J.R.R. Tolkien observed it was mankind’s right and nature to create worlds, seeing in us a ‘divine spark’ that impels us to make myths and languages.
Harun Farocki closely studies the phenomenology of computer game-generated worlds in his large-scale video installation Parallel I-IV (2012-2014), on display at the Whitechapel Gallery.
The installation successfully communicates the rapid evolution in visual innovation, technological and conceptual limits and leaps over 30 years of computer game graphics.
Early forms of trees, water or fire are cropped and shown in succession, with nostalgia playing a powerful role in providing visual pleasure for the viewer.
The first set of parallel films compare games to cinema and film. There’s a real sense here that the detail and information in games could eventually replace film as the main source of mediating and recording the world, particularly as they offer a greater degree of choice and design.
In Parallel II, a game set in the Wild West, the voiceover asks the question ‘how far can a rider ride?’ as an infinite horizon in a world with no natural borders opens up. We are then shown in a programming mode how the invisible borders of this ‘infinite world’ are defined and how your cowboy figure can fall off the edge of the world, like an astronaut catapulted into space.
Each game world needs to be explored to elicit its rules. This happens in part through loops of interactive dialogue that are impressive in their textural authenticity to human speech.
Farocki observes the different rules and qualities of these infinite worlds, the logic traps, glitches and redundancies. Philosophical observations are made, curious accidental traits pulled out and phenomena pondered and enjoyed.
Harun Farocki: Parallel I-IV (2012-14) is at Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX until 12 June