this is a game. no really, it is 03.26.2008, 2:26 PM
posted by sebastian mary
This morning, I received an envelope through the post. It contained two chapters of a pulp murder mystery, along with an invitation to a private gathering with the same title as the booklets: Looking For Headless. The gathering will take place in an anonymous City of London complex of rooms for hire by the hour.
It feels like the rabbit hole for a promising ARG. The accompanying letter describes how Georges Bataille formed a secret society, Acéphale, in 1938. Now, in 2008, two Swedish artists have discovered a Bahamas-based offshore company named Headless, which they have been investigating for the last year. At the meeting, I presume, I and the other invitees (whoever they are) will learn more.
A key characteristic of an ARG is the convention 'This Is Not A Game'. Puppetmasters work to sustain the illusion that the game's elements are part of the 'real' world - that's a real person who emailed you, this is a real corporate website. Though players know the game is a game, there's stil a thrill at the edges: should I phone that company, is it in-game, will I just get some confused receptionist? What's real, who is complicit? But here the program is running backwards. Headless is, in fact, real. Owned by the Sovereign Trust Gibraltar. Little other information is available. Goldin+Senneby, the artist duo behind the project, state that they are interested in business as fiction, and in acts of withdrawal perpetrated through corporate structures.
ARG-like, the edge is ambiguous. The art-world jargon the artists use to discuss the project feels - perhaps deliberately - like yet another act of withdrawal. The two chapters of 'Looking for Headless' I received contain real transcripts of real detective reports, use the real names of real people, are authored by a real person - John Barlow . Though he has never met the people who commissioned him to work on this project, Barlow has scripted himself into the story. But parts of it are pure fiction. Reading the first two chapters of Looking for Headless is unnerving: which parts of this happened, and which did Barlow invent? In a story about the shadowy realm of offshore tax management, it is hard to be certain. Have the meeting's invitees, as - it is implied - the reincarnation of Acéphale - Headless - been incorporated into a game, an art project, a work of fiction, or something altogether more sinister?
Today, Barlow left for Nassau, Bahamas to continue his investigation of Headless. He'll be blogging his experiences here. It is not clear whether he will be blogging factual accounts, or embroidered ones. Or if, caught between pervasive, digitally-mediated self-narration and an emerging sphere of digital storytelling whose core insistence is that a game is not a game, we have lost the ability to tell the difference.
netwurker.mez on March 30, 2008 6:18 AM:
"/Should artists learn from ARGs ability to push genre-dimensionalities beyond the emptiness of forced sterile institutionalised [sanctioned] interactivity? Do many examples of electronic/digital/networked art encourage or epitomize such accessible seeking/searching behaviour or curiosity/blending-beyond-genre-boundaries? Does this [in part] also explain why art as a homogenised concept seems less potent [in our contemporary "globalised" mercurial/mismashed/colonised/hegemonic society] as a potential cultural modifier/constructor? The source point of interactivity is the imagination - is this growing trend of micro-economic assessment of our most basic cultural construction elements [ie imagination] reducing our ability to create artistic output that has corresponding contemporary relevancy equal to those products [ie games] that push a consumerist agenda? Does this in part explain why art seems so marginalised/undervalued in our contemporary setting and anything considered a consumerist artifact [ie games] isn't? Could ARGs be illuminative here in terms of treading that line between art-reification + established information/data/genre enmeshment?"
broesel on July 10, 2008 2:38 AM:
I would only like to know: did you find out - do you know anything new about it - is it an ARG? Thank you!