A*, 2014, 14-channel HD video; 8 minutes
A* (A-star), 2014, spans a diamond configuration of 14 HD video monitors, it is an eight-minute-long video depicting hyper-glossy, stereo-typical video game and phone app imagery: a group of cute and colorful aliens, mecha-angel warrior, flashy marble rollercoaster, collapsing jewel-encrusted pseudo-Egyptian temple, highly textured close-up zombie head about to devour the viewer/player, etc. This imagery is sometimes formatted based on the unique arrangement of screens, and at times also plays seamlessly across all 14 screens.
Robak's work frequently indulges a maximalist and indexical aesthetic. The pieces have a massive number of highly-detailed and exquisitely composed elements. A* presents multiple scenes from an variety of saccharine and gleaming, multicolored environments that make up the bulk of Robak's ouevre. It is a prime example of Robak's exploration of these artificially glossy worlds. It is interesting to note here that the extra-glossy look we associate with many apps and video-games is a way of compensating for low-resolution displays, a strategy no longer necessary as our screens and monitors approach levels of resolution similar to magazines and other printed matter. This kind of design denies the strictly functional and utilitarian. In this way, Robak's use of aesthetic exaggerations like lens flare, drop shadows, and shiny veneers are a celebration of a look that is presently being replaced, by “flat” design. In A* these flashy animations and skeumorphism still wow viewers. Robak is able to use these decorations and elaborations to emphasize the superficial indulgence and addictive quality associated with these game aesthetics.
Unpredictability and rewards are often a key motivation for hours spent playing video-games. In A* (and much of Robak's other work) these elements are missing. Robak's work Exo is a vivid, immersive, and explorable video-game world. Exo was created for the album of the same name, by the band Gatekeeper; a trance/acid/IDM duo. Exo creates a unique world/level for each track on the album. Here is a “game” that confounds notions of winning and competition; just as A* is not actually unpredictable and does not actually reward a player. Instead Exo is an heterotopia to discover and revel in while listening to the music, in contrast to a goal-oriented linear narrative. The spaces of Exo confound tropes of video games, sci-fi, and movie special-effects, hybridizing intergalactic ecologies and alien imagery with surreal futuristic technologies, making one entity of both.
The press release for “The St. Petersburg Paradox” a group show including Marcel Duchamp and Douglas Gordon among others frames A* as art that:
“ ... channels the intensity of the gamer’s ups and downs, ricocheting between the euphoria of an elusive win and resignation to inevitable loss … [animating] the absurdity of blithely entering into a game that cannot be won.”
“The St. Petersburg Paradox” at the Swiss Institute, May 28, 2014
Correspondingly, Various Self Playing Video Games (2011) by Cory Arcangel is a group of bowling video games with modded controllers that play autonomously, throwing gutter ball after gutter ball. While Arcangel works with actual video games, misusing the mundane, Robak exploits video game aesthetics toward an experience more akin to chemical-induced, designer euphoria. It is interesting to note that Robak achieves this effect without using music in his work, though he has made music videos, designed album artwork, and created immersive video-game worlds.
“Tabor Robak started his career as a graphic designer, working with multinational brands such as Nike and T-Mobile. This gave him an understanding of marketing, and the use of digital technology to create images designed to sell; the visual language used by multi-nationals. The artist’s virtuosity with programs such as Photoshop, CINEMA 4D and Unity allows him to generate vivid and unique scenes often displayed across multiple high definition panels.”
Robak is virtuosic with his software, the world he creates is captivatingly synthetic and sensuous. His strong belief in marrying commercial aesthetics with his artist practice is obvious in the immaculate and addicting imagery he constructs. Robak's work is half eye-candy and half ultra-deluxe allegory; one piece may suggest a tale of winning and losing that resembles a smart-phone app, another guides the viewer on a wild ride screaming through multiple dimensions. His work brings into sharper focus the hyperbole of vision and virtuality we are mesmerized by while living in our screens.
premiered at and was commissioned by The Swiss Institute in 2014
scale image = http://dismagazine.com/uploads/2014/06/53A4034.jpg
music video: Fatima Al Qadiri - Vatican Vibes =
interview from Art in America =
Vulture interview =
Contemporary Art Daily =
Pitchfork review = http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/16829-exo/
Discogs entry = https://www.discogs.com/Gatekeeper-Exo/master/459447
“Tabor Robak on Video Games”
Additional sources / references =
Team Gallery Next-Gen Open Beta
“Tabor Robak at Team (gallery, inc)