Limbo

‘Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters Limbo

 Darkness, terror, isolation and tenaciousness, these are some of the traits present in Playdead’s atmospheric platform adventure Limbo.

 A contour of what seems to be an unconscious child lays lifeless, its form fused with the silhouetted landscape, the stillness is broken when the game is interacted with. A confirmation of life comes from two vacant white spots for eyes, glowing amongst the darkened surroundings.

 

Limbo Game

Without an introductory animatic, one is immediately immersed in the game, with no precursors or guidance we are forced to proceed onwards. There is a clear reservation regarding the boy’s ambition until later in the game, raising questions about why the boy is there and where he is going.

Unlike other games, at no point does Limbo introduce the controls or objectives, it unifies the ignorance of the characters objective with the unfamiliarity of the player. This introduction sets the tone for the entire game, presenting the ambience and the vignette viewing screen through which we control the child’s movement.

The name of the ‘boy’is never mentioned, much alike the characters in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, preserving the anonymity of the characters throughout the novel; I’ve found that having nameless characters is an alluring feature in any game or work, it forces the viewer to take consideration of the context in which the characters are placed. This is imperative to the sophistication of Limbo’s storyline, given that it is incredibly bleak and minimal, the immersion the viewer has with the game is drawn on the journey, forcing a relationship to manifest with a very distanced and vacant being.

One notable attribute of the game is the bleak landscape, and the way that the boy must traverse it. The challenges present themselves when one must distinguish the threats from the safe routes, in order to progress onward. When presented with a spike pit or trap, the repetition of failure presents the solution which allows for progression, as the developer stated the ‘trial and death’technique is inexorable and part of the games mechanic. Admittedly, I’ve been compelled to abandon the game on a few occasions, certain puzzles in the game were a little arduous at times.

Limbo Game

The desolate and noir landscape, with its harsh grain and distanced vistas is paired with an equally disturbing monotone soundtrack. The tension intensifies and the sound distorts when in close proximity with any other being. The use of harsh brazen sounds is complimented with a drone that is perpetually present throughout the development of the chapters. It’s almost as if it follows the boy through his cumbersome struggle for progress.

The latency of the tension is something to be admired, it seems appropriate for the horror element of the game to manifest sporadically; the first encounter with any being is with an unnaturally massive arachnid, which is only threatening when in near proximity. This notion of threat often comes from dangerous objects such as oversized hacksaws or bear traps.

On occasion, the game managed to make me jump, mostly from the abruptness and the harshness of the death animations, primarily from the exaggerated and accentuated sounds.

The aesthetics of the game are the most striking of its features, bringing focus to the developers style, redeeming the fact that the gameplay is relatively slow in some areas.

Publicly, the game has received strong praise with undertones of criticism, mostly down to the streamlined yet monotone nature of the gameplay. Most of the attention has been evoked from its aesthetic presentation and purely visual plot, supported by the immersive atmosphere and haunting ambience.

If you want a lengthy, aesthetically pleasing, artistic platform game, Limbo is the one to get.

Limbo is available to download for Xbox, Ps3, iOS and Android.

Monument Valley

Having being born in the 90s I can safely say I’ve experienced the most exciting development in gaming. My first gaming platform was the Gameboy Colour, which was bought by my Father on our holiday in Majorca at the cusp of the millennium, along with the original Pokémon Red game and one or two 15-in-one games. Owning a Gameboy at the time was the most fashionable thing a kid could own, alongside any of the new gaming platforms such as a PS1.

The gaming world has moved quick and fast since then and with the introduction of Apps in the late 2000s, gaming has been revolutionized by this accessible platform. Anyone who owns a relatively decent smartphone or tablet can choose from literally thousands of free or affordable games. One game that I chose in particular was Monument Valley, a game that won the 2014 Apple Design Awards, developed by Ustwogames. The game is available on iOS for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android and Amazon.

 Most app-based games have relatively simple fundamentals, such as a progressive story or addictive gameplay. Monument Valley has digressed from this basic tradition to offer a more mature and artistic stance on gaming.

Upon opening the game you are welcomed by an art-deco frame surrounding the words ‘Monument Valley – ustwo’, followed by the title screen. The level select screen is an interactive podium as such, that rotates in ascending order in accordance to your progression, marked by roman numerals (I – X).

