Dear Esther: Landmark Edition is a delicate, embalmed object

Heterotopias is a series of visual investigations into virtual spaces performed by artist and writer Gareth Damian Martin. /// Videogames have always had something of a preference for islands. These closed spaces, limited by a shoreline, are the perfect conceit for creating an enclosed simulation—an isolated section of “reality” split off from the world. Despite this, thematically, games rarely have anything to say about their own predisposition towards landscapes of isolation, separation, and abandonment. For Dear Esther, these are central themes. It’s easy to imagine that Dan Pinchbeck’s choice of an island setting for the original 2008 Half-Life 2 mod, built…

New Dawn Fades

Joy Division lyrics become a virtual landscape of memory

Some songs stay with us, permanent signposts along the pathways of our memory. We revisit them in different contexts as time goes on, hearing the bass line or the lyrics or the production anew, reflecting on the significance of the moment from the comfort of the familiar. Ansh Patel, an interdisciplinary artist who received his MFA in game design from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, recently released an experimental “interactive poem” on that he calls his “most explicitly autobiographical work,” combining fragments of memory with the music of Joy Division. “appealed to the unrelenting burden of expectations I felt growing up” Set to the…


Watch the coordinated beauty of birds flocking in digital form

Bird flocks are ruthlessly efficient convoys, though that is not always obvious from the ground. As thousands of birds fly overhead, it is not immediately apparent that they are maneuvering at remarkable speeds or turning on a dime. Enough of this amateur description, however. Let’s turn this thing over to the expert—in this case, Richard Wilbur: As if a cast of grain leapt back to the hand, A landscapeful of small black birds, intent On the far south, convene at some command At once in the middle of the air, at once are gone With headlong and unanimous consent From…

Everybody's Gone to the Capture

The English melancholia of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

This article is part of our lead-up to Kill Screen Festival where Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture artist Alex Grahame will be speaking. /// “These are the dark November days when the English hang themselves!” – Voltaire /// The English are known for a number of bred-in-the-bone traits but chief among them is a certain melancholia. There is nothing uniquely English about being a bit sad but history has latched it to us as part of our national character. Perhaps it is our artists who are to blame for this. John Dowland, the Elizabethan bard, is remembered for his motto: “Semper…


Fragments of Him finds the everyday poetry of grief

It is very, very hard to talk about death and grief without falling into platitudes. But we have the elegy to save us from the cliché—that form of poem or writing that seeks to capture the abyssal depths of the writer’s despair over the absence of the departed and impart some singular meaning to that life and its end. Take, for example, the nineteenth-century poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who wrote In Memoriam, A.H.H. (1849) in response to the sudden death of his closest friend and future brother-in-law sixteen years earlier. The book consists of over one hundred and thirty smaller…

Emoji Poetry

Emoji Poetry is the literature class you never had

There’s an almost magical quality about tweets by Carrie Fisher, which probably half stems from the fact that I usually have no idea what she’s saying: her tweets are almost entirely in emoji, indiscernible like some new art form that I’m not cultured enough to understand. And with the rise of emojis changing the way we communicate for various mediums, I imagine that my confusion around their growing usage isn’t going to go anywhere. In comes developer Arzamas OOO’s new smartphone app, Emoji Poetry, a literary game where you drag the “appropriate” emoji into the empty spaces of a popular…


Glaciers writes poetry using Google’s most popular searches

Currently wrapping up its first weekend on display at New York’s Postmasters art gallery, Glaciers is the latest art project from Sage Solitaire (2015) creator and Tharsis systems designer Zach Gage, as well as several billion unknowing co-authors. The exhibit features a collection of small e-ink screens, each displaying a digital poem generated using the top three Google autocomplete results to a specific prompt, such as “how much,” “does he want,” and “should I save.” The poems refresh once per day, meaning that like their namesake, they have the potential to change shape and meaning over time. Though Gage is well known for his…


Umberto Eco and his legacy in open-world games

At the very end of his playful Postscript to The Name of the Rose (1980), Umberto Eco made a casually sibylline gesture toward the future of interactive fiction. “It seems,” Eco wrote, “that the Parisian Oulipo group has recently constructed a matrix of all possible murder-story situations and has found that there is still to be written a book in which the murderer is the reader.” And a few lines later, with a wink: “Any true detection should reveal that we are the guilty party.” The text either ends or begins here, depending on your interpretation. OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Littérature…


Generate tiny ominous landscapes with this procedural generation toy

Mirror Lake is a strange little thing. Made in a week for Procedural Generation Jam, it creates static black-and-white landscapes, nestled inside a giant patterned bowl and suspended in space. Sometimes the space is dark, dotted with stars and the occasional sun or moon or comet; sometimes it’s a vast white nothing, like a blank page. The tiny scenes inside the bowl change too, sprouting branchless trees and rolling mountains across wide meadows, shining grey lakes, and bright white salt flats. A few times, I didn’t even get a landscape at all. I’d click away from a particularly full terrarium…