Artists Pulls 9/11 Invader Exhibit from Games Convention

Illustration for article titled Artists Pulls 9/11 Invader Exhibit from Games Convention

Artist Douglas Stanley has asked the organizers of the Leipzig Games Convention to "simply turn off" his art installation, which features a mash-up of the attack on the World Trade Center and Space Invaders, at the show. On his website Stanley says simply that he's given the group permission to turn off the exhibit, and then hours later writes that a statement on his website can be considered his official reason for taking down the display. Stanley also mentions on his site that he has received death threats since his exhibit first appeared on Kotaku and then in national and international press. The decision comes the day Taito said they may be seeking legal action against the artist.

"After three days of a steady downward spiral in public discussion of the piece, I have just given my agreement to the organizers of the Leipzig Games Convention to simply turn off the installation Invaders! While I realize the dangerous precedent of allowing the lowest common denominator dictate what is and is not a valid form of expression, unfortunately the current tone has totally obfuscated the original aims of the piece. While I take full responsibility for the uncomfortable ambiguity of certain aspects of this work, it was never created to merely provoke controversy for controversy's sake, and unfortunately, this is what the piece has now become. The American response to this work has been, frankly, immature, and lacking the sophistication and consideration that other parts of the world have so far shown the work. Contrary to previous reports, I am an American, and it saddens me that we as a people remain so profoundly unable to process this event outside of some obscure, but tacitly understood, criteria of purely anesthetized artistic representation. Due to these profound misunderstandings, I simply feel that from an artistic point of view, the work has lost the ability to have any valuable impact, poetic or otherwise. I have not been pressured by the Leipziger Messe, nor by the Computerspiele Museum in this decision - to the contrary, they have offered their support in defending the right of artists to speak freely, and in whatever context they may choose."


While I don't get exactly what Stanley was going for, I didn't have a chance to interact with the exhibit. Mike McWhertor, who did play through a chunk of the game, called it an unsettling exhibit that delivered a complex message with simple means. I'm not sure where I stand on the piece itself, but I do feel strongly that art, no matter how seemingly crass or insensitive, should be protected. Games Convention officials were unavailable at press time, but we will update the site if and when we can get a response. ++30 Years of Invasions! [Abstract Machine]



@tim333: I don't think I was arguing with you specifically - I just saw the word "intent" somewhere in your post and that always sets me off. Plus, I am a little drunk.

But this gives me an excuse to add something I forgot, which is just that good artists always consider their audience. What's the point in making something for yourself? That's not art, that's masturbation. Some aspiring "artists" do this intentionally, thinking that art is all about doing what you want without regard to society. But that's not art. Art that's not consumed, enjoyed or reacted to by others may as well not exist. Don't even waste your time. So you have to consider your audience. Maybe your audience is a tiny little niche of people who think exactly like you; that's fine. But this was an art piece at a large game convention; that was the intended audience.

Given all that, the idea that an audience could ever really be at fault in their reaction to an art piece is kind of offensive. I'm not saying that negative reactions to art among the general public are always justified. Again, this was an art piece at a game convention, and it's gamers that are the ones offended. It's the very audience he's displaying it for. He should have considered what that audience's reaction might have been; he should have expected it.

Someone once said "great art isn't giving people what they want, it's giving people something they didn't know they wanted." So it's maybe the height of great art to confound audience expectations in a positive way. But that's not what this piece did, or even tried to do. It was simply this artist trying to express a point to himself, badly, and then reacting like a child when the audience he hadn't even considered doesn't like it. That is not art.

There are ways 9/11 can be dealt with in art, even now. This was not one of them.