Summer is back in Basel.

We stand in a bikini in a ripe cornfield, the sun kisses the horizon, butterflies tumble over the ears of wheat, and a little further away a satyr is leaning against a tree.

The horned one plays the lute and follows us with his gaze.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that we are an orc.

In the high fantasy genre, orcs are stereotypically rough fellows with green or black skin who dedicate their existence to combat and are often instrumentalized by a sinister force.

But the muscular specimen that represents us is fair-skinned and equipped with large breasts and a gender that is clearly indicated by the bikini bottom.

In addition to its trans identity, which is rare in the genre, it has something that is hardly associated with orcs: leisure.

Axel Weidemann

Editor in the features section.

  • Follow I follow

Museum visitors also need them if they want to immerse themselves in the worlds and works of art that the House of Electronic Arts (HEK) in Basel is showing in its “Radical Gaming” exhibition.

Fifteen international game art artists present ideas in their works that are often lost in the discourse about commercial video games because potential buyers and publishers are not allowed to act outside the unspoken rules of the mass market - no politics, no explicit sexuality, not too much drugs should be very frightening.

It's different in Basel. This is not only represented by the aforementioned work “Pastoral” by Theo Triantafyllidis, who brushes the genre of fantasy role-playing games against the grain. Works that are exhibited here don't just want to frighten you. They ask the visitor to think about what it means for art to be able to interact with it without changing it. Or do you do that by moving a figure on a picture (screen), changing the perspective? Also: Is there a kind of feedback via the control interface, which in turn affects our perspective? The overriding question is to what extent video games are really suitable for encountering ourselves or for making other roles and identities tangible. Or whether they primarily serve to act out any kind of power fantasies,who have little to do with the world we live in, but who entertain us brilliantly.

The problem and at the same time exciting thing about game art exhibitions is the question: Does the work of art work at all, that is, does the technology work? And: does the end of the game work? In Miyö Van Stenis' "Eroticissima", the visitor with a VR headset goes into a "protected room" in which he or she can try out various erotic orientations and practices with an avatar whose gender and skin color can be freely selected. This is not new - there has long been a (male) market for virtual adult games - but it is interesting. Actually, two people under VR headsets should get closer and try out new body possibilities in the small, dark chamber, which is marked with an age indicator, “from 16 years”. You touch each other virtually. If nobody wants to play with you, you can do it solo.But as soon as one has orientated oneself reasonably, has become familiar with the controls and one of the virtual mannequins that wait there in uncomfortable, provocative poses strapped for devices, starts to feel perplexed. Maybe also shyness. Where do you start now? Is someone watching? Trial term, wrong button, bang, if you are several meters away again, you have to approach again.

Another problem with virtual reality is that our motion sensors do not receive any stimuli that correspond to what we see. So-called motion sickness occurs, a virtual seasickness. Then the pleasure is quickly over. Even if you have managed to get close enough, it can happen that the bare virtual arms do not match the movements of the controls or that a hand suddenly bends inward in an unhealthy way, flickering as if it were afraid to touch it. Is that part of the work of art or is it a mistake? The curator Boris Magrini says that Van Stenis programmed until shortly before the opening of the exhibition, when one or the other “glitch” could appear. In game art, these mistakes are forgivable,also because they hold a certain element of surprise. Nothing is established here, a lot is experiment.

Keywords: fellows, video games, exhibition, visitor, horned one, sensuality, house, gender, house of electronic arts, tears, addition, specimen, high fantasy genre, mistake, basel