Art may not be at the forefront of the gaming public’s consciousness, but how artists like Antonin Fourneau are manipulating videogame technology isn’t just of interest to the beard and beret brigade.
Whatever the high-minded intentions, Fourneau’s latest project, a music game-cum-editor called Oterp for the PSP, has exposed the potential of gaming devices in ways that the industry itself has yet to approach.
Small wonder the art world is finding the medium increasingly attractive: by combining technologies like GPS, wifi and touch-sensitivity and making them affordable, videogame consoles offer an unmatched opportunity to experiment with forms of expression.
Oterp combines the PSP’s use as a multimedia player, game console and GPS to create music out of movement.
“My current version of Oterp operates on a small scale: only a town, so it’s good for a demonstration in a festival,” explains Fourneau, a graduate of Paris’ Atelier de Recherches Interactives, a teacher of electronics and programming, a graphic designer and organiser of the France-wide multimedia festival Eniarof.
“Sounds are played depending on your GPS co-ordinates. You navigate through a sort of field of giant buttons that you activate one after another in various combinations. I’ve recently tried some experiments with the movement and acceleration, but I have not yet found a good balance.”
Walking from one grid-reference to another, Oterp combines the music loops that are keyed to that location, unlocking new sounds as you find your way around town. Fourneau has ambitions to expand Oterp into something more comprehensive, and, ideally, available to the public at large.
“For the moment I’m only at ten percent of the project. I have some ideas to transform Oterp into a videogame, totally inspired by Jet Set Radio and other games like SoundVoyager.
“For the generation before, the reference was the cinema,” he continues. “Today, the reference for many people is the videogame, which has opened a new field in art, both traditional and digital. Some artists, like Aram Bartholl, play on the adaptation of videogames’ rules in our world. And people like FUR with their Painstation and Niklas Roy with PongMechanik mix the principles of games with other technologies.”
Fourneau’s own projects often key into our nostalgia for gaming classics, lifting those experiences and dropping them into the context of other technologies and unusual settings, such as his Patch & KO collaborative project – a game of Street Fighter operated by the bouncing of a ball through the pins of a pachinko board.
While only the more functional of Fourneau’s works are likely to be embraced as something more than an amusing oddity, artists like him are pushing the medium’s technological interconnectivity in interesting directions. Pachinko boards may not replace Hori sticks any time soon, but the videogame industry would still do well to keep an eye on the wilder uses of its tech.