Big Reality
Mar 15 2012- Mar 29 2012
Opening Hours: 7:00PM - 10:00PM
Curated by Brian Droitcour

“Big Reality” proposes that contemporary everyday life seamlessly integrates elements of fantasy and play through consumer technology and networked media. The exhibition explores this proposition through artworks that draw imagery, themes, and devices from a relatively young and heavily stereotyped genre of play: the fantasy role-playing game. Born in the early seventies, when Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax hacked the rules of historical war simulations to make room for individual heroics and magic spells, the RPG blends game and narrative, systems and storytelling. It brought romance and adventure to models of numerical cognition, which appealed to players familiar with nascent computing culture. “From Nethack to play-by-post forums on the WWW,” an Ars Technica blogger wrote in 2009, “the first thing that computer geeks do upon inventing a new medium is play Dungeons and Dragons with it.” Whether played with dice and pencils, costumes and props, or a videogame console, the RPG codes a particular, specifically contemporary relation of the self of the world, one in which technology and abstraction, fantasy and play are deeply implicated in the routines of everyday life.

Fluxus and Oulipou captured the spirit of a freshly cybernetic world in works that incorporated chance, systems, open-endedness and open relations between author and audience. Gygax and Arneson gave the same spirit a popular form. With a few exceptions, the works in “Big Reality” are not games. Rather, they crystallize in a variety of mediums the expansive attitude toward life that play and imagination afford. The exhibition’s artists grew up in a world with RPGs, in a time when concepts of “virtuality” and “real life” were necessarily disrupted as everyday modes of communicating and receiving information about the world rapidly changed. For them, fantasy is not an escape but one of many facets of an increasingly big reality.

With works by:  Arcanebolt (Mark Beasley, Tamas Kemenczy, Alex Inglizian), Bradley Benedetti, BFFA3AE, Laura Brothers, John BruneauThe Center for Tactical MagicJacob CiocciBrody Condon, Chris Coy, Julia EllingboeDesiree HolmanTimothy Hutchings, Butt Johnson, Daniel LeyvaGuthrie Lonergan, Nick MontfortShana MoultonBrenna Murphy, Oregon Painting SocietyRobby Rackleff, Billy RennekampDeb Sokolow, Eddo Stern, Third Faction, John Scott Tynes, Andrej Ujhazy, and David Wightman.

Brian Droitcour is a writer, translator, and curator based in New York.

Related Events
Past Events

  • Brody Condon’s Lawful Evil (2007)
    Venue: 319 Scholes
    Thu. Mar 15, 2012 7:00 pm - Thu. Mar 15, 2012 10:00 pm

    Brody Condon’s performance piece Lawful E…click for more...

  • Oregon Painting Society’s Floor Game (2012)
    Picture 65
    Venue: 319 Scholes
    Thu. Mar 15, 2012 7:00 pm - Thu. Mar 15, 2012 10:00 pm

    Oregon Painting Society will play a mystical costume…click for more...

  • Live-streaming “Big Reality” gallery tour
    Butt Johnson, Various Controllers, Maps, and a Robotic Accessory, 2007
    Venue: 319 Scholes
    Sat. Mar 17, 2012 1:00 pm - Sat. Mar 17, 2012 2:00 pm

    Mark your calendar for a live-streaming gallery tour…click for more...

  • Featured Press

    Critic’s Pick: ”…an entrance to the dream and game space, which are one and the same.” – ARTFORUM

    Everything You Need to Know This Week on New York’s Art Scene: “Fans of Dungeons & Dragons, rejoice!” – Guest of a Guest

    Reality is Big in Brooklyn - ARTINFO

    Mitt Romney as a D&D Character?  NYC Show Celebrates Art & Gaming: “…the beginning of a busy year for the New York City art and gaming scene.” - Wired

    Related Publication

    The “Big Reality” exhibition catalogue includes texts by Brian Droitcour, Tavis Allison, Joanne McNeill and Kristin Lucas (in conversation), Gene McHugh, as well as artists’ texts by The Center of Tactical Magic, Nick Montfort, John Bruneau, and Andrej Ujhazy. It will be available for sale on starting March 12 and at 319 Scholes during the run of the exhibition.

