The ‘free’ world of online gaming is a farce willingly ‘bought into’ by gamers and social networking users, particularly virtual worlds. After 15 years online, one might imagine Second Life as a digital ghost town, but it remains a semi-popular virtual world with over 800,000 active users spending an estimated 336 million hours inworld in 2018 alone – perusing the almost $5 million virtual goods for sale on their marketplace.
Ain’t Free explores the carnival of empty capitalism and the desire to present the best self, best house, best imagined life through relentless purchasing and upgrading of skins, hair, bodies, apparel and homes. In the entrapment of the extended ego of the offline self - presented to an increasingly reducing online audience - the isolation of the never-ending loop of consumerism seems inescapable.
Maiden in distress. Hypersexualised bimbo. Harrassed female gamer.
Gun in hand, the protagonist in Happy End Game – a feminist first person shooter game – firmly returns the power to her female counterparts.
In the climate of gamergate, which saw feminist video game critics receiving rape and death threats (alongside having their home addresses published online) for questioning the position of female characters in video games, Georgie Roxby Smith has built her own game in which the lead female character has the opportunity to take down the “white male heroes” that dominate gender and race representation in the gaming industry.
All she needs to achieve her end game is to cross an abstracted gallery space populated with domestic appliances (reminiscent of art plinths) and reach her own arcade game. But can she do it and is her epic battle really the end or is the fight forward a perpetual one?
Happy Endgame sits resolutely within a body of work including The Fall Girl, Lara Croft Domestic Goddess, 99 Problems, Fair Game & the Peacekeeper series.
99 Problems [WASTED]
GTAV Online Intervention
Violence is claimed and turned on itself by the female protagonist in 99 Problems [WASTED] in a dualistic moment of empowerment and defeat.
The action of ‘playing to win’ is neutralised as she ritualistically performs and re-performs her own violent suicide in front of disinterested players and characters. At once, an unheard digital cry for help against a wall of self-absorbed in-game characters, a martyr action of feminist protest against the treatment of her fellow female characters in gaming history and a claiming of her own death prior to her inevitable violent murder. Ultimately her quest is a futile one, not only is her action unregistered and unheard, her reverse gaming against her own survival is redundant, as in all gaming, in dying there is an automatic digital rebirth. There is no purgatory online, she is destined to be eternally punished in a digital hell.
In repetition her hyper violence against self becomes hypnotic, darkly humorous and deeply disturbing.
Fair Game [RUN LIKE A GIRL]
GTAV Online Intervention
Grand Theft Auto is populated by stereotyped female bots, who – despite some initial attitude - screech and ‘run like a girl’ when bumped or touched by their male counterparts. These animations are designed by the game makers to be fleeting and momentary, a direct response to a single action of the player.
What happens if the player refuses to take no for an answer and pushes this intended moment to its maximum - is there an end point?
In Fair Game the player becomes the hunter, the bots the hunted as the artist stalks the women to their deaths in a live endurance performance.
The Fall Girl
The Peacekeeper Series
Georgie Roxby Smith’s body of work, Peacekeeper (the title of which is taken from the latest gun available in the multiplayer game Call of Duty) explores the juxtaposition between reality and play and hyper masculinity and violence in virtual gaming and physical combat spaces through game interventions, installation, sound bytes and video collage.
Lara Croft Domestic Goddess
Georgie Roxby Smith’s hacked Lara Croft Tomb Raider video game shows the familiar icon for violent femme fatale bad-assery in the throes of orgasmic housekeeping, a scene that could be read as neo-Friedan, with her "domestic goddess" subject trapped between the banally physical and the extraordinarily virtual. While the medium is insistently technological, technology extrudes into the gallery space in a much more mundane and industrial sense, with the sculptural interjection of a washing machine as plinth, which also acts as an evocation of the sidelined, disenfranchised suburban female home warrior, who's vehicle of satisfaction (sitting astride the vibrating machinery) is ironically the same technology that might shackle her. The value judgments are unclear, the equation destabilized, as Croft joyfully irons shirts with a bow and arrow slung over her back, letting out cries that are undiscernibly battle grunts or orgiastic moans.
