Gaming in the Gallery: Fated Dual tournament closes Phoenix Brighton's Odysseys exhibition

By Mark Sheerin | 25 September 2012
Colour photo of two young men playing on arcade machines
© Culture24
Review: Fated Dual – Gaming Tournament, Phoenix Brighton, Saturday 22 2012

The invigilator on the door at Phoenix is wearing soundproof headphones. This should be a warning because through the door is a full scale arcade. A volley of cartoon punches, kicks and body slams fill the air with the din of pixelated violence.

Fated Dual is a fighting tournament in the midst of a game-inspired exhibition by David Blandy. On all sides, there are people engaging with art in a way you will not often see. But it helps that the found objects in this exhibition are game cabs running a host of different beat ‘em ups.

Some may dismiss the pleasures of an arcade as a low art form. But spend any time at all in front of any game and it soon becomes clear that a wealth of ingenuity and imagination has gone into the characters, gameplay and backdrops.

Most impressive is Street Fighter 4, in which a near photorealistic standard of visuals makes each fight more compelling than the last. Of particular interest was a backdrop of the African Savanna during a game watched by hippos and meerkats.

Catching up with artist Blandy, I challenge him to a game of King of Fighters. We play five rounds and he emerges victorious. But I briefly enjoy being a fat man wielding a ball and chain (Chang), a martial artist with a pole (Billy) and a nimble brawler whose physique puts mine to shame (Joe).

Out in the café there is no escape from the mayhem. It may be quieter where you drink coffee, but no less than three games consoles have been set up in the room, together with curatorial plaques. One informs that Fighter’s Destiny on the N64 is influenced by Sega Virtua Fighter and Tekken. Complex, indeed.

Back in the thick of it, I take on a serious gamer for a skirmish on Duels and Dualities. This customised game lets us slug it out as the Barefoot Lone Pilgrim (myself) and his creator David Blandy (him).

The machine soon proclaims that “David Blandy Wins”. And on the evidence of the buzz in Phoenix, that's a pretty good verdict.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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