William Linn (US) Bong

simulation of the virtual game, 2009.

In Pong (1972), the simulation quality of the virtual game replaced the poetic quality of the tennis player. Bong (2009) injects a physical interface into this classic video game and the poetic quality of the body repositions itself back into the simulation. Whereas before, player control was achieved through a hand-held joystick, here the body itself becomes implicated as ‘player’ of the game. As in the game of tennis, the body regains its ability to compete physically and inherits the obsolete fundamentals of ‘the game’ – endurance, strength, agility, etc. Simultaneously, the body retrieves predominance over the horizon of the screen.

Playing and competing to win at Bong can be very liberating, even leading some to a sense of euphoric release, since physical energy itself – something which technology has stripped away from us (especially in games) – finally gets re-connected to results in a technological system. The better your physical performance, the better your on-screen results.

Furthermore, we can experience this as a somber point of reflection on the many indeterminate ways in which the body has become alienated from our collective screen-based reality – the reservoir where more and more of our daily "activities" can be found. In this sense, Bong also refers to the symptom of collective intoxification we are all experiencing from technology and telecommunications, especially in the field of vision. Since the advent of screen-based interfaces, of which Pong was among the first, we now dwell in a ‘stereo-reality’. And the phenomenon of ‘seeing double’ manifests itself in this system from the point of view of player as well as spectator.

William Linn (US)

William Linn is one of San Francisco’s central figures in the new media arts. His interactive installations incorporate video, sound, hand-made and “found” electronics. In 1997, he formed BOLT (Bu-reau of Low Technology), which investigates a sense of “techno-stalgia” using low-bit electronic gaming installations that celebrate technology in its most crude and obsolete state. His work has been exhibited at many international art festivals and featured in museums, galleries and theaters in North America and beyond. Linn is also well known as the founder and director of blasthaus, a multi-disciplinary arts organization that helped pioneer the exhibition and fostering of electronic and new media artists in America where it has organized exhibitions, performances and special events for a decade. Linn is currently working on a series of “loop performances” where physical actions are linked to measured time.