Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ben Poynter Exhibition

Walking into the Holland Project for an exhibition by Ben Poynter is more like an experience than a traditional show. There isn’t a wall in the place that doesn’t have something to capture the attention. Atmosphere and attention to detail is the name of the game - even the personal cards are well crafted and a piece in itself. Everyone who comes in is invited and encouraged to not only view parts of this digital realm in photographs, video, and several decks of playing cards - but to interact with his game and the surrounding mini retro-esque  arcade. The decision to used the setting of an arcade is not at all baffling when coupled with Poynter’s memories being played through a video game. However - the use of VR for his culmination piece alongside old style games is unique. A juxtaposition of old and new in a memory space could lend itself back to the premise of the game - the main character is going through the mental world of his past life experiences while the present (while at a standstill) still exists in reality. That reality being the destruction of the last arcade game - if this were a book, one could almost be concerned that Poynter is foreshadowing his own death. I confess, having not played the game in entirety, that foreshadowing is merely having only the foggiest idea. The gallery edition was not an ideal place to play the entire game - nor do I suspect was it meant to. Playing portions of the “gallery edition” then handing the controls over to the next player in line felt strangely like a snail’s pace version of the infamous “Twitch Plays Pokemon”.
    Appropriately and literally behind the scene of the arcade was a looped animation by Poynter. As he explained in his lecture, he dives into new programs by creating something first before applying his knowledge to his masterpiece. It is clear the amount of time spent was enormous, and the style is a rough draft of the end result - I was pleased to note the hands on characters were very similar. Like anything he does - it is well made and with a sense of letting a story speak very visually.
    The exhibition, in my opinion, was successfully crafted, placed, and experienced. Though a small 
 place to host a crowd - it speaks to the heart of Poynter’s surprisingly open message. A sort of “here are the memories of my life on display”. As an art show is an experience - so too is the game. Experiences played through an experience.

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