Jocelyn Miller, Assistant Curator, MoMA PS1, NYC
Uncomposed (after Titian, after Giorgione)
3D machinima, video, found image, found sound
Made specifically for Composite at Gallery One Three Uncomposed (after Titian after Giogione) deconstructs Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus, itself a composite, the landscape and sky being completed by Titian following Giogione’s death in 1510. The work was a landmark of its era, reflecting a new shift in modern art with the inclusion of a female nude at its centre. Employing three-dimensional computer graphics and elements of Giorgione’s original masterpiece, Roxby Smith replaces his stylised renaissance figure with a fantasised digital body transplanted into an augmented hyper real landscape. In the likeness of her present day artist, the 21st Century Venus will not lie still for her voyeurs, obstinately returning the male gaze from her new digital paradigm, Sleeping Venus awakes. Soundtrack owco2_introspection by +
As a digital generation we seek instant gratification through constant communication across a multitude of platforms. The social networks of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other virtual worlds all provide outlets for us to reinvent the self through the screen. These networks are innately rich in social currency, and where there is social currency simultaneously there is a high value placed on identity and persona, resulting in a desire to create the perfect fantasised self. In the multilayered material space of the cyberworld our ‘avatars’ concurrently hide and reveal aspects of the inner. The lines between identity and role play continually blur as we construct our own reality performances in a perpetual process of cleverly editing the “I”. These multiple self-portraits can create the illusion of transcending the body as our hyper identities self-importantly exist everywhere at once, entertaining the cyber masses.
All it takes to disappear is a mouse click and we are left with an identity crisis of digital proportions.
Your Clothing is Still Downloading
In the virtual world of Second Life, where status is often accrued by having the best collection of sexually appealing avatars, desire and its ultimate physical endpoint, sex (or in this case cybersex), prevails. Cybersex is “more than role play it is the creation of a shared fantasy.” Avatars are hollow – avatars are pure, avatars are clean, avatars have no orifices. They do not leak, shit, sweat, rot – there is no inconvenience to their bodies. And if an avatar has no orifices then sex in Second Life is safer than in real life – the user is “freed from the burden of the body.” Many criticisms have been levelled at Second Life for its high number of sex, porn and exotic dance Sims. Contemporary art critic and curator Domenico Quaranta said of in world existence, “life revolves around the banal repetition of real-life rituals (having sex, going dancing, and attending parties, openings and conferences) and the same principles: private property, wealth and consumption.” As the promotional video for dedicated cybersex virtual world “The Red Light Center” attests, “Be who you want to be…without the hassle”. Cybersex or ‘getting off online’, in Second Life is a form of immersive role play – a mixed reality happening in that it more often than not, one could imagine, elicits physical action in its users offline.
Whilst filming the “sex-scene” for this work my mind flickered between the ridiculousness of two digital bodies’ glitching against each other and the surreal feeling that behind that bunch of pixels a real person is operating and text chatting or, somewhat disturbingly, perhaps even masturbating. In the end I created two avatars – one my own and one an idealised male – and operated them both simultaneously using two computers to create the desired film output for projection. It was quite fitting as in the end, playing dolls, are we not just virtually fucking ourselves anyway? Can we really create intimacy in these new manufactured spaces?
iObject explores the Georgie Roxby Smith’s digital identity through the negation of self in a virtual world. By completely voiding her idealised self portrait avatar of all identifiable features and symbols of desire and ego, the artist challenges the position of identity in this hyper real world.
Roxby Smith’s avatar staged a number of sit ins as a three dimensional shadow in the consumer, social and sexual constructions of Second Life – provoking reactions of scorn, threat and complete disregard by observing avatars. Silent in her commodified surroundings, the death of her virtual ego is underscored by the evocative sounds of a Buddhist chant – creating a blur between an act of holiness or menace.