Monument Valley art

My curiosity drew me to rotate this podium. On rotating the form I was immediately presented with a soft strum of a stringed instrument, only to discover that the tempo of the sounds changed in relation to the movement of the structure. This early interaction with the object set an expectation of what was to come.

The first level introduces the player to the two most simple yet fundamental movements ‘tap the path to move Ida’ and ‘hold to move’ (one can assume from this that the protagonist is named Ida). This instruction would be the only one of the entire game. Never before have I played a game of such beauty and such simplicity, in so much as it has a subtle introduction to the controls of the game.

The most immediate quality of the game is the simplicity of the illusionistic landscape Ida has to navigate. From moving a path to create another with a lever, the ‘infinite triangle’ object manifests itself in the terrain, defying traditional physical restrictions. The premise of utilising the surreal and illusionistic landscape is apparent throughout the game, only to become more stunningly complex whilst preserving its visual simplicity.

Chapter II entitled ‘The Garden’ introduces the first hint at a storyline with ‘Ida embarks on a quest for forgiveness’, setting the mysterious tone for the game. This early chapter gives a taste for the symmetrical layout that creates the ‘impossible’ quality of the architecture.

Ida is drawn to a tile that activates a shift in the terrain. As a plinth rises, an implausibleconnection is made to the upper tier of the map, demonstrating the intricacy of the design and the consideration for perspective as well as introducing the puzzle element of the game.

For me, the most exciting feature of the game is the minimalistic design of the architecture, and the interpretation of MC Escher’s Relativity. The ongoing visual theme echoes the gravity defying qualities of Escher’s work, drawing on the surreal existence of the characters and their interaction with the illusionistic environment; in this case we are presented with Ida. The smooth and seamless transitioning between each environment maintains the beauty of the game and allows the gamer to enjoy the artistic qualities of the design.Monument Valley

In later chapters of the game, it goes on to tell short stories revealing more about Ida’s character. The game also consistently pushes the boundaries of aesthetic design with it’s depthless confines, complex structure and illusory formations seemingly impressing you that little bit more as the game goes on.

Monument Valley is one of the most immersive and strikingly beautiful games I have played on any platform. The combination of soft aesthetically pleasing landscapes, architecture and ambience paired with simple yet captivating game play presents an impressive combination that should be explored, whether you game for entertainment or to pass the time.

Edafu Colli – Threading Loss

Natalie Kate Lloyd presents a live performance that directs the viewer through a sculptural and photographic cartography, exploring the experiential memory of natural landscapes‘.

Edafu Colli is an installation performance created by Natalie Kate Lloyd as part of her degree at the University of Brighton. The installation both echoes and references her experience with the natural landscape and the memories of it through the manipulation of the space and the presentation of reflective imagery, object and movement.

The term ‘Edafu Colli’ is a Welsh term that can be translated as ‘threading loss’. The title is referencing the physical connective threading between the images and objects placed within the space, Lloyds choreographed activity, and the strict directive movements performed.

Edafu Colli

Natalie Kate Lloyd

Objectively, the installation contains images of local or visited landscapes that Lloyd has sentimental connections with. Certain visual works contain layered visual representations of the threading, but are overpowered slightly by the scale of the supporting installation. Supporting this is a large wooden frame constructed to interrupt the white space in which the installation is placed; behind the bars of wood is an upturned tree root, twined with the surrounding frame. This acted as a subtle visual reference to a found object of similar quality as seen in a previous documentation of the work - the object being driftwood.

On earlier inspection, I was able to investigate the space pre-performance in order to familiarise myself with the images and to embrace the installation as an artwork. This privilege is shared with any viewing member of the public as the installation is open as a space both pre and post performance. From this, I was able to inspect the smaller supporting images pertinent to the subject; the images are documentary representations of the visited landscapes, positioned in a way that the smaller images are threaded with larger more prominent memories. Small details such as the composition and the placement of the images could have been revisited in a way so there is a subtle refining, in order to preserve the installations objective qualities and its visual coherence. Exploring a darkened space as opposed to a naturally illuminated room would be a potentially beneficial inquisition.

