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How a mountain and an octocat help us find peace on the Internet

For a whole generation of people, the computer display constitutes its own locale, a second home. It’s where many people do their work, catch up on the news, and connect with friends and family. This is part of what makes Unfriended’s haunted Skype-call conceit so convincing: teens are just as likely to encounter horror on the Internet as a cabin in the woods. David OReilly’s Mountain seemed to recognize this as well.

“reading the bible word-for-word backwards.” 

Half interactive simulation, half animated short, OReilly’s game took the idea of tablets, phones, and computers as places we inhabit and gave us a digital interpretation of a mountain to occasionally visit while we’re there. When Davis Cox reviewed it for Kill Screen, he noted how the game, like a lot of OReilly’s work, focused on the “intersection between the quiet, meditative moments of life and the broader technological world always encroaching on that serenity.” Mountain approached this divide by offering a place to rest and reflect between the bombardment of emails, notifications, and calendar reminders.

On May 11, OReilly’s creations will be featured in an exhibit at MoMA, but later that week he’ll be sharing it with attendees at Kill Screen’s Two5six conference. Ranging from short films and YouTube series to games and mascots, O’Reilly’s work captures the more absurdist dimensions of Internet culture in playful terms. Octocat Adventures, a video series drawn mostly in MS Paint, told the story of a red octopus-cat in search of its parents as created by the fictional Randy Peters. Narrated stream of conscious in the voice of a young child, the series’ “So Bad, It’s Good” quality puts a spotlight on the different ways stories resonate with audiences on the Internet.

When asked how he came to project, OReilly responded, “I don’t really remember. I wanted to try experimenting with the YouTube audience and Microsoft Paint.” As for the story of Octocat, the Irish film-maker said it came to him from “reading the bible word-for-word backwards.”

You’ll be able to hear O’Reilly discuss his work at greater length at Two5six. A three-day celebration of a life well-played, the conference will take place Friday, May 15 through Sunday, May 17 at Villain (50 North 3rd Street) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You can buy tickets here.