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The Future of Gaming

June 16, 2014

I just got back from a fun-filled trip to LA for some pre-E3 festivities, including the opening of The Future of Gaming exhibit at iam8bit. Gallery owners Jon M. Gibson and Amanda White teamed up industry luminaries with renowned artist to conceptualize what the future of video games might look like. There’s a great write up about the show here.

I was teamed up with Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning, whose quote really aligned with my own musings on where this technology could be headed:

“You are the game of the future, where every bit of energy exerted thru your digital daily life will be captured toward more real world incentives,” Lanning predicted. “Each beat of our heart, calorie we eat, footstep we make, and mile gained thru our day will be captured, converted, and gamified into cost saving incentives that just ‘can’t be beat.’ Our decreasing privacies increasingly offered as the willing sacrifices made at the altar of savings, incentives, and reward points. Three billion years of progress will have finally evolved us into the hairless walking coupon.”

The Hairless Walking Coupon

The Hairless Walking Coupon

I really just wanted to capture the overwhelming system shock of the world that Lorne anticipates, with every movement and action inside and outside of the game world being captured and quantified. Whether it’s defeating a Level 99 dragon or eating a Burger King Whopper, everything we do will be watched, recorded, and rewarded.

Other luminaries who lent their theories to the exhibit include Megaman creator Keiji Inafune, Tim Schafer who created the Secret of Monkey Island, and video game jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-most-of-them Seamus Blackley.

The exhibit runs through June 22nd at iam8bit’s Echo Park headquarters at 2147 Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles, CA.

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Harold and Maude

April 11, 2014

I could talk for hours about “Harold and Maude”, the 1971 dark comedy about one of the most unlikely romances in cinema. It’s about embracing death to get the most out of life, and embracing life to get the most out of death. It’s about choices; living in the world prescribed for you by society, or forging your own, consequences be damned. Ultimately it’s about choosing to somersault, or to suicide. It’s one of those films you just have to see to believe, and if you haven’t watched it, you should go do so right now!
I created this piece, “Somersault Suicide”, as an exploration of those choices that Harold faces. I rarely center my figures in a composition, but for this one it seemed conceptually appropriate to highlight the two worlds he straddles as he searches for the secret to living.

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“Somersault Suicide”, 2014

You can buy a print here (or a pillow if Bud Cort’s creepy visage is your idea of home decor)!

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Bacon Number

April 10, 2014

Gallery1988 has been one of my biggest supporters over the years, and I couldn’t be happier to be on the roster for their 10 Year Anniversary Show, The Subtle Art of Pop Culture. For my contribution, I tried to think of something that would literally connect to all aspects of pop culture, and I was reminded of the popular parlor game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. In case you’ve lived under a rock for the last twenty years, the point of the game is to pick an actor and connect them to Kevin Bacon in six moves or less, using movies they have appeared in with other actors. The amount of steps it takes is their “Bacon Number”.

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“Bacon Number” – Giclee print on canvas – 19-5/8″ x 15-5/8″ – S/N Edition of 10

What many people don’t realize is that the challenging part of this game isn’t connecting an actor in under six moves, it’s finding an actor that can only be done in OVER three moves. Everyone is so connected that most actors, living or dead, can be connected to Kevin Bacon in only one or two moves. In all my experiments, I could only find one person that took four full moves to get to and, HINT, he’s a former US President.
I even extended the game to non-human characters and could usually connect them to Kevin Bacon in only 2 moves (Kevin Bacon was in “Apollo 13″ with Tom Hanks, who was in “Castaway” with Wilson the Volleyball).
See if you can figure out everyone, and leave a comment if you do!

The Subtle Art of Pop-Culture:
Gallery1988’s 10 Year Anniversary Show
Opening Reception: Friday, April 11th, 7–10pm
(on display through April 26th, 2014)
Gallery1988 (West)
7308 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
@gallery1988 / gallery1988.com

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Who’s the Boss?

July 17, 2013

Who's the Boss?

For Gallery 1988‘s upcoming show “We Made Them Do It” artists were asked to focus on a “guilty pleasure” in the realm of pop-culture. The exhibition aims to be a commentary on the oversaturation of pop-culture themed art shows that Gallery 1988 themselves pioneered so many years ago. I’ve always had a huge bro-crush on Tony Danza, and loved the sitcom “Who’s the Boss?” growing up, for it’s humorous challenge of gender stereotypes. I imagined Tony taking on every Nintendo boss ever to prove, once and for all, Who’s the Boss. And appropriately, despite all these other pop-culture-gallery-wannabes, Gallery 1988 is still, also, THE BOSS.

We Made Them Do It
Opening Friday, July 26th 7-10pm
(on display through August 15th, 2013)

Gallery 1988 (WEST)
7308 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046

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8-Bit Escorts

June 17, 2013

I feel like I should start this post by warning you that there’s a good chance you might be offended by it. In fact, I sort of hope that you are. It’s possible you will simply be offended by the content of the artwork, and you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but it’s my hope that rather you’ll get a little chuckle out of it, but be offended by the current state of video games that the art speaks to.

