Anything that mixes the words “cute” and “doom” sounds like an interesting prospect to us. With their installation, CuteXdoom II, artists Anita Fontaine and Mike Pelletier have brought an immersive videogame-based art project to Amsterdam’s Maxalot gallery…
The piece is based on the violent first-person videogame, Unreal Tournament 3, which first came out in 2007. In Fontaine and Pelletier’s hands, however, the platform of the game is manipulated in order to address themes of obsession – with particular reference to Japanese “otaku” culture – complete with several missions that players must strive to tackle.
According to Fontaine’s website, “the modification hijacks the traditionally violent Unreal Tournament 3 technology to create a luscious and surreal gaming experience.” From the look of some of the game play, available to watch here, “surreal” seems almost an understatement.
“In the explanatory animation that starts the game,” Fontaine explains, “Sally Sanrio wakes up from her paroxysm to find herself in a familiar, yet changed, environment. Upon drinking a liquid nearby, she notices that the cute environment she once sought to enter is becoming increasingly strange and distorted.
She realises that she has been poisoned. Once sweet characters now appear malevolent, predatory; the landscape becomes surreal and sinister, graphic forms are elegant, and almost cruel. In this altered state of perception she realises that the cult of CuteXDoom was not what she thought it would be, and that she must fight the effects of the poison to find the antidote and escape.”
In the first level of Fontaine and Pelletier’s version, the player’s mission is to attempt to join the “supermodern religious cult” of CuteXdoom, whose main tenet is that worshipping cute material objects will result in happiness and enlightenment – an objective that has parallels to “kawaii” worshippers who engage in endless consumption of seemingly harmless “cute” products for an illusive sense of satisfaction.
It’s an immersive installation and interactive gaming environment – complete with customised pixel-based “ideology” wallpaper (shown above), a modified joypad (bottom image, below) and surround sound. A series of original and limited edition prints and unique, 3D printed sculptures based on the game’s conceptual framework are also on show at the gallery.
CR hasn’t has the pleasure of playing with the installation at Maxalot first-hand, but if these images are anything to go by, it looks to be a full-on assault on the senses.
The exhibition ends 8 March. More at maxalot.com