Today’s Creator feature on Paul B. Davis has got us all nostalgic for the days of 8-bit video game classics like Atari, Pac Man and Super Mario Bros. Artists like Davis have been hacking video games and gaming consoles to make art and music for years now, but even though the grainy, pixelated style is oh-so-retro, there’s something distinctly fresh and new about their updated takes on the familiar graphics and soundtracks of yesteryear (and it’s got everyone from Kanye to the Museum of Modern Art taking notice).
We decided to do a round-up of some of our favorite 8-bit inspired artists and projects. While the assortment of works below has got us yearning for our old Gameboy, we also gotta admit, Nintendo never looked or sounded quite this good:
Super Mario Clouds – Cory Arcangel
Arcangel is one of the best-known and most highly regarded artists of this genre and an early collaborator of Davis’s (in 1998 they founded BEIGE, a programming ensemble together). His piece Super Mario Clouds (above) is his most famous work and features a Super Mario cartridge where everything but the clouds has been erased.
MY DESK IS 8-BIT – Alex Varanese
Ok, so we’re not sure if this video is actually coded or if it’s purely a stop-motion animation composition, but we think that’s kind of the point Varanese was trying to make. Citing both the innovative French director Michel Gondry and the iconic 1980s space-fighter shoot-em-up game R-Type as his influences, Varenese arrives at a style that seamlessly incorporates both.
8-bit City – Brett Camper
This lo-fi web map of New York City is the first in a series of 8-bit inspired city maps from Camper, who recently crowd-funded his project through Kickstarter. Using data from sources like OpenStreetMap, Campter merges the aesthetics of 1980s role-playing and adventure games with today’s GPS technology to create an interactive, Google Maps-like web map that lets you zoom from an aerial view of the city down to street-level anywhere in NYC.
Super Mario Bros. – Andreas Heikaus
Recent college-grad Andreas Heikaus created this CG animated Super Mario Bros. video for his final thesis at the University for Applied Science and Art in Hanover. Heikaus writes that he was inspired by the desire to release the Super Mario game from the limitations of the TV or game console screens and merge it with a new, interactive environment. The result is a work that feels part 8-bit, part street-art. It’s got us all in a frenzy!
Game Glitch Gifs – Max Capacity
We spotted these animated gifs of video game glitches on the Rhizome blog this morning and were instantly charmed by their seizure-inducing commemorations of code gone wrong. I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love to spot a major FAIL and then rub it in the manufacturer’s face by turning it into an art project? Props to you, Max Capacity.
Bit-Pilot – Zach Gage
Lest you think that 8-bit art is relegated only to computer screens and live performance, here’s a game from Zach Gage for your iPhone. Dodge lasers and asteroids in an effort to keep your bit pilot alive to the wonderous chiptunes of Sabrepulse. Seriously, the soundtrack alone is worth your 99 cents.
The Thrill of Combat – Mark Essen
You’ve already met Mark Essen from his Creators Project feature, but in case you missed the memo, this guy is the jam. Essen has been making his own games since high school (which wasn’t all that long ago, he’s only 24) and since then, his play-able video games have been featured in art museums and galleries all over the world. Some of you lucky ones may even get to take a crack at Essen’s “The Thrill of Combat” game at one of our multi-city launch events.
Pixels – Patrick Jean
Chances are you’ve already seen Patrick Jean’s epic Pixels stop-motion short — you know, the one where 8-bit icons from the ‘80s are attacking New York City. The video quickly became an internet sensation after it was posted on YouTube by OneMoreProductions a few months ago. And what’s not to love? Donkey Kong is throwing barrels off the Empire State building, crashing cabs and turning them into a pixel explosion, skyscrapers become Tetris pieces and PacMan eats the NYC Subway map. You can also catch a screening of Jean’s pixelated masterpiece at our upcoming London event.