In this interview, Victor Morales explains why video games can activate our deepest feelings and why game engines are the equivalent of brush and painting.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Victor Morales received a Law Degree from Universidad Catolica Andres Bello in 1990. In 1992, Morales completed a Master’s degree in Technology Applied to the Arts at New York University’s Gallatin Division. He spent more than a decade in New York City. Since 2003, Morales, “has been obsessed with the art of video game modifications and has implemented different game engines into most of the works he has participated in or created.” His performances with game engines (in particular, the CryEngine) have consistently challenged the nature of simulation. Morales has performed a number of solo shows in art galleries, festivals, and events, including Performance Space 122, The Little Theater in New York City, The Collapsable Hole in Brooklyn, and Gessner Allee in Zürich, Theater Freiburg, and The Hau in Berlin, where he now lives and works.
Matteo Bittanti: Can you describe the process behind the 30 seconds or more series in general and City Stroll in particular?
Victor Morales: In the 30 seconds or more series, my goal was to push the envelope as much as I could, so I decided to make an animation a day for an entire month month using exclusively the CryEngine. I followed just one rule: each video had to be longer than a regular TV commercial. There was another prerequisite: I wanted each piece to be sound-reactive and I used outstanding music produced by Norwegian artist Pal Asle Petersen. So in almost all of the pieces there is an audio-reactive element, sometimes obvious, sometimes not so evident. City Stroll was for me a contemplation of an urban environment, always moving, made of straight lines, bright colors, and particle systems.
Victor Morales, eva, 2016, 4' 06". Experimental sleepy video Music by Pal Asle Petersen and voice by Jessica Weinstein, with a little treatment
Matteo Bittanti: TRAVELOGUE focuses on the notion of driving - real and imagined, represented and simulated, utopian and apocalyptic. What is your relationship to cars and car culture? Do you drive, and if so, what do you see through your windshield?
Victor Morales: To drive is to be in your own cocoon, where you can control the soundtrack if you are alone or have the deepest conversation you can imagine as you make eye contact through the landscape... Moving on wheels at fast speed offers a kind of pleasure, a bizarre pleasure, a peculiar mix of power and comfort as you move through different scenarios... Each trip is a story.
Victor Morales, 7bt8, 2015. 01' 27". Beat by Miguel Toro.
Matteo Bittanti: You use game engines as a painter uses the brush and paint. What is the potential - but also the biggest limitation - of working with this medium, i.e. game engines?
Victor Morales: Like painting, video games could awaken deep emotions and psychological dynamics hidden within our personal and collective selves. The biggest limitation of a game engine lies in its operational complexity. Like Francis Bacon's wish, I wish I could just grab a hand full of paint and throw it on the canvas and make a piece with one move.
Victor Morales, Fell so Free, 2014, 01' 56"
"Yet another flying dream. I was doing some cutting of some GTA V old footage i never used... and funnily enough this sequence matched nicely with Johnny Colon, without any edits." (Victor Morales)
Matteo Bittanti: By your own admission, since 2003, you have been "obsessed with the art of video games modifications". Can you explain this obsession? What do you find so engaging about deconstructing and reconstructing video games? To modify a game is for you an act of détournement, in the Situationist sense, or something else entirely?
Victor Morales: Yes, as you said, game modding is a hijack, a kind of hacking. Modding means to penetrate someone else's universe and make it your own. In a way is a precursor of social media and the so-called "user-created content" buzz/word/hype... But it is also much more engaging and complex than applying an insta-filter to whatever you capture with your smartphone. You must do some research, try and fail many times, scrutinize forums in search for clues, ask questions, and experience the strange feeling of being called a noob by a twelve year old kid and then you must work for hours and hours in order to get something going... I freaking love it, i can't deny it... I do not do it as much as I used to, but sometimes a bit of GTA modding really gets me going.
Matteo Bittanti: Your nomadic life - born in Venezuela, spent more than a decade in New York, moved to Berlin... - is as fascinating as your artist practice. Which place or places do you consider most compatible with your artistic sensibility? Where did you find the most welcoming, receptive, engaged community?
Victor Morales: I am now back in New York, but yes I do travel a lot... to be honest, I think video game art is still not considered with the seriousness it deserves: there are not enough places to show work, to meet other artists, to do residencies... There is simply not enough interest from museums, critics are for the most part unprepared, and so on... In general I find Europe to be much more receptive, but that applies to all kinds of arts. After all, Europe likes art... Maybe there will be a breakthrough sometime in the future and digital artists will get more resources to make their art without having to think on how to sell it... Or maybe it's just my pipe dream.