Can you guess the fastest-selling entertainment product in history? You'd probably name a Star Wars movie, or some kind of Marvel merch, right? Wrong. It's a video game. Grand Theft Auto has existed since 1997 and revolves around, well, crime. Players become criminals as they roam fictional cities doing jobs for crime lords. Ethics are questioned, free will is key, but so too is gun violence. The latest installment of the series, Grand Theft Auto V, is a pop culture phenomenon. But why?
This seismic popularity is explored by Joseph DeLappe, Professor of Games and Tactical Media at Abertay University in Dundee, in Public Hazards, a series of performances, online acts, screenings, lectures, and shows, programmed by ViZ Laboratory for Visual Culture. The project's two main works—Elegy and Killbox—address the "alienating abstraction of killing through virtualisation". Elegy is a game modification of GTAV, where real life gun homicide data was appropriated from the Gun Violence Archive for a year and re-enacted in the game world, soundtracked by Kate Smith's God Bless America. Killbox sounds even grimmer. It features drone warfare through a video game simulation based on actual documented drones strikes in Northern Waziristan, Pakistan.
The project will be hosted at ViZ Laboratory for Visual Culture—an initiative of Athens School of Fine Art’s Labs 11 & 12, powered by Onassis Foundation and the City of Athens Development and Destination Management Agency—at Plateia Theatrou (Theatre Plaza) near the newly restored Omonia Square. DeLappe will also offer an online analytical workshop to students of the Athens School of Fine Arts focusing on projects at the nexus of computer gaming, art/technology, real world and interventionist strategies that engage our geo-political contexts—with a touch of COVID-19 reality. The event will be recorded and screened at the Onassis Foundation YouTube Channel and ViZ’s media outlets.