Game Boy Tetris
02.02.2018 – 28.02.2018

Rutherford Chang lives and works in New York City. In his art, he makes use of the principle of aggregation: he collects objects of a particular type, repeats certain activities, and then reorganizes the found material according to abstract typologies. As this collection grows, layer by layer, in subsequent repetitions, previously unknown meanings emerge from wellknown and familiar cultural phenomena. His obsessive methods are characterized by a certain monotony, but also by an ironic sense of humour.
Tetris appeared on the market in the symbolic year of 1984, the same year as the Macintosh ‒ the first personal computer. The moment could be considered the beginning of a new era in the history of civilization. Despite its archaic lineage, the game still impresses with its elegance and the subtle mode by which it dispenses emotions. Its combination of simplicity and perfection was one of the reasons why Chang decided to forego other games and devote himself to achieving proficiency in this one.
Competition is the second reason why this New York artist’s attention was drawn to Tetris. The game provided simple pleasure and relaxing fun, but it became a challenge once Chang learned that Steve Wozniak was one of the world’s top players. The co-founder of Apple, one of the five Internet empires (alongside Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook), who is also a pioneer of graphic interfaces, a visionary in the use of peripheral devices, and a founding father of today’s digital civilization, listed his results in the world ranking as Evets Kainzow. It soon turned out that it was possible to take on this legend, and under the pseudonym Drofrehtur Gnahc, Chang became ranked number two worldwide, putting him two places above Wozniak.
Chang’s actions are methodical, almost maniacal, reminiscent of addiction. Success in playing the game requires one to repeat actions with an ever-increasing intensity. Each new level brings more points, so the pace has to be faster and the completion time longer. As with a narcotic addiction, one’s tolerance increases over time, as do one’s expectations and the dose required. More and more attempts are needed to reach a new record, and these records have to be beaten, because average results no longer justify further play. Rivalry, the race against time, the desire to surpass your limitations in the quest for to reach the top in rankings, taking a banal activity into the realm of superhuman ability.
Acceleration is the secret behind the absolutely simple logic of this game. The instructions are simple: manipulate geometric figures in order to arrange them into a complete line; repeat these actions again and again to clear subsequent lines; after ten lines have been cleared, the speed at which the next figure appears increases. The more lines, the faster and harder the game becomes. The same set of elements and the same operations engage players’ attention, keeping them in a constant state of arousal. They need to keep performing the same tasks with precision again and again. They need to focus, act under time pressure, and play at their absolute best. They need to beat their high score before they die, and at this rate, they’ll die any moment. It sounds like everyday life in the equalizing culture of our post-capitalist world, where we live in endless pursuit of perfection in our professional, private and online lives. Action, thinking and feeling are supposed to be like a spark, a flash, a discharge of energy, a constant flickering, flashing and fading of light reflecting in the eyes of others. The Game Boy Tetris exhibition opens a series of solo shows based on a simple assumption ‒ that everything will be produced in the absence of both the artist and the work of art, understood as a ready, material object. This seemingly paradoxical situation demands cooperation and calls for a reassessment of the basic parameters used to define art. Absence places the artwork’s potential in a somewhat different light, in the form of an object or instruction, a program or idea; it also allows for a shift in the roles of the institution, the artist, and the curator; it requires us to once again confront the problem of performance and originality; it allows us to rethink the phenomenon of the exhibition as an event and as a condition for aesthetic experience, both direct and media-mediated; and finally, it reveals the determinants of the production and distribution of art in an era dominated by mobile technologies. The production of exhibitions in the absence of artists will continue to be repeated as long as necessary.

Curated by Jakub Bąk

Courtesy of the artist and SKALA
Photocredit Tomasz Koszewnik