Game-Based Art Serves Up Cuban Political Commentary

November 19, 2010 -

Cuba, already angry at a mission in Call of Duty: Black Ops which has players attempt to assassinate a young Fidel Castro, might not be so pleased with an artist’s videogame-based commentary on the Caribbean island.

New York City’s Simon Preston Gallery is hosting a piece by artist John Gerrard entitled Cuban School, which centers on a decaying school in the outskirts of Havana. Using thousands of photos taken on site, a 3D model of the school was constructed. Then, using “customized video-game software,” as the Washington Post explains, “Gerrard can then show us his subject from any angle, at any distance, with the lighting it would have in Cuba at the same moment we're seeing its image in New York.”

The school, “once a proud symbol of the communist way forward” was built in the 1960s and is still operational, but its 75 students and staff are constantly forced to perform make-shift repairs: “Plate glass has been replaced by crude wooden shutters. Piles of split logs around its base indicate that winter heat now comes from wood stoves.”

A description of the work on the gallery’s site offers that, “the viewer is encouraged to both assess the melancholic demise of a political vision, and as importantly, the extensive methods used to prolong the usefulness of its artifacts.”

The work demonstrates Gerrard’s interest with “modular, pre-fabricated structures” and “their resilience and capacity to exist as potent entities once complicit resources are depleted or removed.

The piece is on exhibit through December 19.


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