Shopping malls. Airport bookstores. Hotel lobbies. Carl Burton—the artist and animator behind Serial‘s second season GIFs—is creating a videogame that exploits the “boringness” of these liminal, corporate spaces. Using the foggy, surrealist art style of his GIFs, ISLANDS is a videogame you experience, rather than play.
Anthropologist Marc Augé calls these spaces non-places—”If a place can be defined as relational, historical, and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place,” Augé wrote in Non-Places: An Introduction to Anthropology of Supermodernity (1992). A parking lot is a non-place, too. It’s a place meant to be temporal, to be traveled through. A place that, just by parking in it, a person is in adherence to a set of rules. Anonymity. Augé theorized that entering this sort of non-place strips a person of her “usual determinants.” When passing through a non-space, she’s simply a user of that non-space.
Neutrality in these spaces give them a sort of uncanny quality, Burton said. That’s what he’s focusing on with ISLANDS. Burton is aiming to confront the surreal aspects of these spaces, echoing the “strange truth” of non-places Augé uncovered in his research: “The face and voice of a solitude made all the more baffling by the fact that it echoes millions of others,” Augé wrote.
ISLANDS is about making these spaces that feel intuitive and experiential, Burton said. “In ISLANDS, each space is a self-contained scene that you interactively trigger that transforms it into something more surreal, yet strangely functional,” Burton said. Ten environments will be available to explore—among them, a waiting room, a parking lot, a lobby, all in Burton’s gorgeous, minimal art style.
ISLANDS will be released on Mac, Windows, and iOS platforms in fall 2016. Voting for ISLANDS is open on Steam Greenlight. See more of Burton’s work, which include short films and illustrations, on his website.