The meeting of artwork and observer is not any more an innocent, direct encounter and confrontation. Much more pervasive than catalogues and gallery tours, there is now a persistent layer between the artwork and its observer – digital information. It seems that we cannot look at an artwork any more without looking at our smartphones and having them explained to us by search machines, wikis and user comments. This layer of pre-conception and pre-information is removing us from the immediacy of an encounter which can connect us to a work of art in the way the artist intended.
Instead of seeing art through its own means of communicating with us, we see it through the lens of already existing opinions and explanations. Thus occluding what we see before we see it, this layer takes away from the emotional, personal insight we can experience when seeing a work of art.
In “Art Shooter”, we remove the layer of pre-conception with similar means it was projected in the first place. We take a digital genre, a shooter game, to let visitors explore art. In this game, there is no information, only immediacy and exploration. By ‘hacking’ a well-known ‘low-brow’ digital genre, we attempt to create a less fraught relation between art and observer, a relation where art is perceived first and foremost through visual impression. By positioning this encounter in the digital realm, we meet the younger generation where it mostly spends it time – not to make the Digital an end in itself and to keep visitors locked in there, but to provoke attention and to create virtual immediacy instead of virtual pre-conception.
In “Art Shooter”, pictures, paintings and sculptures are both actors and environment. Inspirations are represented as spheres or bubbles, symbolically confronting the visitor/player who can shoot and bounce them back, resulting in a playful interaction between art and visitor/player. Once inspiration points (shown in the bottom right corner) increase over 100, the visitor/player enters another level of the game. The virtual spaces in “Art Shooter” are simplified and somewhat surreal, highlighting their virtuality and alluding to the museum as a place of imagination. We ‘gamify’ a virtual museum to make the real museum again into a place of unique encounters.
In the preliminary prototype, images of artwork, graphic design, photography, fashion and product design are randomly taken from the database of penccil (http://www.penccil.com), the web platform for visual art. For the proposed final game prototype, a dashboard will allow museums to upload images of their artwork so that they can fine-tune which actors and environments will appear in the game. Additionally, the location of the work of art in the real-world museum will be displayed on the bottom of the screen to enable real-world encounters.