Trash this city

0traaashthiscit.jpgNirmala Shome is currently busy fiddling with scissors, glue and bits of cardboard. She is meticulously constructing a cardboard model of a city that comes right out of the online game SimCity. The Trash This City installation will cover the floor of the All of the Above Gallery in Melbourne. This invasion of the space will force visitors into unavoidable contact with the “game interface”. They will be free to manipulate and reconfigure the city, moving the buildings around, using markers to tag and graffiti the streets, etc. The show will only be open for one day and the night will culminate in the destruction of the entire installation, as only possible in the game.’

Video footage will be streamed live from the floor of the model and projected onto the gallery walls.

TRASH THIS CITY is the first work by Nirmala Shome, recent graduate of Media & Communications at Melbourne University and examines the powerful metaphor the game provides for life, and also the exhilaration involved in destruction.

Why this interest for sim city in particular?

Aside from the fact that I love the game city simcity2000, the computer game in general is a strong metaphor for the urban lifestyle. Each individual participates in a kind of game everyday, where the overriding aim is to score high – get money and reach the next level, or climb the career ladder. These are often the sole purpose in the daily urban lifestyle.

The city has become symbolic of the height of civilised culture today. But individuals are often at the mercy of the urban lifestyle and very rarely find opportunity to take control of the urban space. This why I have included the ability to move and shift buildings and graffitt, as a kind of ‘reclaim the city’ aspect.

The game sim city also allows players to destroy the city in the end, and as often the case with games we are able to carry out the most gruesome and terrible of tasks simply because their are no consequences. Often people when they start playing computer games, will try out all the horrific moves just to see what happens. For example, in the game Fable – a role playing game set in the Middleages, players were using peasants as human shields in their battles forcing the desginers to remove that feature of the game. Destruction is a powerful force that we rarely get to engage in, and computer games are one outlet. So as you set over the large keyboard into the screen of ‘TRASH THIS CITY’, you get an opportunity to play the game hands on, turning the usual user-friendly interface into a real tangible experience.

So far it has taken me around two months to build the model and I suspect I will be going for another two weeks, it’s a lot of work!!

So Trash This City is a comment on game culture, urban environement, graffiti, right?

It comments on all these things, mostly game culture and the urban environment, but also is an examination of play and how we engage in play more often than we may think.

0alloftheabov.jpgHow do you feel about the idea of patiently building up a huge installation and seeing it reduced to a bunch of trash in only one evening? Why do you want to let all the power into the hands of the public?

It is going to be hard to see all my work destroyed, but I think that it is necessary. And for it to be truly interactive i believe that a fair amount of agency will have to be given to the audience, because an essential element of any game is the ability to control your movements, even if you cannot control the environment that you are playing in.

You recently graduated from Media & Communications at Melbourne University. How is the new media art scene over there?

The Media Art scene in Melbourne is still developing momentum. There is alot of video art coming up and being shown at well established galleries which is great. Our ACMI – Australian Centre for the Moving Image – specialises in film and video art, and often has great work showing and video installations.

Thanks Nirmala!

The installation is on view on Friday 30th March, from 11am till late, at All of the Above Gallery in Melbourne, Australia.