Cool War: Game Art Across the Straits, a group exhibition of video game art from Cuba and the United States.

Courtesy of Cory Arcangel Studio

Courtesy of Cory Arcangel Studio

Cory Arcangel, Clock, 2015 (Courtesy of Cory Arcangel Studio)

May 29-June 29, 2015

Cool War: Game Art Across the Straits, a group exhibition of video game art from Cuba and the United States.

Rewell Altunaga / Cory Arcangel / Matteo Bittanti & Colleen Flaherty (COLL.EO) / Yonlay Cabrera / Rodolfo Peraza / Anne-Marie Schleiner, Joan Leandre & Brody Condon

Fanguito Estudio is pleased to announce Cool War: Game Art Across the Straits, a group exhibition of video game art from Cuba and the United States.

Months after the December, 2014 announcement of the normalization of relations between the two nations, Cool War showcases artists whose work reminds us of the abiding manichaeisms and military technologies that structure video games, while also signaling the ludic and open potential for game art.

Cuba and the United States have often made communications technologies history as pioneering partners: the first telegraph linking Latin America and the US connected Punta Rassa, Florida, Key West, and Havana in 1867; the first deep water cable with a submersible repeater linked the two nations in 1950. After the early 1960s, however, bilateral communication grew strained; these tensions would end up shaping the emergence of the internet itself.

The idea for an internet’today the platform for most multi-player video games’emerged in part from the desire to enable ongoing communication between nuclear foes in the wake of possible attack. One year after the Soviet launching of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, an anxious United States founded the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which by 1968 yielded the first computer network, ARPANET. A version of what computer scientist J.C.R. Licklider had imagined in 1962 as an ‘Intergalactic Network,’ ARAPANET was shaped by and shaped the era’s Space Race.

In 1961, the year that the Cuban Revolution allied itself with the Soviet Union, Yuri Gagarin became the first astronaut to orbit space. In 1962 the first video game, Spacewar!, was invented by programmers at MIT and AT&T installed its first digital transmission equipment; 1962 also saw the near-apocalyptic Cuban Missile Crisis. Two years later Paul Baran published a game-changing paper on packet-switching technology, which facilitated construction of the first networked computer systems. War, videogames, and computer networks evolved symbiotically.

By the 1980s gaming had evolved into an industry. Generations of Cuban and US game artists, separated by laws restricting travel and exchange, have had purely gamic relations to one another’s landscapes: Counter-Strike offers a Havana environment, for instance, while Grand Theft Auto IV’s ‘Vice City’ is a version of Miami. Despite these barriers, game art from both sites shares a nostalgia for earlier technologies; an engagement with the unique temporality and peculiar meditation on mortality offered by games’Chris Marker once claimed that videogames alone give us ‘a second chance”; an interest in creating ‘serious games’ beyond logics of winning and losing; and a shared set of raw materials for mods and machinima.

In Untitled Rewell Altunaga offers 3 machinima created from the online Youtube collection of young US gamer Kristopher Tanksley, whose lo-fi films of racing scenes (made with an external camera and outdated consoles) recall Altunaga’s first attempts to record his own gamic successes. Untitled updates a 2003 work by Altunaga, El bueno y el malo [Good and Evil] that modified the same games’Driver I and II; here he adds to his prior work’s Miami- and Havana-based chases several New York scenes.

In Clock Cory Arcangel screens on two LG Volt Android smart phones modified images of a military jet and clouds taken from the game Mig 29: Soviet Fighter. As in other of his works, Arcangel rearranges content within the game’s graphics, highlighting resonances with pop art and comics, adapting an earlier format for today’s most common medium. The piece acknowledges the ways that a particular historical context registers in a game’s themes and settings.

In COLL.EO’s Following Bit the artists restage within Grand Theft Auto’s ‘Liberty City’ (New York) environment Vito Acconci’s 1969 work Following Piece, in which Acconci allowed his urban ambling to be directed by the unpredictable routes of those he followed. Here his avatar moves in a necessarily less aleatory way, following the programmed courses of randomly chosen bots to untimely deaths or endless walking.

Yonlay Cabrera’s Almacenero [Stock Clerk] is a Sokoban-like game in which players manipulate characters based on the percent of profits generated in Cuban stores, per 2014 figures released by CIMEX, a Cuban umbrella company bundling some 80 state-run businesses.

In & Infirstlife, Rodolfo Peraza recreates a virtual interior and surrounding terrain of Presidio Modelo, a panopticon prison built in the 1920s on Cuba’s Isla de Pinos (now Isla de la Juventud) and turned into a museum in 1968. Still in process, the work will eventually allow players to adopt the avatars of Warden, Inmate (both already available) and, later, Priest and Doctor, and will reproduce the decades of prisoner graffiti still intact on the prison’s walls. The work merges some features of Presidio Modelo with a web-based application (app), crossing older panopticon models of surveillance with the contemporary one tied to the ‘internet of things.’

Two video loops and select prints from Anne-Marie Schleiner, Joan Leandre and Brody Condon’s Velvet-Strike modify the ‘Havana’ environment of the game Counter-Strike. The original interactive form of Velvet-Strike facilitated spray paint skins for players to leave anti- or non-military graffiti on the walls, ceiling, and floor of Counter-Strike environments. Conceived at the start of George Bush’s ‘War on Terrorism,’ the documentation for this piece reveals surprising messages amidst typical First Person Shooter rampages through a simulated Havana.

