Art of online war


A new exhibit at Laguna Art Museum is sure to be fun and games.

WoW, short for World of Warcraft, an online fantasy game, will explore various forms of cultural production based on the game, and on gaming in general, and will be on display Sunday through Oct. 4 at the museum.

Grace Kook-Anderson, the museum’s new curator of exhibitions, calls it an “emergent media phenomenon.”

“While surveying Warcraft’s 15-year history, the exhibition looks at artistic practices that have been influenced by game culture,” she said. “The actual works by the producer of World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment, provide a starting point and reference.”


Blizzard Entertainment is based in Irvine.

Themes that will be explored are elements of desire, the collapse of fantasy, medievalism, creative critiques and public intervention. Mediums displayed include painting, photography, sculptures, digital prints, video, animation, online games, installations and performance.

“Fourteen artists have taken on the visual marker of WoW, implications of gaming, and their greater impact on our culture,” Anderson said. “Fan art and the growing culture of Machinima will also be explored in this exhibition.”

Machinima is computer animation created using the software and graphics from video games.

Some of the artists’ work leaves WoW open for criticism.

“Some artists who are not fans of WoW have created an anti-game and critiqued aspects of violence and competition, emphasized the potential of a MMORPG [a gaming site] as a social and community space, or have modified the game by creating a peaceful mission made up of characters of opposing factions working together,” Anderson said.

Jorg Dubin, a Laguna resident whose figure paintings are often displayed at the Peter Blake Gallery downtown, has created three oil-on-linen pieces for this event: “Days end in Dalaran,” “Blood Elf with the head of a stranger” and “Night Elf with a 12-gauge.”

“I believe this exhibition helps dissolve the barriers between what is considered fine art and that of the digital world,” he said. “Artists working with a computer program are able to create worlds much as an artist working with canvas and oil paint.

“The computer has simply given artists another tool to work with as a form of expressing their creative ideas. I believe this show links the fine art world to that of its digital counterpart and shows again the influence a more commercial form of creative expression has on the traditions of art making.”

Artists Thomas Asmuth and James Morgan created a virtual Third Faction, a collective that makes work on synthetic platforms, or virtual reality.

“Our project is about factional attitudes, independence, volunteerism, and humanitarian work,” Asmuth said. “We are a non-governmental aid organization in the virtual environment.”

Lectures, workshops

A series of lectures is also scheduled in conjunction with the show:

 1 p.m. Sunday: Zeng Han, a photographer based in Guangzhou, China, who has just completed a semester at the School of Visual Arts in New York, will be discussing the concept of “soulstealers” in his work.

 1 p.m. July 10: Aram Bartholl leads a WoW workshop, extending the show onto the streets of Laguna Beach. Everyone is welcome to participate and enjoy an afternoon of art making and the opportunity to be involved in a collaborative performance. The workshop and performance will be documented on video, and the edited version will be shown in the exhibition.

 1 p.m. July 12: Aram Bartholl lecture. Based in Berlin, Bartholl is interested in the way network data manifests into the everyday world. Bartholl investigates this in the physical space through performance, installation and video. With WoW, Bartholl investigates this manifestation through the one of the most popular online role-playing games.

Cost is $15 for admission to the exhibition, including a booklet with essays by Kook-Anderson, Tim Campbell, who is curator of creative development at Blizzard Entertainment, and Eddo Stern, a Los Angeles-based artist. For more information, visit