Under the Map

Alan Meades, Under The Map, 2013
Still under the map , screen captures, Alan Meades,  2016

Still Under the Map is a collection of artworks created by forcing video games into error states or finding ways to circumvent the restrictions that confine play spaces. Where play is designed to take place within the boundaries of a digital map, this work is produced by going beyond, over and often under the map. By doing so the carefully designed and placed elements of the game spaces become separated, desynchronised and increasingly abstract. This process is motivated in part as a response to the perception of control within contemporary videogames, which require players to behave and to interact with game spaces in pre-determined ways. The expectations of complicit play within videogames are something that Espen Aarseth has described as the tyranny of the game. Still Under the Map intentionally subverts and decontextualises videogames, resisting and breaking their expected use, in doing so producing images that make reference to Romantic landscape paintings and notions of the sublime.

Under the map, screen captures printed, Alan Meades, 2016

Under The Map builds upon my experiences within glitching communities on the Xbox 360, in which I spent over two years playing alongside and interviewing glitchers. Glitchers play with games, purposely seeking out, documenting, distributing, and then exploiting weaknesses, or glitches, within videogame code. Unlike modders or hackers they frown upon the direct alteration of code, and instead force errors by manipulating the game through using conventional controls and inputs. While there are many forms of glitch, such as those that alter animations, subvert rules, or even duplicate items, the glitches that resonate most strongly with me are those that alter the players relationship to the gamespace: its barriers, its landscape, and its map. The images in the exhibition and publication have been created through a subversion of the game map, the playable area, and the content visible within a game through the use of glitches. In particular these images make use of a certain technique: getting under the map. This body of work attempts to capture some of the aesthetic pleasures afforded by glitching, simultaneously working upon aspects of landscape, the sublime, and the glitched. It presents images that sit in a space somewhere between the Romantic landscapes of Caspar David Freidrich and Joseph Mallord William Turner, and the digital battle zones designed by In city Ward and DICE. It raises questions of the decorative, the sublime, and of the meaning of landscape in a digital context. By another measure Under The Map should also be considered an act of praxis, an application of the ideas and concepts raised through my largely theoretical research. It utilises glitching techniques to produce images that communicate something of the pleasures and meaning of counter play.

Alan Meades