The term “permadeath” is a gameplay mechanic used in online and offline role playing games to signify the permanent death of a player. University of Utah alumni Justin Watson’s latest project of the same name is currently displayed at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. It involves 30 artists who created artifacts to represent an idealized futuristic society and the functions within it.
“PERMADEATH is a game. The game is inclusive and membership is free. PERMADEATH exists online and offline. The game has no beginning or end. Our offline/online one-on-one discussions become the medium of the game. The game itself is an ecosystem. This exhibition is a result of a larger game, one of social capital and exchange of power. This exhibition portrays artifacts from this game.” (umoca.org)
While the exhibit itself is small, the undertakings of these artists are in no way minuscule. From sculptures to multi-media presentations, the whole of PERMADEATH’s presentation makes for an eclectic display of the functions of exchange of power. Artists were individually challenged to create their own aspect of a virtual or real-life community, but the individual display of each would not do each piece justice. It is the combination and contrast of each piece to one another that makes this exhibition so exciting and unique.
One of the first pieces displayed is entitled “The Dream Home of Cara as a Child.” It is a miniature sculpture depicting the childhood dream home of artist Cara Krebs. The size of this piece is what makes it stand out the most: the attention to detail is incredible, and really makes the viewer take a deeper look into the meaning of an “idealized society.” The artist’s decision to make it about her younger self speaks to the importance of future generations in the shaping of society.
Some of the more interactive projects included the work of artists Tabitha Nikolai and Tanja London. Nikolai’s piece was a video game that exhibit goers could play to experience the virtual reality of the artist. “This iteration explores feelings of isolation within suburbia and an ambivalence about online connectivity as a mode of circumventing it,” Nikolai said about her piece “Shrine Maidens of the Unseelie Court.” “For many trans women, online platforms are our only life line to others like us.” Nikolai’s piece speaks to the ways human beings connect with one another, even without being physically present. Her work is important to those who feel that their true life is only experienced online.
London’s piece was an interactive soundscape tour. It featured mannequin torsos displayed all over the museum, with a portable CD player with instructions as to how to interact with each piece. Her piece was entitled “PERMADEATH: sol[e]menace” and explored a society in which people relived their ancestor’s grief and pain. Throughout the experience, you were asked to perform simple tasks in order to stay present within the exhibit. Probably one of the most unique pieces, London’s “PERMADEATH: sol[e]menace” speaks to the suffering of society, as well as the joys you can experience amidst sorrow.
PERMADEATH will be on display in the A-I-R Space from Jan. 26 to Mar. 3 at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. UMOCA is open from 11-6 p.m. Tues-Thurs, 11-9 p.m. Fri, and 11-6 p.m. on Sat. Closed Sun-Mon. Admission is free but a $5 donation is highly encouraged.