This past October 8 BIT: A Documentary About Art and Video Games had a sold-out premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Featuring such non-household names as Cory Arcangel, Bubblyfish, and Nullsleep, the film is a window into the intense, synthesized world of video games, chiptunes, and the artists and computer nerds who are transforming them into new art forms.
While its audience is likely to be made up largely of the same demographic as its subject matter, 8 BIT has generated critical respect as well as buzz. VH1 Game Break called it “the best movie about video games that’s ever been made”; Art Forum named it one of the 10 best movies in 2006; and it has been screened in Berkeley, Brussels, and Buenos Aires. “At this point we are flying somewhere every two weeks,” says Marcin Ramocki GFA’98, who conceived and directed the film. (The documentary’s assistant editor was Delmira Valladares GFA’05.)
Last month Ramocki spoke by e-mail with Gazette senior editor Samuel Hughes.
What was the ideaand meaningbehind 8 BIT?
The name 8 BIT is a reference to older computers and technology using 8-bit processors; in the history of video games, the 8-bit era was the third generation of video-game consoles, considered by some to be the first “modern” era of console gaming from the ’80s.
The movie is about the first generation of creative individuals growing up surrounded by the video-game mediumbasically artists and musicians born in the ’70s, referencing the material they grew up with. Although 8 BIT is essentially an exposé on this growing global phenomenon, I would say that on the deepest level we are making a statement about the end of the modernist disconnect from technology and the birth of a certain generational DIY [do-it-yourself] spirit of dealing with hardware and software, which defies consumerist culture and corporate marketing strategies.
What did it take to advance it from idea to reality?
It took two years. I got the idea to make a piece about chiptunes [music written in formats where the sounds are synthesized by a computer or video-game-console sound chip] and game hacks [hacked or modified games] in early 2004 and asked Justin Strawhand, the CEO of Mutationengine, to be a producer. Together we did close to 30 interviews, went to endless chiptune concerts, flew all over the world, and kept learning more and expanding the scope of the project. Finally, sometime in fall 2005, we decided to go into post-production. It was a very organic process of making our movie an extension of what the game-art scene really was. And I think we got pretty close.
Making and curating art in New York made the whole thing much easier: I knew most of the folks involved and worked with many (I curate vertexList, a small new-media gallery in Brooklyn which focuses on low-end digital art). So a lot of the production was talking to friends in front of the camera.
What are the implications of this film for the gaming world, the art world, and contemporary culture?
I believe that 8 BIT makes gamers all over the world feel like their lifestyle is culturally legitimized and tries to figure out what are some crucial aspects of this new culture. It introduces the art world to the post-video-game era, and attempts to make a statement that the modernist/PoMo discourse in art is coming to a natural end … Not to mention it documents the first authentic art phenomenon of the 21st century.
Does it still feel timely or is anything about it dated already?
I don’t think so at all. We were very lucky to catch all this at its very beginning. This is just about to hit popular culture, at least we believe so.
What’s the best way to see it?
Until we release 8 BIT on DVD, please check out our site, www.8bitmovie.com, for the future screenings.
Books The money-pit in paradise. Vizcaya
©2007 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 02/28/07