Title: In Heat (2018)
Author(s): Sophie Reid-Singer.
Place of Publication: Greaser Gallery (Brisbane).
Feature Format: 2 Interactive projection artworks (single-player videogames).
In Heat (2018) was my first exhibition during my candidature and featured two videogames, one of the exhibition’s namesake and another called Strike! (2018). The exhibition was held at Greaser Gallery, a small artist-run initiative accessible via Greaser Bar in Fortitude Valley.
The theme of the exhibition was among other things, a memorial of my since roommate’s sphynx cat Alice who passed from a disease known as Feline Infectious Peritonitis-a fatal disease thought to be connected to selective breeding practices. I aimed to create a parallel to the medical restrictions placed on the reproductive freedom of many disabled peoples, hoping to make my audience anxious in a role-reversal of the power dynamic I perceived.
To play In Heat, a player used a Microsoft Xbox 360 controller that was warped with a soldering iron and missed several buttons. The artwork was projected large on a brick wall surface in the main gallery space from a structure built from soldering irons, black fabric, and flood lighting.
The goal of the game is to roll a cat-eye along a side-scroller 3D game environment modeled from images sourced from medical journals of Sphynx cats, surgical equipment, medical objects, and domestic items. The user is tasked with touching every domestic item in the world in one go without falling or touching surgical equipment. The task is immensely difficult, and I wagered to the audience I would buy them a pint of beer if they were able to complete the game. Carved into the expanse of the environment was medical explanations for the Sphnyx’s mutation. The soundscape is a recording of a thunderstorm ripped online, and the pitch is modulated by the velocity of the player. The aesthetic was inspired by the body-horror of film icon David Cronenberg, and included many flesh tones which flooded the room with red lighting.
To reach the second game at the back of the gallery Strike, a patron must pass in front of the player of the first game and impede their task. Once the patron has reached the second game they cross an obstacle course of a baker’s dozen of keyboards to reach another arcade structure. This was installed in the claustrophobic side room of Greaser Gallery. Aesthetically contrasting the first game, this game had chrome tones and drew players in with a single green light bulb protruding from another makeshift arcade structure. The second game is played from a keyboard with all of the keys baring “d i s a b l e” picked off. Each button fires balls at empty beer bottles in-game which are aligned to spell words that made me self-conscious at the time like ‘’cripple’’. This game had no soundtrack.
I did not set out in this first project to represent cyborgs, I set out to represent my insecurities towards my own disability and subject people to that perspective. This project started on a sour note. This artwork was utterly nihlisitic, and was prior to encountering the social model of disability during my studies. Now I have hope.
I am confident in my hypothesis that videogames about cyborgs can influence perspectives towards disability in Australia because my own has shifted profoundly while developing them.
Regardless, this was my first experiment with an empty 3D render field in the Unity Game Engine. I learnt the fundamentals of c# programming by developing the platformer and ‘bowling’ gameplay. While I have previous experience in texture mapping, this was also my first resolved foray into 3D modelling. Most of the models were sculpted by myself in Blender, but some of the more intricate domestic items I ‘asset-flipped‘.
I told one person how to play. As more people entered they passed on this knowledge. It became akin to gaming around a lounge room couch. People got increasingly frustrated at the game and there was much yelling. No one won. I have practiced so I am able to win once. The game in the back-room was more well received, but people dedicated less time to playing.
I felt affinity with Alice because visitors to my home would often casually remark on her body in the same way people have denigrated mine. For a laugh, we used to put cat treats on the electric piano to get her to run across with the “thunder” setting on.