What is art? That’s not an easy question to answer, and art critics and artists have been debating the topic for a long time. For instance, when photography first emerged, people said it was not an art form. The same happened with film, and with readymade objects like Duchamp’s classic Fountain, which was simply a signed urinal. Over the years, many have suggested that anything can be art when an artist calls it art or it is displayed in a gallery. Since the 1980s, there has been a new debate: are video games art? As you would expect, many people claim that video games are indeed an art form while many others vehemently refute that video games can be art.
For this installation, entitled Super Mario Clouds (2002), Cory Arcangel hacked into and modified a cartridge of a Super Mario Bros, the blockbuster Nintendo videogame released in the United States in 1985. By tweaking the game’s code, the artist erased all of the audio and visual elements except for the iconic, fluffy white clouds that scroll endlessly across the bright blue sky.
Arcangel, who is trained as a musician, considers computers and video game consoles as his instruments; he will often learn a new programming language in order to develop an artwork. Viewers cannot handle the console on display here, but they can model their own version: Arcangel provides detailed instructions as well as the code for re-creating this project on his website.
Photographed in the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.