Gaming at the Intersection of Art and Technology

San Diego, Jan. 21, 2009  -- Several University of California faculty who see and make art through the prism of play in computer gaming are represented in a new-media art exhibition at the University of California, San Diego.

WTF has echoes of World of Warcraft
WTF?! is an artwork created by UC Irvine's Robert Nideffer that emulates the game play and look/feel of the online role-playing game, World of Warcraft

The show Playing the World(s) opens to the public on Friday, January 23 in the gallery@calit2, part of the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). The launch coincides with an artist talk and reception the same day, from 5-8 p.m.

The exhibition will run through Friday, March 13, 2009. It is part of a wider series, Scalable Relations, which is showcasing the new-media art works of UC faculty.  The exhibitions are being staged on different UC campuses in the first quarter of 2009, organized by the UC Digital Arts Research Network (DARnet). In addition to the gallery@calit2, other venues are at UC Irvine, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara.

Videotaped scene from a live performance of Playing the Rapture, by Antoinette LaFarge and Robert Allen.
“All the exhibits in Scalable Relations series illustrate the complexities and shifting contexts of today's information society,” said curator Christiane Paul, an Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art. “The format of the exhibition itself, in its distribution across multiple venues, mirrors the relational theme and the inherent connectivity of the digital medium.”

Playing the World(s) brings under one roof three new-media installations that expand the usually confined simulated world of a game to the real world. The projects in the San Diego exhibition — Robert Nideffer's WTF?!, Antoinette LaFarge's and Robert Allen's Playing the Rapture (Point of View), and Gregory Niemeyer's CO2 Playground — either use paradigms of gaming and play for understanding phenomena and concepts that shape the physical world, or they incorporate real-world concepts that are rarely encountered within a commercial game. Nideffer and LaFarge are academic participants in the UC Irvine division of Calit2.

 Pollu tion sensor
This pollution sensor is one of many that feed online data streams to Gregory Niemeyer's CO2 Playground installation.
Over the past decade, computer games have become a fertile ground for artistic exploration in new media art, and the projects in Playing the World(s) expand on the narratives as well as cultural, philosophical and environmental concepts that have emerged in online virtual worlds.

Robert Nideffer is a professor at UC Irvine where he is affiliated with the UC Irvine division of Calit2. His work, WTF?!, in collaboration with Alex Szeto, is the most overtly game based of the three installations on display in the gallery@calit2. WTF?!  references the aesthetics of the medieval game world and quest from the popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game, World of Warcraft (WoW). But Nideffer’s WTF?! departs from WoW’s underlying assumptions and introduces characters and concepts of the historical 'real' world, including Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein and feminist theologian Mary Daly. The work frames quests in a way that subtly unveils and questions some of the assumptions of its commercial counterpart.

The installation Playing the Rapture (Point of View) is based on an original performance by Antoinette LaFarge and Robert Allen, which premiered at the Baltimore Theatre Project last March. LaFarge is an Associate Professor of Digital Media at UC Irvine, and she has created several mixed-media works with director Robert Allen. Playing the Rapture project uses gaming concepts to explore the American evangelical belief in the Rapture—a moment when true Christians will leave the earth while the rest of humankind undergoes trials and suffering. The installation combines monitors showing the players in excerpts from the performance as well as projections of machinima videos—movies shot within an actual computer game unfolding in a post-Rapture world.

Playing the Worlds Artists
Artists represented with installations in Playing the World(s): (l-r) UC Irvine's Robert Nideffer; UC Berkeley's Gregory Niemeyer; and UC Irvine's Antoinette LaFarge. Not pictured: Robert Allen, who directed the original live performance of Playing the Rapture .
The gallery@calit2 itself is one of the sensor locations that contribute streams of data to the installation by Gregory Niemeyer, CO2 Playground. The project lets visitors observe changes in air quality as they browse live feeds of data from various air-quality sensors. In CO2 Playground, the social principle of play is embedded in the system for collecting and sharing observations about the environment. Niemeyer is a professor of new media at UC Berkeley, which he joined in 2001 after founding Stanford University ’s Digital Art Center . CO2 Playground is part of a larger Niemeyer project, Black Cloud, an ‘alternate-reality’ game funded by the MacArthur Digital Learning Initiative.

“Engaging with subjects that range from role-play in a fantasy society to the rules of religious beliefs and the monitoring of the environment, the projects in the exhibition investigate relationships between game worlds and the actual physical, cultural, and social environment that we inhabit,” said curator Christiane Paul. “Using gaming as a formal and narrative framework, the artworks in Playing the World(s) reveal how we perform our lives within a rule set of complex relationships.”

The gallery@calit2 is located on the first floor of Atkinson Hall, the UC San Diego headquarters of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

Artist Discussion and Reception

Scalable Relations - Playing the World(s)
Friday, January 23, 2009
Artist Discussion: 5-6pm Calit2 Auditorium, Atkinson Hall, UC San Diego
Opening Reception: Friday, January 23, 6-8pm, First Floor, Atkinson Hall, UC San Diego


Scalable Relations - Playing the World(s)
Friday, January 23 – Friday, March 13, 2009
Monday-Friday   11am - 5pm
[Closed in observance of President’s Day, February 16]
First Floor, Atkinson Hall
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093
Map & Directions:

Related Links
gallery @ calit2

Media Contacts

Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825,