Martin Zeilinger

Survival Interventions in GTA & the Limits of Performance in Virtual Environments

journal article

[posted: 25 March 2019]
>>tags: performance art, game art

Volume 2 of the Video Game Art Reader (edited by Tiffany Funk) is finally out, and I’m excited that my essay on performance-based interventions in the Grand Theft Auto universe was chosen to head off the list of excellent contributions. Digital copies can be obtained on the website of the Chicago-based Video Game Art Gallery – or follow the link for a PDF copy of my essay.

My contribution discusses the work of Joseph DeLappe, Brent Watanabe, Clint Enns, Georgie Roxby Smith, and COLLEO, among others.

Here is the abstract:

“The subject of survival in virtual environments has emerged as a potent site of critical and artistic intervention in video games. Influenced by traditions in performance art practices, in particular the critiquing of socio-political power systems through the radical, performative use of bodies, many artists effectively use existing game platforms to address conflicts at the intersection between the individual and system. This essay explores the performative affordances of Grand Theft Auto (GTA) game worlds as a research tool, subject of critique, or theatrical stage. Though survival is difficult to address successfully in virtual interventions, the trope of survival as coded in game environments can be mobilized by virtual performance artists to address problematic limits and constraints dictated by the algorithmic systems framing gameplay.”

Image credit: Clint Enns, video still from 747 (2011)