IN THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, MEXICAN ARTIST OSCAR NODAL TALKS ABOUT HIS FASCINATION FOR GLITCHES, THE REPETITIVE NATURE OF DIGITAL GAMES, AND DATA CORRUPTION.
Born in Juarez, Mexico in 1986, Oscar Nodal is a visual artist who engages with new media technology, synthetic imagery, and simulated environments. As art critic Emmanuel Villareal writes, “Nodal's work by moments examines video purely as an electronic technology of signal processing and transmission that shares these properties with other electronic media, notably television. But most of all, portrays video as a medium in its own right by articulating specific media language in a step-by-step construction of a videographic-aesthetic vocabulary, at times, successfully establishing an emergent semiotic system by which video becomes a medium that can be truly distinguished from alternative media.”
Oscar Nodal's Sleepy Existence is currently on display in the RECORD level of GAME VIDEO/ART. A SURVEY.
This interview was produced by the students of Master's Degree Program in Arts, Markets and Cultural Heritage at IULM.
GVA: Can you briefly describe your education?
Oscar Nodal: In 2012, I received a BFA in Visual Arts with a concentration in video production at University of Juarez, in Mexico. I’m currently enrolled in a MA in Studies and Creative Process in Art and Design at the same institution. Currently, I am investigating glitches as a narrative agents in machinima.
Oscar Nodal, Puppy Sound John, 2015
"Made using RPG Maker X ACE Visit http://www.oscarnodal.com/#!psj/ca7a for full Puppy Sound John experience Music "Valentine" by The Losers" (Oscar Nodal)
GVA: Can you name some influences - not necessarily artistic ones - that played a key role in your evolution as an artist?
Oscar Nodal: Initially, popular culture. As I was growing up, books, comic books, and movies always captivated me. I was especially interested in understanding their storytelling techniques. I spent a great part of my childhood writing short stories and drawing comics. The true epiphany was Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs in the early Nineties. After watching that movie my whole life changed. I knew I wanted to work with an audiovisual medium. Finally, during my BA studies I encountered the work of such artists as Maya Deren, Matthew Barney, Bill Viola, Stan Brakhage, Ingmar Bergman, and Christoph Schlingensief. They were incredibly influential in my understanding of art, film, and performance.
GVA: When and why did you begin using videogames in your practice?
Oscar Nodal: I first started using video games in 2011 during a hacking workshop in which I circuit bent an NES console, then I mixed real time game play with a remix of user-found glitches in Super Mario Bros 3. Subsequently, I started producing machinima as a way to explore other media beside video, as a way to expand my storytelling skills. I found impossible to ignore the creative possibilities offered by machinima.
Presentation: Oscar Nodal: Glitch as a narrative agent in machinima, May 5 2016, IULM University, Milan.
GVA: Why did you specifically choose a videogame to make art? What do you find especially fascinating about this medium? Its interactivity? Agency? Aesthetics? Theatricality?
Oscar Nodal: One of the things I found most fascinating is the fact that narrative in games does not exist by itself, but it is intertwined with gameplay. That is, to understanding narrative, we must play. There’s also a cultural aspect that I find terribly exciting. As we interact with games we are aware of their cultural underpinnings. These layers of meaning are often highlighted by machinima because this is a much more contemplative medium, one that encourages reflection and meditation upon gestures, ideas, and goals.
GVA: Digital games often create parallel, alternative experiences for its users. How do you relate to the complex relation between reality and simulation? How do you address this tension through your work?
Oscar Nodal: To create my machinima, I used Sleeping Dogs, an open world action game developed by Sega. The game is set in a very lively and dynamic urban environment. Things happens, characters come and go all the time. The protagonist can wander through the streets and explore the city. He is a proxy of my own experience in the digital sphere, where I can be an actor, but also a director and editor at the same time. These affordances are unknown to other media, such as cinema or photography.
Oscar Nodal, The Battle for the Wastelands, 2016
"A glitchy machinima made using a modified Sega Genesis and "Victorian"." (Oscar Nodal)
GVA: Would you agree that machinima has democratized the art making process? Has it lowered the entry barrier for creators of video art, as some critics argue?
Oscar Nodal: In many ways, yes. Machinima offers a cheaper solution than producing a short film for many creators that want to tell a story. At the same time, I think machinima is a medium that differs profoundly from cinema or television. There are certain stories that could be told effectively only through machinima.
GVA: How do videogame aesthetics affect the overall impact of your work? What comes first, the concept or the medium?
Oscar Nodal: When it comes to machinima, the medium always comes first. There are several things I must consider before imagining a story. The game genre, for instance, is a significant constraint as it limits my choices and possibilities. I am talking about things like camera controls, physics, character movements, types of environments and interactions with non-playable characters... All these factors shape, and in some cases determine, the aesthetics of the resulting work.
Oscar Nodal, Glitch Upon a Time in The West, 2016
"A glitchy machinima made using Red Dead Redemption by Rockstar Games. Song "Far Away" by Jose Gonzalez"
GVA: In your machinima Sleepy Existence how and why do you use this particular game, Sega's Sleeping Dogs?
Oscar Nodal: I used Sleeping Dogs because its environments are pulsating with (artificial) life. This game provides an author with almost endless possibilities to create stories. In a sense, open world games are narrative engines. I was very familiar with Sleeping Dogs because I had played obsessively, so using it as a storytelling platform came natural to me. I was able to exploits its potential as well as its limitations. Above all, I loved the fact that although Sleeping Dogs is an action game, it emulates several mundane tasks, e.g. going to the restroom, buying groceries, being stuck in traffic and so on. These “interstitial” actions became the central focus of my story.
GVA: In Sleepy Existence, the main character lives in a cruel and illegal world, without taking part in it but simply dealing with daily ordinary problems. Does the repetition of the key player’s actions enforce this idea or does it have an aesthetic function only?
Oscar Nodal: This repetition was meant to communicate the idea that the character is simply drifting through life. Stuck in a daily routine, the protagonist seems to operate in auto-pilot. However, the glitches he gradually experiences disrupt this apparent order, so he starts questioning the logic of his own surroundings, and ultimately, the true nature of his own self.
Read more interviews