    Works (In Order of Appearance)
    Guild, 2012
    • Artist: Robby Rackleff
    • Description: a video relating the course of an RPG campaign involving two players and a game master that becomes embroiled in difficulty
    • URL:
    • Keywords: video
    • Artist: Julia Ellingboe
    • Description: an RPG about slaves in the antebellum United States who are trying to be free
    • URL:
    • Keywords: text
    • Artist: Nick Montfort
    • Description: Game maps drawn as a player
    • URL:
    • Keywords: text, print
    • Artist: Brenna Murphy
    • Description: digital composition, print
    • URL:
    • Keywords: print
    • Artist: Brenna Murphy
    • Description: digital composition, print
    • URL:
    • Keywords: print
    • Artist: Brody Condon
    • Description: staged game of Dungeons & Dragons
    • URL:
    • Keywords: performance, game
    • Artist: Timothy Hutchings
    • Description: Temporary installation which elaborates on the effects of incidental RPG drawing.
    • URL:
    • Keywords: sculpture, installation
    • Artist: Timothy Hutchings
    • Description: Plagmada is a collection of ephemera saved from game sessions, presented, as Hutching writes in the archive’s mission statement, “as both a historical record of a revolutionary period of experimental play and as aesthetic objects in their own right.” (BD)
    • URL:
    • Keywords: net art, text, print
    • Artist: Andrej Ujhazy
    • Description: loop of digital images in lcd frame
    • URL:
    • Keywords: net art
    NPC, 2007
    • Artist: David Wightman
    • Description: a collection of childhood RPG papers
    • URL:
    • Keywords: text, print
    • Artist: Butt Johnson
    • Description: drawings, situating contemporary youth culture and virtuosic doodling in a long tradition of manuscript illumination and ornamental drafsmanship
    • URL:
    • Keywords: text
    Not a Hero, 2007
    • Artist: John Bruneau
    • Description: World of Warcraft performance in which the player character Dave, an office worker, wandered through Azeroth’s human territories looking innocently for a place to stay, humbly refusing to participate in violence and expressing wide-eyed dismay at the people killing each other around him.
    • URL:
    • Keywords: sound, performance, print
    • Artist: The Center for Tactical Magic
    • Description: a costume that provides not just the spirit to act but the tools as well
    • URL:
    • Keywords: print
    • Artist: Billy Rennekamp
    • Description: fabricated ball, dispelling the made of branding's fetish
    • URL:
    • Keywords: sculpture, installation, fabrication
    • Artist: Jacob Ciocci
    • Description: collages and video containing animations with found clips of esoteric rituals and representations of arcane magic in pop culture
    • URL:
    • Keywords: projection, multimedia, video, music
    • Artist: David Wightman
    • Description: costume for a music project that highlights the overlap between the youth subcultures of fantasy gamers and heavy metal fans
    • URL:
    • Keywords: installation
    • Artist: Shana Moulton
    • Description: installation of objects that have appeared in Moulton's "Whispering Pines" series: a dress with a hemorrhoid pillow sewn in the seat, a bejewelled neck brace, an orb fountain, a square of memory foam, and a yoga mat
    • URL:
    • Keywords: sculpture, installation
    Floor Game, 2012
    • Artist: Oregon Painting Society
    • Description: an installation composed of mirrors, plants, LED lightings, lasers, and analog synthesizers
    • URL:
    • Keywords: sound, projection, multimedia, installation
    • Artist: Third Faction
    • Description: Third Faction is a group of World of Warcraft gamers who encourage players to think critically about the conflict-based restrictions imposed by Blizzard, the producer of WoW.
    • URL:
    • Keywords: video, performance
    land, 2011
    START, 2012
    • Artist: Billy Rennekamp
    • Description: A video wherein a hero moves through a suburban landscape that has been made to seem magical with a mix of costumes, props, and video effects.
    • URL:
    • Keywords: video, game
    Save Point, 2012
    • Artist: Daniel Leyva
    • Description: In Final Fantasy, the save point was often represented as a bed. This installation of a child's bed with gaming scenes projected on it stands as a post marking the viewer's progress.
    • URL:
    • Keywords: projection, installation
    Domain, 2006
    • Artist: Guthrie Lonergan
    • Description: video, 3:11
    • URL:
    • Keywords: video, net art