Is It Art? Or Is It LARP?

Click to view Last week, we told you about how artist Brody Condon got a Rhizome grant to do a play based on William Gibson's cyberpunk classic Neuromancer, which he would be staging at a barn in rural Missouri with a cast taken from a local Baptist Church amateur drama group. Condon's other art is equally wonderful and bizarre, often including recreations of video game fights acted out by members of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I caught up with Condon via e-mail, and found out that he's actually in the middle of staging his biggest, strangest mashup of art and gaming yet.


Condon told me that he's directing something called SonsbeekLive: The Twentyfivefold Manifestation. It's an art project/live action role playing game happening right now, in a Netherlands forest, with 200 participants. The event coincides with an annual outdoor art display in Sonsbeek forest, and the art is incorporated into the LARP. Set in a distant future where industrial civilization has fallen, the LARP unfolds as the characters come to the forest to worship the art and go through a series of ritualistic rites-of-passage. The haunting, beautiful art in the forest really does look like futuristic monuments.

Influenced by playing a lot of computer games as a kid, and participating in what he calls "an experimental LARP group" in the 1990s, Condon focuses on how games create small moments of abstract beauty - sort of like modern ballet.

What I find intriguing about Condon's work is the way it suggests that participatory, amateur performances like LARPs are nearly indistinguishable from art. Games have always verged on being art, and have certainly been part of art for thousands of years. But gamers have not usually been granted the status of artist. I love Condon's work for showing how LARPers and other kinds of gamers can be artists in their own right, creating public fantasy narratives that are just as worthy of attention as a piece of theater performed at your local rep house.


So does Condon see SonsbeekLive as art, or is it gaming? He says it's ambiguous:

Tis both i suppose. I dont really ask those questions. Art isn't a thing, it's a place/context/discussion. The base of my work is modifying existing games, so - I made a LARP, then I'm modifying it (usually I'm modifying existing games- in this case my own) to create random motion performances in the park around the sculptures. It's like making a live game engine that spits out random performances.


Want to learn more about SonsbeekLive, or participate? Find out more on the website.

SonsbeekLive [official site]


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