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Gas Zappers

October 22, 2008 - February 8, 2009

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Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung: Gas Zappers, 2008; digital interactive game; courtesy of the artist.

Artwork website: Gas Zappers

Gas Zappers
, by artist Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, is an interactive online art game that tackles global warming. Hung is among the contemporary artists and educators who have adopted video games as a new platform for social debate and aesthetic experience by developing “serious games.” In Gas Zappers, the idiom of the video game is exploited to challenge and illuminate the simplistic notion of quick fixes to environmental issues.

Berkeley and the Bay Area have been at the center of the cultural debate around alternative energy sources and global warming, due in no small part to developments like the $500 million joint project between UC Berkeley and British Petroleum to develop alternative biofuels. Gas Zappers furthers this discourse in a serious game that is also at times fantastical and wry.

Like much of the artist’s work, Gas Zappers is visually frenetic and colorful, referencing numerous popular and political sources. The animation style of Gas Zappers reinforces and goes beyond the game’s subject of global warming, caricaturing the exasperating and vulgar noise of the political media engine itself. In adopting the artistic strategies of photomontage, political satire, humor, and surrealism, Hung is an artistic descendent of Dadaist John Heartfield, whose photomontages lampooned Hitler and Mussolini. Ken Johnson wrote for the New York Times, “Looking at Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung’s art is like peeking into the fever dream of an overworked political blogger. Mr. Hung, 31, is a fierce, funny and inventive political satirist.”

Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung received a Media Arts Fellowship, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, to develop Gas Zappers. A video version of the work was shown in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. BAM/PFA’s exhibition, on view starting October 22 at www.gaszappers.com/play and in the museum’s Bancroft Lobby, is the world premiere of the fully realized work, including the interactive game.

Richard Rinehart
Digital Media Director and Adjunct Curator

Gas Zappers is supported by a Renew Media Arts Fellowship and the Tribeca Film Institute. Collaborators Noah Vawter and Benjamin Abrams produced the music and programming, respectively, for Gas Zappers.