Critics’ Picks

Oregon Painting Society, Floor Game, 2012, synthesizer, lasers, mirrors, wooden planks, rocks, sand, plants, shells, dimensions variable. Installation view

New York

“Big Reality”

319 Scholes
319 Scholes St
March 15–March 29

Curated by Brian Droitcour, this group show of twenty-six artists examines the reach of fantasy role-playing games in everyday life, carefully balancing geeky fandom with a critical stance. The negotiation of identity in RPGs is one of the central themes of the show, and, as Droitcour explains in the catalogue, this personal exploration within a structured system often extends to other platforms––such as social media sites. Hence, in a nod to Joseph Beuys’s well-known maxim, Droitcour declares: “Everyone is a gamer.”

Shana Moulton’s deformed 1980s-era dress Hemorrhoid Pillow Dress with Assorted Props, 2002–12, which she wears while performing in her video series “Whispering Pines,” hangs on a mannequin next to David Wightman’s comically exaggerated medieval suit Fortress of Amplitude Costume, 2008–12, a garment he uses for his fantasy-inspired heavy metal project Fortress of Amplitude. Kitschy and nostalgic, the costumes reveal how masks help become an important site for distinguishing one’s identity in a world caught up in fantasy. Nearby is Oregon Painting Society’s interactive installation Floor Game, 2012, where palette-shaped wooden planks obscure analog synthesizers that ring and buzz according to the movement of handheld conch shells. The installation comes alive during the collective’s performances: Each member dons a surreal outfit and participates in bizarre rituals. Floor Game signals the sense of magic that emerges when the real and the constructed commingle.

The portal is an element in many of the works, and as a space of traversal between the real and game worlds it attests to the close bind between fantasy and reality. Daniel Leyva’s Save Point, 2012, projects scenes from Final Fantasy and other long-playing games onto a white children’s bed. The bed is a reference to the “save point” in many games: A player can pause progress through the game by putting their avatar in bed. No longer an icon but a veritable “save point,” the bed is an entrance to the dream and game space, which are one and the same.