“Bit By Bit” (像素传奇)
“Bit By Bit” exhibition poster
Currently at the island6 gallery arena the LiuDao (六岛) art collective proudly presents “Bit By Bit”, a unique collection of artworks inspired by your favorite past time: VIDEO GAMES! Join us for an electrifying display of interactive artworks, LED lights, photographs, paintings, and sculptures rated E for EVERYONE!!
The date: October 18, 1958. Location: Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY. Physicist William Higinbotham has just made history (although he doesn’t know it yet). A screen only 5 inches in diameter, displayed a horizontal and vertical line, and a point of light bouncing around. “Tennis for Two”, the first video game, has just been created. The funny part of this story is that Higinbotham’s idea came to fruition in an attempt to liven up the place as he thought the lab exhibits were dull and boring. This entertaining game conveyed the message that such scientific endeavors had relevance for society. Sixty years later video games have become an integral part of our lives. Influencing culture, language, art and technology, as well as our future.  
All through the history of art there have been times when a new artistic medium has struggled to be recognized as a true art form. Whether we’re ready to accept it or not, video games lie at the intersection of art and technology. Their rapid development brings forth many opportunities for artists to develop the world of their dreams and allows players to fully immerse themselves in their artwork. In fact, veteran game designer Mike Mika argues that video game creation is one of the most complex forms of art in that “none of it matters without the player. Games evolve with us”. This is true when we consider the serious relationship between art and technology, as both define and continue to reshape the world we live in. In his 1997 “Manifesto of Art After Videogames”, multimedia artist Miltos Manetas describes videogames as “extended versions of reality”, environments you can’t play with, but rather IN them. A multi-leveled experience. Video games provide a glimpse into our future while also telling “Vertical Stories”[i] from our past. 
Who else remembers waking up early on the weekends just to get back to playing Super Smash Bros. on their GameCube? Kirby was my personal favorite. The cutest bubblegum pink ball of bounce, with an insane appetite and unexpected powers. I was sure to win! Looking back, it almost seems odd how much time we all spent “glued to a screen”, as my parents would say! “90 Degrees On A Saturday”[ii] morning, and all we wanted to do was dive into an alternate world. Video games provided an escape, an opportunity to explore magical realms where everything was possible (not to mention having infinite lives!). In the Nintendo 64 game, Super Mario begins his “Sideways Assault”[iii] by jumping into a painting which teleports him into a new world (and game level). He never dies, instead he just travels back to the start and tries again. A plethora of “Wet Weapons”[iv] to choose from, recharge, and get back to the rescue mission! 
Here’s a secret only local Shanghainese might know. A legendary arcade game shop located on Jiangning Road in Jing'an District! It’s been around since the 90s and is a gem of “Blinks And Blares”[v] hidden inside a commercial building, “Lie Huo Youxi Ji Yule” (烈火游戏机娱乐). The game center got older as its players did, but it definitely brings back nostalgic memories of all the hours spent playing all the “Arcade Legends”[vi] like, The King of Fighters '98, Contra, Bubble Bobble, and Sangokushi, just to name a few. For the right price of 1 RMB you could get 2 game coins, which was more than enough to have “Blinky”[vii] aggressively chase Pac Man through a digital maze. We’d usually go with our friends, but some would say it’s also the best spot to invite your secret crush on a date, because who could say no to arcade games and snacks? It was a simpler time back then. 
The game center we used to visit as teenagers was called “Tom’s World” (汤姆熊欢乐世界) and you could find them in every corner of Shanghai! A magical “Drop Point Paradise”[viii] to spend an afternoon playing the ever so iconic Pinball, Street Fighter, Versus City, Tetris (classic!), and of course the claw machine (a girl’s favorite!). Who could resist the distinctly enchanting claw machine, rocking back and forth, summoning players to spend their last remaining coins striving to win a beanie baby or plastic relic? It’s both a tempting and addicting game, no doubt about it! A relationship with a certain monster can become romantic. “Anywhere You Meet A Horizon”[ix], Tom’s World was video game nirvana! The sweetest escape from reality. 
Bit by bit, video games have become engrained into our everyday lives. More than a past time, they’ve evolved with us. We’ve come a long way from the classic games like Pong and Space Invaders. Nowadays game engineers play the role of creators, inventing entire new worlds and stories. In a continuous effort to blur the lines between reality and fantasy, the result is limitless possibilities! There’s “Glamour In The Chance”[x] of participating in these virtual processes, and we love to see it. 
So, what are you waiting for? Press CONTINUE to start your quest at island6!!
From September 10th to November 10th 2021
Tiara Alvarado-Leon, Camilla Zhao 赵莹
Thomas Charvériat
Gao Lei 高磊, Tang Dashi 汤大师, He Dashi 贺大师, Wang Chuanwen 王传文, Wang Tie Zhong 王铁中
Serena Charvériat-Young 杨倩菁, Aline Hui 许桑淇, Beatrice Tamagno
island6 art collective (Liu Dao 六岛)
island6 Main Space, 50 Moganshan Road, building #6, 2/F, Shanghai
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