Black Cherry Locusts with Sterile Fudge Swirl
February 9th – March 16th, 2019
Opening Reception: Saturday, February 9th, 6 – 9pm
Porpentine’s work resists easy categorization. She makes computer games, which are hypertext experimental literature, exhibited (among other ways) as video installations. Her games situate players in low-resolution landscapes, which look like Atari’s Adventure, while conjuring realms of speculative fiction. Abducted to a spaceship, players find themselves tortured by a violent artificial intelligence. As alien mutants returning to their homeland, they confront unfamiliar life forms and cultures. Trapped in an unexplained prison, they repeat machine-assisted rituals while the space around them decomposes. To get through one of Porpentine’s stories, players must familiarize themselves with the world in which they find themselves, repeatedly confronting obstacles and other characters, primarily as passages of text. The repetitions are banal, reminiscent of the toils of everyday life; and they are sublime, provocative and opaque, like modernist poetry. The obstacles they present to reading, understanding, and advancing in the game, are difficult, so that, when one does make progress in the story or otherwise enjoys a moment of levity, the relief is genuine because well earned. Porpentine’s stories can be disturbing. She is after the inchoate, the difficult to articulate or address. Her works speak to experiences of alienation, exile, obscenity, and trauma. In this way, however painful, they are offered as therapeutic vehicles, which both provide a paradoxical palliative and open up the possibility of working through their difficulty. She speaks of her work as terraforming, constructing worlds, contrary to this one, in which she – and people like her – might feel at home. And she invites players to do the same, conjuring swampy eco-systems with permeable boundaries, where things flow into one another, in life-death sludge zones, rich with generative synthetic possibilities.
Black Cherry Locusts with Sterile Fudge Swirl tells the story of a librarian seeking unreturned books, and the images relate to this literary theme, for e.g., juxtaposing the Bhagavad Gita with modern texts.