza Knitez” at http://www.lazaknitez.com/, an arcade-style local multiplayer “joust'em up” game made with Glitchnap, an independent games studio based in Copenhagen.

For more information, contact the Dittmar Gallery at 847-491-2348 or Norris University Center at 847-491-2300, email dittmargallery@northwestern.edu or visit www.dittmar.northwestern.edu

Topics: Visual Arts

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