The most immediate stimulus is the collection of slate fragments on the floor adjacent to the door; signs of human interaction are evident in the marks left from previous interactions.

As the performance is prepared, the usher greets the audience into the room. The viewer is immediately confronted by Lloyd, who is leaning with support from a black loop of thick material, which is attached to the wall out of direct eyesight, her weight supported in faith by this cord.

Her orientation is relatively imposing, in relation to the expanse of the room, forcing the viewer to make a decision – whether to stand near her from the front, or to traverse beyond her and view her movement from a different standpoint. This decision can alter not just the visual perspective but the experiential perspective the viewer is presented. The slow directional movement from left to right conveys a narrative that visually leads the viewer, and also draws attention to the strategically placed images, echoing the subject matter and becoming an extension of the work through the tension of the cord and the chronological movement through the room.

On first viewing I felt compelled to view her from a distance, as she interacted with the loose slate, to allow for the flow to describe the narrative she intended and to also broaden my view of the peripheral content.

Her gradual movements of interaction with the slate bare connotations that demonstrate a revisiting of physicality of the memory, whilst literally battling with the tension of the cord and the precariousness forced by the fragmented slate.

The transitions from one movement to another are executed pristinely; a lack of fluidity would drain the viewers’ focus from the objects to the performers fallibility. Lloyd’s transitions are subtle, but all are appropriate when drawing the focus of the viewer to the supporting stimulus. The performance encapsulates Lloyd’s intentions very clearly, to draw attention to the memories that are displayed as photographs, and to draw the viewer through the installation through her clockwise movement.

On second viewing, there was a more substantial audience, which proved to offer a different perspective for my viewing and also the viewing audience. The attendees impulsively crouched underneath Lloyd’s taut cord and immediately viewed the work from a reverse perspective, this as stated before would provoke a contrasting perspective on the performance, which isn’t necessarily inhibited by the presence of the performer. I personally found that following the chronology presented in the installation allowed for the narrative to build, as Lloyd intended.

The climatic stage of the performance includes Lloyd drawing herself near the proximal point of her cord, controlling every movement with strict attention, and detaching from the support. Then she takes a hammer and begins attaching a pre set image of the previous take of the performance to the wall with attentive precision. The solidification of the final images’ symbolism resonates through the entire performance, offering a progression towards a conclusive ending.

Lloyd’s personal development is focused on refining her attention to detail, both the objective details and impactful qualities of her motions. This is naturally achieved through her involvement in the performance.

The subtleties of her work accumulatively substantiate the installation, where her interaction with the space finalises the entire work.

Phyllida Barlow: Dock

Phyllida Barlow: Dock

Phyllida Barlow’s current work ‘Dock’ is part of a commission for Tate Britain supported by Sotheby’s.
Having seen Barlow’s ‘RIG’exhibition in Hauser and Wirth in late 2011, I had some incline as to what was to be expected before entering Tate Britain; I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Similarly to ‘RIG’, this show demonstrates Barlow’s successful idiosyncratic style on an even larger scale than previously.

Upon entering the Duveen Galleries (the largest open space in Tate Britain), the viewer is immediately confronted with the scale of the imposing structures; the wooden frames tower overhead as they envelop the surrounding space, occupying the usually vast expanse of the gallery. The protruding struts and lattices provide a path in which to traverse further into the complex, enticing the viewer to explore and investigate the space.

A previous commission by Fiona Banner also demonstrated the way large works occupy the space; Harrier and Jaguar was a work that consisted of two fighter jets, one on it’s back and one hanging from the Duveen Gallery ceiling.

The sheer scale is immediate, as is the presence of the massive hanging objects; the massive tube structure is suspended with industrial cord, tied haphazardly around one of the higher struts, regardless of the apparent casualness of it’s application, the forms are solid and far from being precarious.phyllida barlow

 

The verticality and situation of the work encourages the viewer to observe the space in which the work is situated, and to also traverse the gallery through and around the work.

An affinity with architecture and sculpture is formed through the way the structures swallow the space they fill, and secondly how the protrusions extend the current space; the forming of a new synthetic space allows viewers to investigate the internal and external structure of the objects.

