contemporary art, net art, performance art

Eva and Franco Mattes aka 0100101110101101.ORG, Freedom (2011)

April 14, 2012

Freedom from Eva and Franco Mattes aka 01.ORG on Vimeo.

In the terms of the ongoing wars, there is really only one side you or I can be on in the infiinte struggle between freedom and tyranny.

But Eva and Franco Mattes have questioned the extent of that freedom, with a novel approach to playing networked console game Counter-Strike.

With Eva at the controls, the pair have found themselves in a virtual town somewhere in the arab world, dealing with an endless parade of heavily armed American gamers.

She too has the right to bear arms, as you would expect the genre of this game. And so we view the landscape from behind the barrel of her revolver.

Yet she looks for all the world like a terrorist (certainly not a freedom fighter), and she uses a real time messenger window to plea for clemency on the grounds of being an artist.

“Please don’t kill me,” she says time and again. “This is a performance art piece.” But she doesn’t survive long. There are limits to what you can get away with in a war zone.

“You don’t want to be in this game. Go and play in paint,” suggests one of the counter-insurgents. One other, sounding for all the world like half of Beavis and Butthead says “Shut up, Matisse.”

The title of the piece, “Freedom” is a rallying cry dropped by US soldiers running by in the distance, before he turns to gun down the immobile artist. It is too perfect.

But as Eva asks at one point in the game, “What are we doing here?” At time of writing 54,000 people are currently playing Counter-Strike.

That is only 14,000 less than the total number of real troops in Afghanistan. What can it mean that so many people are waged in an invisible war from the bedrooms and front rooms?

There is total moral freedom in these environments. Bullets are scattered left, right and centre. Compared with the gunshot in this earlier performance piece, the results are total bathos.

Freedom can be seen in Anonymous, untitled, dimensions variable at Carroll/Fletcher, London, until 18 May, see gallery website for more details. For my review of the whole show on Culture24, click here.

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