Fanguito Estudio is grateful for the support from Princeton University’s J.D. Brown Fund and Artist By Artist: Carlos Garaicoa Studio.

Staff curatorial:
Rewell Altunaga, Rodolfo Peraza, Rachel Price y Claudia Taboada


VR Hole is a web-based application that takes advantage of the WebGL context in the canvas element of HTML5 to create and render both, scenes and the new capabilities of the modern browsers on the use of some external devices such as Oculus Rift, Leap Motion and Gamepads.

For 3D programming, we use a framework that is by far the best one that can be found on the network: THREE.JS. This is a free software under the MIT license. It has a very complete set of Math functions with almost everything you need to calculate in 3D programming. It wraps the WebGL context, making the process of software development easy and smooth. For DOM access, control and styling, we use jQuery and Bootstrap.

The application consists of the Javascript class ‘Editor’ (inside the file Editor.js), which is the main controller. It has control of the objects created and rendered on the viewport and the User Interface functions. This “Editor” also sends the signals to the model classes for loading data files or accessing the database.

This is the basic structure. As complement for this classes, there are some imported libraries from the THREE.JS community and the main branches along with other developed inside of MALLA-NET, covering features like physics (physijs), cinematic (cinematic.js, tween.js), particle systems, twitter API control, etc.

Try VR-Hole app:

Experience and Immersion

VR-HOLE, 25.04.2015
12th Havana Biennial – “Between the Idea and Experience”

Pierre Lévy is one of the authors that has spoken on the virtuality concepts. According to Lévy: imagination, memory, knowledge and religion have been the very first aspects of virtualization since they have brought about the abandonment of the physical space long before computerization and digital networks did. Nevertheless, that process has not stopped us from continuing to exist. The development in telecommunications has conditioned our senses’ experience: the phone for hearing, television for sight, telemanipulation systems for tact and motor-sense interaction. All these devices virtualize our senses and eventually create “virtualized organs”.

Virtualization recreates a nomadic culture, not by means of a return to the Paleolithic age or the ancient civilizations of shepherds, but through the creation of an environment of social interactions where relations are reshaped using a minimum of inertia. Nowadays, virtualization affects not only information and communication but also the bodies, the economic functioning, the collective framework of sensitivity or the exercise of intelligence. Virtualization reaches out even to virtual communities, virtual enterprises, virtual democracy, etc. Though, digitalization of cyberspace plays an important role on the ongoing mutation, it all comes down to a background wave that exceeds by far computerization.

Oculus is one of the most effective devices to establish a connection between humans and virtualized spaces. It is commonly used to enhance the experience when playing video games. However, the Oculus options allow to carry out other types of synesthetic explorations such as those using present reality.

Application (App), Creation and Display
Malla Net is a web application that gives the possibility of creating virtual worlds (metaverse) in which today’s world can be uploaded to the internet. The piece has been developed using open sources and is published under MIT license. It also assumes the collaborative paradigm as a creation process. Malla Net 2.0 emerges as a tool to explore the internet as space and the social relations structured from it. Virtualized worlds are displayed in subdomains that facilitate the users’ immersions in the internet through virtual reality devices.

The piece takes place in El Fanguito, a suburban neighborhood created and mostly composed of the unscheduled settlement of its inhabitants, who don’t have cybernetic virtuality as a priority in their imaginary. Taking into account that the Havana Biennial is focused on the displaying of multidisciplinary creation processes, supported by scientific activity; Malla Net 2.0 project combines artistic worries with pragmatic ones. That is the reason why the piece is intended to have a dual sense, the application and the artistic experimentation. Besides the semiotic value the piece contains regarding multi-sensitive experience and present reflection on the new systems of human communication, it also pays special attention to the use it has as an application to upload, for example, architectonic spaces. Such spaces can be used later not only as files but also as virtual models to achieve, perhaps, a greater sense of space and enhance human experience inside of it.

During the action and experimentation process of Malla Net 2.0 in the community, all visual information resulting from the scanning of elements such as: people, objects, natural or architectonic spaces will be saved in the repository of the application. This repository will become a sort of ethnographic document on the value of the collective memory of that social micro space. Just like an ethnographer, the artist registers and organizes his field notes and turns them into permanent records to later move on to the analytic stage of memory and filed diaries. The repository recognizes among its procedures these concepts.
The piece stimulates reflection about the new ways of social relations, apprehension of reality, artistic representation and present conditions supported by virtual credibility. The anthropological record and the documentation were since the beginning the main functions of cinema and photography. Even though other tendencies such as conceptualism accelerated the legitimization of these expressive languages, its importance required a special attention, especially after the creation of postmodern art theories. The development of technology and its interconnection channels have encouraged other logics of representing art as well. This kind of work refuses to be framed or moved when going from the real world to the virtual one through a sensory experience. An experience that interrupts the mimesis and expression codes to make room for the immersion ones.

Claudia Taboada Churchman

[1]Lévy, P. Qué es lo virtual. Paidós, Barcelona, 1999.


[3]Crapanzano, V. Hermes’ dilemma: lbe masking of subversion in ethnographic description, en J. Clifford y G. E. Marcus (eds.), Writing culture. The poelies and politics ethnography, Berkeley, University of California, 1986, p. 51.

Try VR-Hole app: