Palle Torsson & Tobias Bernstrup - Meltdown Revisited: Stockholm
Andréhn-Schiptjenko proudly presents Palle Torsson & Tobias Bernstrup’s pioneering game art project Museum Meltdown from 1996-1999. This was among the first examples of artistic modification of a video game – a tradition that later was followed by other artists in the 2000s and became known as Game Art.
Now more than 20 years ago, we launched our first Museum Meltdown project at Arken, Museum of Modern Art in Ishøj outside of Copenhagen as part of the Nordic Biennial The Scream, Borealis 8. Our piece was a 3D computer game where we reconstructed the architecture of Arken by using the build editor of the game Duke Nukem 3D. The possibility for users to create their own maps, levels and graphics allowed us to realize the museum. In 1997, a second project was made with the same game engine, as part of the Exhibition Funny vs Bizarre,and we created a game version of the Contemporary Art Centre of Vilnius. Museum Meltdown became a sequel in 1999 when we did our last and most ambitious project: a reconstruction of Moderna Museet in Stockholm. When using the computer game Half-life as a base, the environments became radically more realistic. Interestingly we also saw the beginning of better AI.
On the one hand Museum Meltdown allude to an executive dream of the virtual museum but on the other hand, it represents a virtual meltdown of the museum space as it becomes a backdrop for violence and bad taste. In the spectacular architecture of the Museum Arken, the artworks are props among other visual possibilities. Like the crosshair of the game the postmodern architecture is obsessed with the surface – what matters is what catches the eye. In opposite ways, the actual museum space and the game displace the assumed autonomy of art and rather point to the inherently violent nature of institutions of taste.
As true as in 1996, technology more than ever shapes the world around us. Today, virtual environments are social tools of perception and the question of identity is manipulated at heart by algorithms. We decided to take the architecture of the museums one step further and turn the space into a violent computer game and hereby emphasize these questions.
Palle Torsson & Tobias Bernstrup
Stockholm 1996 – 2017