Cynical disappointment. That would have been my judge-jury-and-executioner immediate reaction to IndieCade 2014. Sweltering under the intense sun having brought an unprecedented drought on California, swimming in the midst of the initial shitstorm that was Ye Olde Gayte Of Gamyr, my eyes, my camera darted along the lines, around all of the tents with signs everywhere for PlayStation this and Nintendo that, random sponsors trying to sell me wireless internet service. But that’s one of the glories of art - you don’t have to crutch on your initial reading; in fact, one of the primary modes that was hammered in to me by the older artists I studied with (such as the infamous Post-Studio class with Michael Asher at CalArts) was that you need to play out your impressions, and keep going and going until you find, hours, days, years, later that you have stopped, exhausted. Many times your glance around and you find yourself in the opposite camp; or a new [mental] landscape altogether. In fact, you’ll often find that the process of digging past your preconditions on art changes your outlook going forward.
So, despite my initial grumbles, I closed my eyes, cleaned my sunglasses, and scanned again past the asphalt vista. Into this curious blend of corporate celebration and ernest endeavor, I decided to use my camera to pry at the perceived facade. How could I do that? Well, I’ve been digging deep into Ed Rushca’s photo books so I decided that instead of relying solely on my clearly biased editorial judgement, that it would be fascinating to be as flat-footed as possible and photograph every tent (and every space between tents) in the main event area.
Not to overly bias what you might find in the matrix of photos, but the longer I looked the more that here and there poked up little, barely-labeled tents that held multifaceted realities. Here was a world of worlds, worlds of gaps, a worlds of dissonance, of investigation in progress. This space, so ill-suited to games at first glance, under increased engagement held a phenomenal amount of rolled-up time. The idea opt rolled-up time is a strange but apt term used in some communities to describe the strange phenomenon of time that expands in a different scale than the actual watch hand, as in novels that span years but take hours to read, or in Zen meditation, which is where the term comes from, referring to the meditation mat that was rolled up and carried around. There were so many amazing games, and even more amazing people, that each one of those little tents held a universe of wonders packed away and away and away from an initial glance. And in a way, that's sort of a metaphor for art - it's the journeys along the weaving, small, quiet, strange trails followed deep in to the shadow realms that tend to stick with you, long after the rising ramparts and slick-same wares of overly-processed companies have grown hollow.
Once the endorphins of gazing across the scintillating vistas of the video game underground flushed out of my system, once I had photographed every tent and gap in the event area, the blistering sun raked across my eyes and I also started to feel quite alienated. Not by anything that anyone did - I was welcomed by all the enthusiastic crowd - but simply because this was a world where I wasn’t a born national. It’s hard to describe - I would almost even say it was that tinge of jealousy that comes with meeting someone who has insider’s knowledge: I would feel just as out of place, if still as fascinated, if I went to a micro-zoology conference, or a Shakespearian sonnet convention. Additionally, my sense of awkwardness was field by the fact the whole damn event takes place in a large public square in my town, a place populated by trendy bars, fancy restaurants, all down the street from the Sony Pictures lot (and right next door to the old hotel where the midgets from Wizard of Oz had orgies while shooting that film, for a strange piece of trivia you probably didn't want to know). So, rather than try to quash this nigh-paranoid sense, I doubled down and tried to remain fascinated by this inside/outside relationship - how I had in the course of a 33 year life accidentally stumbled in to a position where I was somewhat inside and somewhat outside of one of the most exciting media movements in our lifetime - fascinated by how each side of myself perceived the other and how that dynamic might actually be a direct expression of how this encampment represented the strange Balkanized cultural-media world we live in.
Navigating the relationship between the burgeoning video game underground and the global fine art world has been a preoccupation of mine - and this disorienting sense of floating both inside and out at once - of a media-geography-wavering for multiple views - was there, trying to tell me how to express some of this. It’s easy to get angsty when faced with the limitations of your own perception, but it can also be exhilarating. To keep this balance, I decided to augment the task of photographing everything from the inside, looking outward (the participants view) by tucking my badge away for a movement, moving a handful of feet outside the gate and swinging along a similar counter-clockwise motion, photographing around the outer ring, facing in, from the same place that someone interrupted from ambling along to the local grocery store would have to now walk.
Having gotten sun-burnt and collected more interesting business cards peering over laptops, I had been cued in by numerous participants that I needed to come back for the night games NightGames event, which is where IndieCade feature the more art-oriented content in a semi-rave/Burning Man inspired menagerie of light, sound and installation. It was quite the opposite of the day - in this case it was the fringes that grew to prominence - a wild swirl of chaos, bumping, jostling and glowing people wandering between the installations and performances. From the outside, you could just see brief, inexplicable fragments of people wearing VR goggles, projections, wild costumes, tents that glowed with stars from the inside. So I did the same operation, just as flat-footed, photographing each tent (mostly unused, aside from the occasional new couple making out, as the night event took place mostly in the open areas) from the inside and out, but trying with wild (deliberate) lack of success to hand hold the camera late at night with throngs of people swarming around. I believe that there is a deep psychological difference between daytime enactment and nighttime engagement - the harsh glare of desert light and corpuscular diffusion.
While this might not be the most objective vision of the oasis that is IndieCade, perhaps it can be serve as a multifaceted reminder that inside and out; daytime and night; these formal structures of human life dictate a vast amount of the character of human life. My initial impressions long since burned away by the sun and screens, swirl ever onward, recombining and reconstituting constellations of possibility. The photographs still throw surpassing combinations and details at me in a perpetual reminder to slow down, to look longer, to understand that the perspective with which I view now is but fleeting.