Southern Utah Museum of Art, on the campus of Southern Utah University, presents the work of artist Joseph DeLappe in his show “Resistance, Memory, and Play.” DeLappe’s work is on display now through Dec. 23, 2022.
As a Professor of Games and Tactical Media at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland, DeLappe engages his knowledge and interest in computers and gaming to critically examine our complicated relationship with technology as instruments of entertainment, propaganda and warfare in an array of installation, sculptural and video game works. Since 1983, DeLappe’s artistic practice has largely focused on electronics and new media.
“Resistance, Memory, and Play” introduces viewers to the various ways that video games, computers, the internet and other electronic devices that help us function as a society can also be transformed into the implements, spaces and materials of art-making. The works of art shown within this exhibition often overlap in meaning and message.
“This exhibition offers the opportunity for visitors to experience an artist using multimedia art as a form of political activism,” said Jessica Kinsey, SUMA’s executive director. “The world is heavy right now, and this work presents that heaviness using unconventional materials and unconventional methods.”
DeLappe expresses his political resistance through his art, performing acts of political protest in both virtual and physical media. One topic he addresses in several of his pieces is the government’s tendency to overlook the tragic results of drone warfare. DeLappe reminds viewers of these often glossed-over occurrences, making them more real in their physical representation.
In his work “1000 Drones – A Participatory Memorial,” paper drones are strung together in garlands and hung to commemorate the lives lost to American drones. On each of the drones is the name of someone who has been killed due to the misuse of drone technology in conflicts abroad, visibly representing mere statistics. While this artwork exemplifies how DeLappe employs art as resistance to political issues, “1000 Drones” also serves as a memorial to the innocent victims of drone warfare.
Memorialization is another key theme in DeLappe’s body of work. Visitors can expect to see many works of art that serve as memorials for people who have lost their lives because of the inventions of humans. However, although these memorials utilize traditional methods of solemn commemoration DeLappe employs media not conventional to memorials or even art.
For example, DeLappe performs memorialization within online gaming spaces and utilizes video games as tools for remembrance, as well as political action and social change. Using the first-person shooter video game “America’s Army,” which was developed by the U.S. Army as a recruiting tool, DeLappe created his project “dead-in-iraq.”
While playing the game, he typed the names of military service members who died in the conflict with Iraq into the game’s text messaging system. By doing this, DeLappe created a memorial to the troops who fought on behalf of their country. Within this kind of gaming space, such a reminder of the real world effects of war is especially powerful.
DeLappe’s different memorials are an essential statement of his political resistance. His commitment to documenting the invisible or ignored effects of our relationship with technology, particularly with unconventional art materials and artistic practices, manifests beyond his memorials and activist works.
Despite most of his gaming pieces bearing somber themes, many of DeLappe’s creations offer an element of play. As technology is often a source of both work and entertainment, viewers can see pieces of art that were created while DeLappe performed mundane computer work.
Many of the various works shown in this exhibition are the result of an artistic tool invented by DeLappe—the Artist’s Mouse, which tracks and records his movements via a drawing utensil connected to his computer mouse as he plays a video game or completes his daily tasks.
“Playing Unreal” is a series of pencil drawings created with this special mouse as DeLappe played a popular online shooter game. Many products of this creation are included in this exhibition along with other compelling works of art that invite visitors to contemplate their own relationships to technology.
Admission to SUMA is free and open to the public Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information about “Resistance, Memory, and Play” and other exhibitions and events, visit SUMA’s website at suu.edu/suma.
Story courtesy of SUMA
Photos by Devan Call