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Gas Zappers (October 22, 2008 – February 8, 2009)
Exhibition invites viewers to fight global warming through a video game that’s at once serious, fantastical, and wry
Berkeley, CA, October 2, 2008—(Download a PDF version of this press release.) The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) presents Gas Zappers, an exhibition featuring an interactive online art game that tackles global warming. A video version of Gas Zappers, which was created by artist Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. The BAM/PFA presentation of Gas Zappers marks the world premiere of the fully realized work. An Internet art work that will be accessible via BAM/PFA’s website, Gas Zappers will also be playable through a computer console in the museum’s lobby. Gas Zappers, which is curated by Digital Media Director and Adjunct Curator Richard Rinehart, opens October 22, 2008, and runs through February 8, 2009.
The game’s protagonist is the polar bear—that victimized, yet cuddly symbol of global warming. Players embody the polar bear as it progresses through different climate change scenarios: Venice under water, a forest threatened by bulldozers, and an altercation with vicious oil derricks. Celebrities—political and otherwise—flutter through and interact with our hero; Leonardo DiCaprio introduces the bear to Dr. R.K. Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, while George W. Bush drills for oil in the North Pole and keeps warm by barbecuing the Kyoto protocol. Using solar panels and other renewable energy defenses, the bear narrowly succeeds in fighting off the evil forces that threaten the environment.
Like much of the artist’s work, Gas Zappers is visually frenetic and colorful, referencing numerous popular and political sources. The game incorporates graphical and musical styles from the glory days of video games and repurposes them for satirical effect. The piece fits into the genre of “serious games,” a burgeoning movement in media art that uses the language of video games for political and educational purposes, fostering social debate through a widely accessible medium. In this way, Hung’s game is a descendent of the great political comics and cartoons of previous generations; its presentation at BAM/PFA reinforces Berkeley and the Bay Area’s position at the center of the cultural debate around alternative energy sources and global warming. This is 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 way that is simultaneously serious, fantastical, and wry.
Though a blistering critique of the political and corporate forces that have hastened global warming, Gas Zappers offers no easy sociopolitical answers in this season of heightened partisanism. The game lampoons all sides, questions whether real success is lost amid the bells and whistles of the game of politics and media, and presents a dizzying view of contemporary consciousness. Gas Zappers draws on a multitude of artistic influences ranging from Dadaist John Heartfield to satirist Tom Nast, with references to contemporary video game artist Cory Arcangel and electronic remix music artists. Robert Shuster wrote for the Village Voice, “Hung’s lampoons, as biting as they are, flood the screen with candy-colored cheer and childlike, Monty Python humor.”
Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung received a New Media Fellowship, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, to develop Gas Zappers. He was born in Hong Kong and now lives and works in New York. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arts from San Francisco State University. His work has been exhibited at the New Museum, New York; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah; Postmasters Gallery, New York; Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford, United Kingdom; Urbis, Manchester, United Kingdom; Hebbel Am Ufer theatre, Berlin, Germany.
Gas Zappers will be presented in lobby of the Berkeley Art Museum and can be accessed via BAM/PFA’s website at http://bampfa.berkeley.edu/exhibition/gaszappers.
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.
Programs at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive are supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Packard Humanities Institute, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Bernard Osher Foundation, The Henry Luce Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Columbia Foundation, The Christensen Fund, and other private foundations, corporations, government agencies, and individuals, including the BAM/PFA membership. Major endowment support has been provided by the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation and by George Gund III.
About UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) aims to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through contemporary and historical art and film, engaging audiences from the campus, Bay Area community, and beyond. BAM/PFA is one of the largest university art museums in the United States in terms of attendance, presenting fifteen art exhibitions and 450 film programs each year. The museum’s collection of more than 14,000 works includes exceptional examples of mid-twentieth-century painting, including important works by Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko, as well as historical and contemporary Asian art, early American painting, Conceptual and contemporary international art, and California and Bay Area art. The PFA film and video collection now includes the largest group of Japanese films outside of Japan, as well as impressive holdings of Soviet silents, West Coast avant-garde cinema, seminal video art, rare animation, Central Asian productions, Eastern European cinema, and international classics.
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
2626 Bancroft Way, just below College Avenue near the UC Berkeley campus.
Gallery and Museum Store Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Admission: General admission is $8; admission for seniors, disabled persons, non-UC Berkeley students, and young adults (13 – 17) is $5; admission for BAM/PFA members, UC Berkeley students, staff and faculty, and children under 12 is free; admission for group tours is $3 per person (to arrange a group tour, call (510) 642-5188). Admission is free on the first Thursday of each month.
Information: 24-hour recorded message (510) 642-0808; FAX (510) 642-4889; TDD: (510) 642-8734