As far as Matthew Kaney is concerned, video games aren't just for entertainment anymore.
The University of Oklahoma senior also considers them a prime medium for artistic expression.
“I think video games work well for satire — or can work well — first all, because they're so appealing. It's sort of a nice way to package up one of these ideas that's otherwise complex or hard or depressing or kind of frustrating to think about,” he said.
“It can get you playing as this rich person or this drone pilot in a flippant or kind of trivial way. I think it makes you perform this action ... because it's a game and, you know, you gotta get the most points. But then hopefully at some point you're thinking ‘What is the ethics of what I'm actually performing here?' That, I think, is how a lot of satire functions.”
One of the three Spotlight artists at this year's “Momentum: Art Doesn't Stand Still,” Kaney, 23, of Norman, has created three arcade-style games with pointed social messages: “Trickle Down,” in which wealthy executives try to stay rich by catching falling bags of money; “Drone Strike,” a “scrolling shooter” game in which users pilot an unmanned military drone but the instructions are on a different screen from the action; and “Made in China,” an “exercise in monotony” in which players portray a young assembly line worker and repeat the same button presses to manufacture consumer electronics.
“I think that artists are really only now kind of figuring out some of the potential here,” the Tahlequah native said. “I'm dealing with all the same considerations as a big video game studio: I am interested in how the graphics look, I'm interested in the game play and all of that. But my motives are definitely different, and I think that bears out in the final piece.”
In its 12th year, “Momentum” features works by Oklahoma artists ages 30 and younger. It is one of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition's biggest events of the year.
“It's the only program that we have that is specifically for young artists and that was created out of a need that we saw for young artists to gain some experience showing their work,” said Kelsey Karper, the coalition's associate director.
The multimedia exhibit launches with a two-night celebration at 50 Penn Place. Friday night's “Momentum: Downtempo” will have a mellower vibe and feature live music from local bands Fifth Fret, Erik the Viking and R.e.A.L. On Saturday, “Momentum: Full Speed” will offer a louder, faster-paced experience with music from Em and the Mother Superiors, Wurly Birds and Kali Ra.
“Momentum” continues with free gallery hours from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through March 7.
More than 200 artists submitted in excess of 500 works of art for this year's exhibition. The curators selected 57 artists and 76 pieces, Karper said.
“As always, it's a wide variety of media. We have sculpture and painting and photography. We do have a performance piece that's interactive,” she said. “There's some jewelry and some printmaking. Just a little bit of everything.”
In addition, three artists — Kaney, Erin Latham, of Norman, and Zachary Presley, of Durant — received “Momentum” Spotlight commissions of $2,000 and three months of guidance from the show's curators to create works specifically for the exhibit.
Latham's immersive installation will transport viewers far from Oklahoma City. She is creating an underwater sea kelp forest from printed and meticulously hand-cut recycled paper. In contrast, Presley, who is of Chickasaw heritage, is planning a performance piece that deals with an issue very present in Oklahoma: how toys and consumer goods marketed as “authentic cultural relics” actually bolster stereotypes associated with American Indians.
“One of the things that I love the most about ‘Momentum' is that you just never really know what to expect, because young artists are doing a lot of experimenting and taking a lot of risks,” Karper said.
For Kaney, who is a fine arts major and computer science minor, his “Momentum” Spotlight project is his by far his most ambitious artistic endeavor to date.
“It feels really substantial. It feels like, OK, I've done something kind of important here.”