Exhibit at MOCA Also Features a Video Game; Museum's Atrium Is a Cathedral; but Is Science Now Object of Worship?

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Byline: Charlie Patton

The first time Ian Bogost saw the Haskell Atrium Gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, the 40-foot high space struck him as a "minimalist, modernist cathedral."

So he has turned it into a cathedral, one in which the visitor climbs 13 steps to a 10-foot-high "altar," featuring a pedestal on which rests a gleaming object of modern worship: an iPad.

The visitor is then invited to play a new app, a video game Bogost has created called "Simony."

There's a double meaning to that name. The game resembles "Simon," an electronic game of memory skill that was very popular in the 1980s.

But Bogost also intends to invoke the practice of simony, the buying or selling of sacred or spiritual things, including sacraments, pardons and church offices. Named after Simon Magus, who appears in the Acts of the Apostles, simony is considered a sin but was fairly common in the medieval church.

An element of Bogost's game, which can be played at MOCA beginning Saturday, or can be downloaded on any iPad, is the purchasing of success. Players at MOCA will be able to swipe their credit cards to buy their way to the top of the leaderboard.

And there will be a leaderboard, projected on the back wall of the gallery and made to resemble a stained glass window. Below it, also projected onto the wall, will be an abstracted image of the game being played.

As all this is happening, lutes and chants will play on a sound system, enhancing the impression of a medieval cathedral.

As "Simony," with its mix of modern and medieval, shows, Bogost is drawn to ambiguity and paradox.

At the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) he holds a chair in media studies and is a professor of interactive computing. A scholar of game design and theory, he has created a number of games and is a founding partner in Persuasive Games LLC. …

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