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 April 3, 2004 - May 1, 2004

Paul Johnson

Postmasters Gallery is pleased to announce “Score” - an exhibition of new works Paul Johnson.

New York artist Paul Johnson creates sculptural computer consoles which are autonomous networked video game systems. Although conceived as games, they cannot be played or won. Instead, these games are “self playing” via computer software. They acquire resources from one another mutually affecting their respective worlds. Without the audience interaction, the networked games generate unpredictable narratives unfolding in real time. Usually, when developing games such as these, the shared universe is consistent and synchronized. Johnson’s pieces go another direction: games from different genres are interacting with one another, combat game may be networked with household simulator, racing contest with urban puzzle of micro-management, and so on. Although information is shared between worlds, how each game understands and uses that information varies. Within each piece there is a back and forth between worlds which influence but do not see each other. In worlds which are both determined and played out by the computer, the idea of “winning” is irrelevant. Scoring is about the development of combined indexes which indicate the state of the entire piece. .

“Trauma” links a battlefield and household simulator games which participate in a common emotional universe. Battlefield trauma is overlaid on a domestic floor plan and gradually moves through it like a contagion. The “drive” of the games is toward minimum energy as trauma mounts. The games are both generators and barometers of trauma.

“Maiden Flight”, on the other hand, is concerned with construction. The client game assembles a space station, whose destruction and expansion is influenced by the metabolism of a snacking couch potato. Balanced consumption facilitates the steady growth of the space station, too much exercise destroys it by launching a volley of cruise missiles.

“Prisoner” is a multi-tiered penal simulation. Each game console occupies a place on vertically arranged platforms. Within the games, prisoners are moved from holding, isolation, and interrogation in an effort to reveal information. Different prisoners respond to different pressures. Once a story is obtained it can be checked against others. These factors are manipulated with various interventions to further open the prisoner network. Nonetheless, the very existence of the plot is never certain. Patterns emerge as discrepancies are revealed throughout the interrogation process. The pattern is endless, as is the detention, with uncertain results.

“Crossings” places two different games in the same universe. The first one is a racing game with an SUV that winds through a countryside track. The second exists in the same world but from the perspective of the wildlife. Deer populations are balanced and maintained within the forest. The first game is about achieving a good race time, the second game has the pace of a nature show. At various “deer crossings” the game worlds intersect, sometimes with tragic consequences. Simulation of animal populations are subsequently modified by race times.

“Dark Network” contains the most divergent game models in the show. It consists of two games: “Cruzaders” and “ M.” Cruzaders is a game of skateboard tricks and conquest. Characters compete for dominance through combat and skate boarding. The terrain and city of the Cruzaders world (which facilitates the range of skate board tricks) is built up, transformed, and leveled by the shifting of goods within M. M is a puzzle that is won by balancing orbiting commodities around the earth. M manages Cruzaders on a macro level. As goods are knocked from orbit to orbit, the Cruzader's tricks, terrain, and objectives change.

Finally, the exhibition includes “Budaechigae”, a collaborative video game project of Paul Johnson and Sunny Kim. “Budaechigae ” or “army soup” is a spicy dish popularized during the famine conditions of the 1950-53 Korean War. The ingredients, which include C-ration leftovers, were traditionally gleaned from the garbage outside American bases. The soup is a cultural hybrid and a marker of disparity, which evokes both sentimental feelings and disturbing memories. Kim and Johnson have each developed autonomous video game characters which function as self-portraits. Kim portrays herself as a Korean schoolgirl and Johnson as a young soldier. Without consulting one another both artists have designed the appearance, role, and behavior of their respective avatars, and the relationship between their characters evolves in time. Throughout this process, some of the control of the artist is surrendered to the game system. The changing dynamics may fundamentally alter the roles, dress, and prosperity of each avatar for better or worse.

Sunny Kim is based in Seoul. Her work explores South Korean school uniforms as image, symbol, and historical memory.
Paul Johnson’s works were most recently included in Media City Seoul 2002 in Seoul Museum of Art in South Korea, and in Future Cinema (2002-2003) in ZKM Center for Media Art in Karlsruhe, Germany later traveling to Kiasma Museum in Helsinki, Finland. He has participated in Animations shows at PS 1, New York and Kunst Werke Berlin (2002-2003), as well as Killer Instinct exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2003) and Game Scenes at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco (2004). In September 2004 Johnson will present new works at Vilette Numerique in Paris, in an exhibition Zones de Confluences, curated by Benjamin Weil.