Aram Bartholl has a habit of bringing the most recognizable things from our virtual worlds into reality. He created the first-person shooter glasses. He installed replicas of Need for Speed Underground 2's flashing neon arrows and Counter-Strike's crates in public spaces. Now he wants to construct one of the world's most played multiplayer maps, "de_dust" in the real world—at actual size.
Aram Bartholl's video game projects have typically been of a smaller scale. He's built recreations of weapons from World of Warcraft and sculpted versions of the floating nicknames that display above a player's head in that online game.
He's gone bigger, though, with "Map" his replica of the Google Maps pin icon.
Bartholl's goal for Dust is to build a one-to-one scale replica made of unpainted concrete, measuring 115 x 110 x 15 meters (377" by 360" and nearly 50" tall). The Berlin-based artist has filed a proposal with the Rhizome Commissions Program seeking a grant to aid in the construction of Dust, "making this map accessible as a large scale public sculpture."
Part art piece, part museum, Bartholl argues that his Dust project "will represent a petrified moment of cultural game space heritage."
That grant money would pay for research, creation of small scale models and promotion of the construction of Dust. The actual cost of creating a real world copy of Dust that we could walk around in? Well, that will require much more than the $5500 Bartholl is seeking.
Why rebuild a video game map in the real world? Here is a portion of Bartholl's argument for Dust.
Computer games differ from other mediums such as books, movies or TV, in that spatial cognition is a crucial aspect in computer games. To win a game the player needs to know the 3D game space very very well. Spatial recognition and remembrance is an important part of our human capability and has formed over millions of years by evolution. A place, house or space inscribes itself in our spatial memory. We can talk about the qualities of the same movies we watched or books we have read. But millions of gamers experienced the same worlds in computer games. They all remember very well the spaces that they've spent a great deal of time in.
Computer game architecture and game maps have become a new and yet undiscovered form of cultural heritage. How many people in the world have seen the real Time Square, the Kaaba in Mecca or the Tiananmen Square with their own eyes? Millions of players share the experience of the same computer games and 3D spaces they have ‘lived' in for a significant amount of time in their lives.
A computer game map like ‘de_dust' appears to be more real than many other places in the world such as artificially constructed places like supermarkets, airports or cities like Dubai. Unlike current computer games (with their endless worlds and terrains), game spaces of the 1990's were still limited in size due to graphic card and processor power limitations. A respectively small and simple map like ‘de_dust' offered a high density of team play with repetitive endless variations.
Dust, one of Counter-Strike's most popular maps, was first released in 1999 by level designer Dave Johnston. No word yet on when or where the real-life version of Dust might show up.
Dust [Rhizome - thanks, Riley!]