Posted on: Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Artist defies critics with edgy exhibit
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
Paladin" is a video installation/sculpture in the shape of a medieval
castle that houses two computers, one of which runs "America's Army," a
computer game that also serves as a recruitment tool produced by the
Photo courtesy Eddo Stern
Public lecture, 7:30 tonight
University of Hawai'i-Manoa, Art Building Auditorium
A multimedia exhibit by Stern
Tomorrow through Oct. 6
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays
Koa Gallery, Kapi'olani Community College
Opening reception: 7 p.m. tomorrow
Romance," top, features game, graphic and music elements with a MIDI
soundtrack and computer game clips for a "remix" of the Vietnam War
experience for viewer-players.
vey, what's a good Israeli-born, video-game playing, socially conscious
multimedia artist to do when one of his most compelling projects gets
the thumbs down from Israelis (even his relatives) and Arabs alike? Not
to mention the video-game industry. And PBS.
you're Eddo (pronounced "ay-do") Stern, whose work blending the look
and techniques of video games and other new media with traditional art
forms is causing a stir in the art world, you shrug, smile and keep on
34, who gives a free talk today at the University of Hawai'i, opens a
show of his electronic-media installation "Dark Machinima," tomorrow at
Kapi'olani Community College's Koa Gallery.
the four video projects in the installation is "Sheik Attack," a video
with video-game graphics that Stern describes on his Web site as "a
contemporary non/fiction horror film woven from pop nostalgia, computer
war games, the sweat of virtual commandos, the blood of Sheiks and a
mis-remembrance of a long lost Zionist Utopia."
'Sheik Attack' is a very specific critique of the gaming industry's use
of war narratives that detract from actual, real-world wars," Stern
explains, "the use of the idea of war without the real engagement."
says his three years of required service in the Israeli army pushed him
to develop a critical perspective on virtual entertainment and
real-life violence. It's a disconnect he sees between "our modern
playful world and the harsher side."
anticipated Arab objections to "Sheik Attack," but he was also
criticized from within Israel. Even members of his own family accused
him of essentially airing dirty laundry. However, the aim was to
confront the nation's idealized image of itself and the bloody reality
of its current conflicts.
Attack" was to have aired on PBS in Los Angeles earlier this year, but
it was scrapped when the latest Israel-Lebanon conflict flared. "They
didn't really offer an explanation except that the situation (in the
region) was too serious," Stern said. "That's one of the ideas I'm
trying to change — the idea that video games belittle serious subjects."
moved from Israel's Negev Desert to California 13 years ago. He
graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a degree
in philosophy, computer sciences and visual arts in 1997, then earned a
master's in art and integrated media from California Institute of Arts
As an artist, Stern says he has spent much of his energy exploring fantasy and its relation to the "real" world.
of my work centers around that dynamic," he says. "There are fantasies
of technology, history — particularly medieval history — and sci-fi
that operate as entertainment. Video games join up with Hollywood
movies in this space.
boggled by how narrow the range of content is," he says. "It's such a
small set of narratives — sci-fi, sword and sorcery, war revisitation,
Asian martial arts — that get repeated over and over. ..."
know so much about medieval history through these forms of
entertainment, but at the expense of engaging with the real world."
Stern's fusions of new and traditional media have been diverse and, usually, finely pointed.
Romance," compiled from everyday game, graphic and music elements, is a
"remix" of the Vietnam War experience that ironically exhorts
viewer-players to "Feel the Nam."
Resurrection" draws on the rhetoric of conspiracy theory, cults and
apocalypticism. It's a video game that allows players to assume the
identity of a resurrected David Koresh, the central figure in the 1993
standoff between federal agents and the Branch Davidian cult.
makes you think about character identification," Stern says. "Koresh is
not a wholesome character, but why does it always have to be so clear
cut? You can watch a documentary about a war criminal and not feel
implicated in it."
INDIE: THE GAME
use of video games and video game imagery as a route for artistic
expression has been anticipated for more than a decade, yet Stern
remains one of only a handful of artists who has done significant work
in the area.
gaming and video game technology are changing the way we take art in,"
says Wendy Kawabata, an assistant professor of art at UH-Manoa, who
helped bring Stern to Hawai'i as part of the university's Intersections
visiting artist program.
a pioneer in the field, Stern says it has been one of his missions to
foster an independent game-development culture, similar in nature to
the indie revolution in film.
from the film model again, we've only had the Hollywood equivalent of
games, or Flash stuff, which would be equivalent to home movies," he
said. "The next step is allowing more authors (of video games). It
shouldn't just be what the industry has been giving us. There could
also be documentaries, romance, history."
of the problem, Stern says, is that gaming technology changes so
quickly and so often that potential "authors" don't have a set of
stable, standard tools with which to work yet.
have to get to a point where authors aren't worrying about the latest
gadgetry," he says. "You don't want to be bound to an anachronistic
popularity of home consoles like the Xbox 360 might be a step in the
right direction, Stern says. "I'm not a fan of the distribution model,
but they do provide some stability. You want to be able to design a
game that you can still play seven years from now."
Reach Michael Tsai at [email protected].