Not to Scale (2014)
It is not clear who makes and who is made in the relation between human and machine. It is not clear what is mind and what body in machines that resolve into coding practices. Insofar as we know ourselves in both formal discourse (e.g., biology) and in daily practice (e.g., the homework economy in the integrated circuit), we find ourselves to be cyborgs, hybrids, mosaics, chimeras.
Donna Haraway, from A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s
Material: Video game, strategy guide, posters, old desktop computer, small table, desk lamp, headphones, purple carpet, pink paint
In this interdisciplinary work, I am exploring the creation of the self (through an exploration of my own self) and the experience of living within and between both the physical and virtual worlds. I attempt to address this creation of the self, the creation of (a hybrid and multi-faceted) identity, place and memory, and I draw from observations, personal experiences, and childhood in particular. I approach this work from the perspective of a young, cyborg feminist woman and as someone who has grown up with the internet.
Having moved a lot, my sense of self and place have been formed, developed, constructed and reconstructed with each move. In addition, my sense of self and place have been informed by the virtual, which has been, in a way, my only permanent and stable living space and community: another home.
The physical locations explored in this work were of places I've lived between the ages of 0 and 18. While making this work, I attempted to pull directly from my memory — I want to reconstruct these places where I had once lived growing up only from what I can remember — and I am actively avoiding looking at old photographs of these places where I have lived and avoiding asking family about those events in my life. In this way, I feel that I can stay more true to what the child in me remembers from those places where I once lived. And, of course, which memories stick out for me the most. Many have asked: would I ever visit these places again? And I'm not sure. For some of those places, I have a strong hesitation against the idea of revisiting them, for better or worse.
So, on the one hand, I have the inconsistency and instability of having moved from place to place in the physical world, and on the other hand, I have the consistency and stability of my life within the digital and cyber worlds. For my life and self, the digital world is as much a home and influence for me as any of these physical locations which I reference.
I have created two posters. One is about 18” x 24” and includes the digital architectural floor plan drawings and graphics. In this poster, I include a few video game sprites (the characters) which are to semi-resemble my immediate family, including myself.
The second poster is about 24" x 24" and includes the complete map of "The Path Ways," the network and maze in the video game which connects you to several different locations.
THE VIDEO GAME
For the video game component, I’m tapping into: interactivity, nostalgia, video game culture, character creation, self creation, narrative, puzzles, space and places, etc. I grew up playing video games, and still play even today. I not only grew up with video games and the internet, but grew up in those things as well. They inform(ed) and reflect(ed), in numerous ways, my identity, and this is true for many others as well.
The program I am using, RPG Maker VX Ace (released on March 15, 2012), has graphics which are characteristic of typical SNES games (JRPGs, in particular), a system which was big in the 1990s and impacted my childhood experience. In the game, I am interested in having the user explore these floor plans, which have been adapted from the first poster. The user collects memories contained in some of the locations. A number of these locations reference these physical places where I've lived during childhood, and others refer to more digital and magical places. It is as if you are living in and navigating the memories themselves. And, at the very start of the game, you choose your name and your character. Then, you begin.
On the left, you can see a short excerpt of one example of playing the game, using the Warrior character.
THE STRATEGY GUIDE
In this book, you will find simple explanations of the locations for certain key items and events (or not). It will show you the keyboard keys necessary to play, the steps to getting started, the characters available to choose from, and a suggested walkthrough.
For the installation of the work, I use an “old school” 90s computer monitor tower, keyboard, and mouse, with some older style headphones as well. The computer is on a short white table, and viewers are invited to play the game one at a time, sitting on the floor. There is a red desk lamp on the table beside the monitor. The strategy guide sits atop the computer tower. The first poster is placed on the right, and the second on the left. The installation is set in the corner of the room. As one player plays the game, others can watch. Underneath it all is a purple carpet, and the walls are painted pink.
I want the experience for the participant to be akin to that of a young computer user from the 90s, as they try to navigate (my) memories and childhood and interests, as well as thinking about their own, and how it all creates one’s sense of self and identity, and how these different places, physical and virtual, can impact someone so intensely.