IN THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, VENEZUELAN ARTIST VICTOR MORALES DISCUSSES HIS OBSESSION FOR THE UNREAL ENGINE, REAL-TIME DIGITAL ANIMATION, AND PUPPETRY.
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, 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 Zurich, Theater Freiburg, and The Hau in Berlin, where he now lives and works.
Victor Morales' Maria (2016) is currently on display in the GLITCH 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?
Victor Morales: I studied primary and high school in Venezuela. Also earned a Law Degree in Caracas. Also earned a Master of Arts at New York University. The Masters I focused on Technology applied to the arts.
Victor Morales, Asking a Cop, 2015, 2' 03"
"A visualization of a Firesign Theater song. A puppetization of reality" (Victor Morales)
GVA: Can you name some influences - not necessarily artistic ones - that played a key role in your evolution as an artist?
Victor Morales: Jorge Luis Borges blew my mind when I was young, Milan Kundera showed me some windows on my early years as well. Friends like Chris Kondek and Hector Castillo drove me to understand that more hours of work is the path to excellence. Georges Bataille is the author that has affected me the most. Lately Francis Bacon, Bunuel, William Gibson, Philip K. Dick, Becket and Arrabal, specially Arrabal have made me look at things in a blurry way, like being inside the Myst. Louie C.K rocks. David O’Reilly, Kubrick and Lynch are my cinematic references. I have heard the light and night with James Brown, Eddie Palmieri, Memphis Slim, Prince, Howling Wolf, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Curtis Mayfield and Funkadelic.
GVA. When and why did you begin using video games in your practice?
Victor Morales: I started messing around with video game media/editors and mods around 2004. Once I was playing Metal Gear Solid 2, in a Playstation 2… and I played it for more than eight hours straight, so I got killed (in the game) at one point and my character, instead of respawning normally, it respawned naked, on a prison, with limited mobility… and one of the “talking heads” that normally instructed the missions of the game - I think it was some general - starts saying “you have been playing for more than eight hours, you should stop, this is only a video game, you should stop… “ after hearing this, i turned off the game and never played again… it shocked me that the video game “knew” something about me (that I was playing for more than 8 hours) and it actually told me to stop. This experience is the epicenter of my practice.
Victor Morales, DEMO_Lition, 2014
"A little showcase of my work from the last couple 'o years." (Victor Morales)
GVA: Why did you specifically choose a video game to make art? What do you find especially fascinating about this medium? Its interactivity? Agency? Aesthetics? Theatricality?
Victor Morales: Not one reason but many reasons: Realtime, cheap/free, still evolving and getting better every year.
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?
Victor Morales: A simulation is also a reality, a limited one but still a reality… To simulate something to make it real. While photography and film “capture” a reality, simulations deploy and project a reality. This is crucial in my work because instead of storyboarding a piece, I normally create a simulation that gives me unpredictable results, thus showing me a reality that I did not know it existed.
Victor Morales, 30 seconds or more 06 - House Fight, 2013
"Trying the Cryengine physics in an unconventional way. Sound by Pal Asle Pettersen and the engine" (Victor Morales).
GVA: The creative opportunities afforded by machinima are greatly constrained by existing copyright law, which prohibits many possible uses, including commercial purposes. What’s your take on the paradoxical nature of this artform?
Victor Morales: Machinima derived of commercial video games is something I rarely do, I usually use a video game engine like Cry Engine, or Unreal Engine 4 to make my own world. Over the years I have learned to make my own media and assets so I can avoid these copyright issues (in fact that is why I abandoned Cry Engine for Unreal Engine). That said, I believe things are changing and the machinima world is something that video game companies are understanding as a valuable and feasible way to give their franchises longer lives, like the modding communities did a decade ago.
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?
Victor Morales: Yes, but not only machinima: iMovie, YouTube, Blender, OpenFrameworks, Processing, even Instagram (among many) are platforms that are giving power and tools so all people can create.
Victor Morales, The Robbery, 2013
""loose" simulation of the robbery and murder that allegedly was committed by Sacco and Vanzetti" (Victor Morales)
GVA: How do video game aesthetics affect the overall impact of your work? What comes first, the concept or the medium?
Victor Morales: Video game aesthetics are a blessing and a curse. The mainstream arts tend to dismiss these aesthetics. But it is ok, I believe that eventually, video game engines will open new possibilities that neither film, painting, sculpture nor any of the “established” arts have even thought it existed. The medium and the concept will come simultaneously, like a quantum process. For now in my process, the medium comes first.
GVA: Can you describe your creative process? What kind of tools and/or games did you use to create Maria?
Victor Morales: This piece was made with an experimental branch of the Unreal Engine 4. I picked this because there is no other engine that can do some of the techniques used on that video.
GVA: Bugs and glitches are pervasive in your work. What do you ﬁnd so fascinating about errors, mistakes, and mishaps?
Victor Morales: Errors and bugs within the machine are premonitions of the drama yet to come in a world where machines will become more of a part of who we are, on how we think, feel and perceive the world.