I created World of World: The Adventures of Malbec and Player for the 2009 exhibition "WOW: Emergent Media Phenomenon" at the Laguna Museum of Art, California. It was output as four 2'x3' individual digital prints that are hung contiguously to create the full 2' x 12' finished work.
Check out the video of my artist's talk at the Laguna Museum over on vimeo. Many thanks to videographer Lev Anderson for doing such a great job with the video of this talk!
This project reflects my combined fascination and frustration with World of Warcraft, which I have been playing for several years. In particular, it is a look at the relationship between players and avatars—a relationship that seems to me to be always troubled and generally oversimplified in writing about all kinds of virtual environments, not just that of WoW. The discourse around WoW has been very other-directed (e.g. how players behave towards other players, how they enact stereotypes), but what interests me is what, in virtual social environments like that of WoW, we are doing to ourselves. If avatars are less play than a form of self-enslavement and self-violation, what does that imply?
Point of view
This piece reverses our usual perspective to consider the player through the avatar's eyes. It is as if a female Night Elf Death Knight (named Malbec) were looking back through the interface at the artificial (to her) world of the Player. In the way it encapsulates their joint experiences, it represents her view of him—and, indirectly, his view of himself as refracted through this particular fantasy (not to mention my view of both: Malbec is my own Death Knight, and the Player is an actor role-playing as a gamer). The slicing together of code-generated images from WoW with 'degraded' webcam images of the Player keeps the two perspectives from ever fusing into a unified view.
I originally intended the text of this piece to be Malbec's first-person narrative, part memoir, part picaresque. What it became instead was a morbid and comic internal dialogue through which Malbec and Player struggle for self-understanding. (The text in roman is Malbec, in italics the Player.)
As part of this project, I created a limited edition artist's book. The idea was not only to have the project in portable form, but also to divide the large image up in a way that would bring a different focus to its component elements. Each page in the book represents one-sixteenth of the original print.