GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: MARCO MENDENI & MARK VINCENT KALINKAL
OFF CONTEMPORARY ART FAIR BRUXELLES
Avenue du Port 86C
April 24-28, 2014
Curated by Matteo Bittanti
THECA Gallery, Lugano, Switzerland
ON MARCO MENDENI'S CONCRETE WORKS
"Many play videogames. Few play with videogames. Marco Mendeni belongs to the latter category of “professional gamers”. For the artist born in Brescia, Italy in 1979 at the beginning of the so-called Belle Époque of the arcades (no, not those loved by Walter Benjamin), digital games are not inert found objects or duchampian ready-mades. On the contrary, they are raw material that he uses to create something else. His works are not banal exercises in appropriation. His practice is far from a trivial pursuit.
An image-maker who traverses different visual regimes, Mendeni forces the viewer to rethink the (admittedly tired) dichotomy between the real and the virtual, as he confers materiality to the otherwise fluid and transient screenshots of videogames. One in particular: SimCity, a simulation created by Will Wright that puts the user in the role of an architect, urban planner, and major of an entire metropolis. Mendeni extrapolates a fleeting urban scene from the screen and transfers it to another framing device, i.e. a canvas made of stone and wax, "hard-ware" and "soft-ware".
What was once immaterial becomes material. The intangible becomes tangible. Which is to say, all that is fluid solidifies into concrete. Mendeni was only ten when SimCity made in debut on the game scenes, conquering a multiplicity of screens. Its subsequent, more elaborate iterations released during the Nineties and Zeroes left a strong impression on a multidisciplinary artist with an uncommon familiarity with both visual and aural media, image and sound, the aesthetics of performance and the dynamics of play.
Question: Is this an exercise of retrofuturism, of tired nostalgia? Answer: No. The artist mostly cares about the hic and nunc. Mendeni rejects the naïve view that the so-called “real” and its digital replica lie at the opposite poles of the ontological spectrum. He does not believe that the latter has been replaced the former in a kind of baudrillardian coup d'état in which simulacra, or copies without referents, the body snatchers of the concrete have, God forbid!, taken over. Instead, the artist-demiurge creates environments marked by continuity, a space where different layers and levels of reality coexist.
Rather than reproducing the world, he develops novel ways to understanding it. Instead of reducing its complexity, Mendeni allows the viewers to orient themselves in a space awash not with possibilities, but with (im)possible realities. Ultimately, Mendeni is a 21 century cartographer, mapping a brand new territory. Mechanical reproduction of the work of art in different formats? No, this is a true reinvention.
After all, Mendeni is (n0t) playing."
Matteo Bittanti, April 19, 2014
LINK: Marco Mendeni