The role of women in video games, both as players and as characters in the games themselves, is one of the most contentious issues in gaming at the moment. While much has been written about the subject, a good place to start is Anita Sarkeesian’s video series Tropes vs Women. You can watch the first video here:

The basic gist of Sarkeesian’s video is that women in games are most frequently portrayed as a “damsel in distress”, a situation which robs them of any power or free will, depending instead on a male character to save her from danger. In many games, the female character, for example Princess Peach in the Super Mario Brothers games, is quite literally objectified, becoming an object of possession (much like a ball in a game of sport) that the villain steals and the hero must retrieve.

And if you’re first reaction is “Well yeah games used to be sexist like that but there’s a lot more strong female lead characters now” then you should probably go ahead and watch the second video:

In her second video she discusses how the “damsel in distress” trope is not only alive and well, but in an effort to outperform one another, game publishers have been ratcheting up the violence against these female characters in increasingly disturbing ways that, she argues, contribute to the attitudes in our culture that normalize domestic violence.

Every year or two, iam8bit hosts their flagship art exhibition, and I’ve been honored to participate in all but one of them. The show is visited by thousands of people, many of them gamers and people in the gaming industry, so I always try and create art that speaks to that crowd specifically. So, for the 2013 show, I decided to focus on the commodification of women in video games.

I began thinking about those damsel in distress scenarios and how, as a child, they were one of my earliest fantasies involving the opposite sex. At six years old, the prospect of rescuing a pretty girl from a giant monkey was very empowering, and I can’t help but wonder how that virtual scenario, played out in game after game, affected the way millions of young boys like myself grew up to view women in the real world. When a generation of boys, raised on the fantasy of rescuing helpless princess after princess, comes face to face with the most independent and empowered generation of women in the history of the human race, is it any wonder the sexes seem at such odds within the relatively young medium known as the video game?

I recalled my first trip to Las Vegas, and the “escort” cards they hand out on the strip. If you’re not familiar with what I’m referring to, there are these very shady looking individuals on the main strip who hand out business card-sized flyers with naked women on them (their nipples and other parts covered by little starbursts) and phone numbers you can call to have them come to your room. It was then that I had the idea to create “escort” cards for well-known video game icons; it was the perfect way to “commodify” them the way the industry does.

Please click below to view each piece, but be warned they contain nudity.

For a Good Time, Call Peach

“For a Good Time, Call Peach” – Click to view

For a Good Time, Call Zelda

“For a Good Time, Call Zelda” – Click to view

"For a Good Time, Call Samus" - Click to view

“For a Good Time, Call Samus” – Click to view

I even went so far as to print a fake escort service t-shirt and hand out fake “escort” cards at the opening. The reactions ranged from loudly amused to horribly offended. One guy actually thought I was a real pimp.

Photo ©Shannon Cottrell 2013 http://www.shannoncottrell.com

Photo ©Shannon Cottrell 2013 http://www.shannoncottrell.com

I realize it’s not a perfect metaphor; even within the feminist movement there are opposing views on whether sex workers are being exploited or empowered, but you can’t argue that the Vegas style cards are crass and exploitive, much like the “damsel in distress” motif in most games, both vintage and modern. Furthermore, the escort’s job is to satisfy the male ego, to fulfill fantasy. By contrasting those early childhood fantasies with the much darker ones that men have once they have reached sexual maturity (to use the term loosely), I hope to start a conversation about how the portrayal of women in video games affects all of us, inside and outside the game.

iam8bit entertainment system
June 7–30, 2013
2147 W. Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

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Tribe Magazine 16 Interview

April 28, 2013

The latest issue of Tribe magazine (Issue 16) features an interview with yours truly, starting on page 12. After May 28th, 2013, you may need to click this link instead.

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Not Penny’s Boat

April 25, 2013

For Gallery 1988‘s upcoming “The Official Bad Robot Experience”, they asked artists to contribute work inspired by the films and television shows produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions. I have to admit I was a pretty big LOST nerd; it was probably the last show I ever watched when it actually aired each week. I chose to illustrate what many fans would agree is probably the most heart-wrenching scene in the entire six years of the series. If you haven’t watched the show, I won’t say anymore as to not spoil it entirely.

Not Penny's Boat

Not Penny’s Boat
Giclee print on canvas  •  19.75″ x 9″  •  S/N Edition of 25

Not Penny's Boat

Not Penny's Boat

The Official Bad Robot Art Experience
April 26 – May 18, 2013

Opening Reception: Friday, April 26th, 7-10PM

Gallery 1988 West
7308 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Hours: Wed – Sun: 11AM – 6PM
Monday & Tuesday: Closed
(323)937-7088

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