Meta.Morf 2022 – Ecophilia / K-U-K – Kjøpmannsgata Ung Kunst / Exhibition May 6 – August 14 /
Curator: Zane Cerpina / Co-curator: Espen Gangvik
PsXCare / 2021
Annie Hägg [SE]
PsXCare takes place in a fictive future where the border between the digital and the physical is blurred, shifting between filmed and animated material.
The work portrays a feeling of alienation related to cities and constructed spaces. A feeling that stems from living in a time and place where everything is designed for specific purposes, hence steering your attention and needs much like in a video game. According to German philosopher Hartmut Rosa, alienation is a direct effect of what he calls modernity’s backside; social acceleration, often experienced in a fast-paced city environment.
Nature, either designed in the form of a city park or growing freely as a forest, is commonly seen as a place of relaxation and restoration. A place of freedom if you will. The video considers what role public spaces intended for leisure hold in society, both digital and physical, such as parks or online gaming platforms. People who spend a lot of time in nature and people who spend a lot of time in fictional digital worlds are often viewed as escaping what the rest of us are living through. But is gaming really an escapism today?
In a lecture by Hito Steyerl, Why Games? Can People in the Art World Think? She describes how people have thought historically that games or forms of play are just a form of ”emancipation from the tyranny of management and labor” – a performed escapism. However, and this she points out later, games are not purposeless from either a societal or personal perspective. According to Steyerl games function as a sort of behavioral training for people because they ”present the platonic ideals of how people thought humans should act and think”. Many video games are in fact functioning the same way as labor does, you perform a task, you receive 500 points. Actions steered by scores.
PsXCare is partly made within a Playstation game called Dreams, a so-called sandbox-game where the players themselves create environments and modes to play with, compared to games that come with fully formed content. Dreams without players is nothing more than a game engine, an empty shell, so players are customers and at the same time co-creators (only unpaid).
The character in PsXCare wants to escape society, or at least has a strong longing for leaving, and becomes absorbed by a game while looking at 3D-renders on her computer of a soon to be built park in a well-funded area, longing for the simple, nature-bound life portrayed. However, she doesn’t reach the pristine nature that often defines open-world games such as extraordinary mountain views, deep forests and vast meadows, but a small piece of land comparable to a city
park. Here she performs a digital way of park maintenance, picking up trash to keep her score at a sustainable level. This can be read as an allegory of countries’ systematic outsourcing of labor, e.g. placing dirty work such as pollution-heavy industries in other countries so as to not have to deal with your own issues.
The labor-focused narration is a comment on a new type of economy, an economy that dismantles the idea that games aren’t labor. So for a long time, games have only mimicked economic systems upon which modern society is built, as described by Steyerl. While today, many games are economical systems themselves with the expansion of cryptocurrencies. One can breed imaginational creatures, sell them as tokens and via these sales pay your rent and buy your bread. A currency development that isn’t new per se, but for the first time available to anyone with an Internet connection, highlighting how the world is and has been for a long time steered by imaginational sums of money that never touches the hand.
While games themselves often take place in beautifully curated landscapes, seemingly untouched by the human hand, the servers needed to keep these worlds going are consumers of nature, dependent on natural resources to exist. So what’s going on is an extraction of the real to create the fictive, a tree for a tree?
We often talk about the digital and the physical as something separate, the video strives to narrate a reality where these concepts are naturally connected and where common ideas about what is work and what is play are being challenged.
Annie Hägg, born in Växjö, Sweden, received her Bachelor in Fine arts from Oslo National Academy of the Arts in 2021. Hägg’s work focuses on the constructed and designed aspects of modern society both from a social, economical and environmental point of view. Her practice includes storytelling as a way of articulating how characteristics of contemporary changes affect our perception of reality and emotional states, how they manifest in the mind and the body.
In her recent solo exhibition at Amaze gallery in Stockholm she exhibited the video PsXCare together with replicas of objects found in public places in the city. The use of replicas is a recurrent theme in her work, a copy-paste style that imitates a digital presentation of information. By extracting objects from their initial environment and curating them into a new context, she both highlights and alters their meaning.
Hägg’s work stretches towards multiple directions simultaneously, in accordance with her own fabricated connection and logic. These fabrications often point towards societal developments through an emotional and playful perspective, commenting on the complexity of knowledge and reality.
Header Graphics: “PsXCare” by Annie Hägg. Video Still.