Aside from this affinity, a more stark contrast between the pristine architecture and the invasive harshness of the structures becomes apparent, drawing even more attention to the casualness of the materials in conjunction to the quality of the Galleries. Furthermore, the tactility of the works becomes manifest, the intricacy of the surface detail draws the viewers to near the works and appreciate the surfaces. Ultimately the work bares qualities that draws attention to the minute detail and the sheer scale of it’s form.

On closer inspection, the harshness of the execution and the manipulation of the materials becomes a primary curiosity, a privilege offered through the situation of the objects and the enticing nature of the forms. On occasion the height of the work inhibits further investigation, Barlow’s work is concerned with the human interaction with materials therefore the viewer is forced to interact with the work, one feels compelled to investigate the surface. After this I certainly felt compelled to touch the works.

The materials battle with their common fragilities through their integration with stronger more stern materials; polystyrene and cement, chord and wood, cardboard and so on are materials unified with solidity and rigidity. Phyllida’s work to me has always given the illusion of weight and mass, yet with enough observation the integrity is revealed to consist of more flexible materials, thus demonstrating her considered interaction with the materials.

Context is important, especially the physical context in which the objects are placed. The contrast of its situ was more overwhelming in ‘RIG’, due to the immediacy of the placement of the work (as it was adjacent to the entrance) and through the way the structures interacted with the unconventional space; ‘Dock’ consists of primarily object based sculptures rather than architectural extensions (although they are still present) or interventions.

Ultimately, ‘Dock’ is an impactful commission that encapsulates Barlow’s achievements and successes, and is certainly worth experiencing.

United Visual Artist – Monument

Momentum by United Visual Artist is a site-specific installation that is meticulously integrated with the architecture of the Curve art space in the Barbican.

Before the viewer even enters the Curve, there is a faint haze induced by smoke emitted from in between the gaps of the curtains, which hints at the environment beyond. The Barbican staff describes the environment and encourages photography, but without flash, implying that the experience is more of an impact without any additional light.

Upon entering, the dense smog inhibits any vision of the room, drawing attention to the revolving pendulous mechanisms hung from the ceiling; the haze gives the space an almost ethereal quality. Initially, it is difficult to see anything prior to ones eyes adjusting to the light, but as the viewer crosses through the smoke, the lights illuminate the Curve to reveal its architecture.

Complex distorted sounds resonate throughout the space with subtle yet noticeable impact. The sounds themselves that are emitted are at times incoherent and dissonant; they consist primarily of scratches, clicks, wavelike ambient sounds and distant singing, which are peculiar to each strut.

FMG Arts Monthly

 

 

The impact of the resonant sound is instant and as the sound fills the room, one is immediately aware of the space in which the work inhabits; curiosity entices the viewer to be inquisitive despite the fact the pitch black prevents any vision of the space.

The spacial awareness of the viewer is stimulated as the spotlight loop freezes and a brief pause of silence in darkness holds the viewer in temporary suspense, allowing for a brief meditation. Following this, the ring of lights perform a cyclical motion that illuminates the walls of the Curve, drawing attention to the space and surroundings, diverting the viewers attention to the space through the illumination of the architecture.

The spotlights allude to the absence of the body, yet within this, it is countered by the enticing of the viewer to become immersed or even involved; they allow for the transition to the ring of lights to exist as a divergent entity, yet they are bound by an aesthetic and systematic coherence.

Ultimately the transition of one illuminative emission to the next is pivotal to the impact of the work. The interlude is what presents the viewer with a moment for lucid consideration and to also allow for the next transition to be systematically coherent.

A synthesis of ambience and kinesis is demonstrated with a captivating display of ingenuity in Momentum. The engagement with the work is formed from the coherent formulation of light and sound, drawing attention to the viewer’s presence in the space and comparatively the illumination of the architecture itself.

The durational loop is tuned in a way that the viewer is compelled to become committed to the experience; with a fluctuation between linear and circular performances and a brief moment of silence, the work captivates to a point that time becomes a distant concern and immersion seems perpetual.

Having experienced the work on a few occasions, becoming entranced with the work was a consistent privilege, so much so I’d realised that half an hour had passed after leaving on both visits.

 

United Visual Artist – Momentum 

Barbican Curve Gallery 

Silk Street 

London EC2Y 8DS

Written By Stefan Rhys Evans