Thursday, 19 March 2015

Curating Digital Art Exhibitions and the Use of Minecraft

As part of the current ongoing LAN/Onlincolnshire social media and digital workshops, this weeks' workshop explores Curating Digital Art Exhibitions and the Use of Minecraft.

As the printer has decided to stop working, the workshop sheet and other info is available via the LAN blog here.

LAN / Onlincolnshire workshops
Helen Dearnley LAN Director

Curating Digital Art Exhibitions and the Use of Minecraft

Introductory session – add details to the LAN mailing list and invite artists to briefly speak about their work.

Kristoffer Zetterstrand:
A Swedish artist whose classical styled paintings feature in the popular computer game Minecraft, which was founded by his former brother-in-law.
His paintings are often figurative works or virtual still lives created in 3D software, in which he often incorporates pixellated computer game sprites and icons, for example, his debut show in 2002 featured imagery from Counter Strike.

In Minecraft, it is possible to create art work that is then imported into the game, which can then be included in exhibitions.
The use of software such as Spritecraft, or images can be pixellated in Photoshop, then imported. Forums recommend Gimp.

Curating exhibitions in Minecraft
As an example, a house was adapted into a gallery by replacing the original cobblestone walls with quartz stone blocks and white coloured clay to create a white walled space in which to hang paintings.

Gallery in Minecraft showing work by Kristoffer Zetterstrand
Recreation of a Jeremy Deller piece made with a sign
Exhibition curation showing differing exhibits

In this village, the villagers don’t come out to this house, so the gallery has no audience.
The possibility of creating more conceptual works using in-game architecture, items and mechanics could also include creating installations and site-specific work.

Another smaller gallery space was built next to a zombie spawn trap.
The zombies are enabled to come out of the spawn room and into the gallery to view the paintings. There is a sign next to the exit that reads “If you do not like this exhibition, exit here”. 

Zombies entering the gallery from the zombie spawner
Zombie in gallery contemplating the work.

The zombies then pass through a room containing snow golems, who throw snowballs at the zombies, and then follow into the mob trap.
The zombies therefore experience a cultural experience that gives a purpose to their existence. This works in survival mode, but not in peaceful mode.
Iron golems and snow golems are used as gallery invigilators, and villager visitors.
Invite artists to discuss ideas about creating a multi-player world in which we can organise group shows in Minecraft.

Creating new work in Minecraft using game resources.
Rather than merely import images into Minecraft, I have created a studio space in which to experiment with the resources and game mechanics, such as building sculptures out of haystacks, displaying items in Item Frames as gallery exhibits, using flower pots, crafting quartz stone pillars to use as plinths, etc. The idea of building 3D pixellated sculptures out of blocks of gold, lapis lazuli, iron, emerald, coal, or in fact coloured wool, glowstone and redstone is entirely possible.

Pixellated sculptural piece "Miner Willy" from Manic Miner

"Miner Willy" shown at night in Minecraft
The use of redstone devices to create kinetic or mechanical pieces is worth exploring. For instance, in my studio, I used redstone powered noteblocks to create a sound piece.

Redstone powered noteblocks to create sound art

A redstone circuit powers the noteblocks

In this sense, mods are key to being able to programme existing game mechanics to create art work in Minecraft.

I came up with a mob to provide artist’s materials. It was called an “Akryll” and resembles a squid or a ghast, but it spawns in the sky at night, and drops acrylic paint. This mob could be coded and created to exist along with other existing inhabitants, including mooshrooms.

Tate Worlds maps import existing paintings into Minecraft that are created into Minecraft maps, creating virtual landscapes.

Online and offline

The obvious benefits of being able to use creative mode to build large scale sculptural work that can exist virtually and for testing out ideas is that there are no actual materials costs, other than the cost of the games console, Minecraft game software, power and internet usage where required.

Importing existing artwork into Minecraft, which is then pixellated and exists in the game is an example of real work becoming a virtual entity.

The reverse of this would be to create art in Minecraft, for instance, it could be a screen shot of a sculpture created out of lapis lazuli, gold and coal, printed out as a photograph to be exhibited in a group show, or even 3D printed models of virtual creations. The most obvious of this is Minecraft Lego.

Gadget Show tech geek and visiting lecturer Jason Bradbury uses Minecraft to illustrate information for his guest talk at the Onlincolnshire Digital Conference. 

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