Street Art Meets New Media Art Meets Video Gaming: Corridor Digital's "Graphic Violence"

Screen grab from Corridor Digital's "Graphic Violence" 2010
This term I will be tackling the hot topic of new media and digital art in an art history seminar exploring both the history and context for the development of non-traditional art forms and the recent explosion of interest in all things digitally produced under the label “art.” Not surprisingly, this entire area of study exists in a grey zone between competing and sometimes contradictory worlds of commercial design, contemporary art, street culture, and most recently, the under-examined world of video gaming. In fact, one of my goals this term is to think much more critically about how and where these worlds intersect.

A Banksy work sited in London in 2007 
A very recent case in point is an intriguing and skillfully produced video work by the post-production and visual effects studio Corridor Digital. Based in Los Angeles and working at ground zero in the world of Hollywood and motion picture special effects, the studio has found another avenue for promotion by posting short "artful" videos on their YouTube channel that explore their interest in action movies and video gaming. And although they have not posted many clips, the ones that have made it to the site are getting some serious buzz and circulation. Their most recent short video “Graphic Violence” (see clip below) caught my eye on my Twitter feed, and I immediately noted the strong references to both art-making (one of the main characters is painting at the outset of the narrative) and the influence of graffiti art, most notably the clear reference to the enigmatic street artist Banksy, whose cultural capital and mainstream notoriety exploded recently with a cameo appearance on the Simpsons.

Banksy, who works incognito, is allegedly captured here
in a rare photograph that circulated when the graffiti art
I posted above was first discovered.
Some people feel that this breaks the "illusion"
of Banksy's art-- an interesting question to ponder
in terms of the spectacle surrounding him.
Watching the video, you will notice how the main action involves duelling characters transform from flesh and blood humans into animated “action heroes” played out as graffiti rendered bodies not unlike those of Banksy. The background music features a retro Super Mario Brothers vibe which reminds the audience that they are in fact engaged within a gaming context. As the action unfolds, the characters move between the world of the real and the world of the digital, yet also contend with the added dimension of becoming graffiti figures, rendering new possibilities for subjectivity and action. With this added twist, Corridor Digital is able to display not only their aptitude and amazing talent as post-production digital designers, but also create a fantastic conceptual discourse that examines the dualities of analog and digital art and the role of producers and audiences in determining its many potentials. What I also enjoyed about the project is how willingly Corridor Digital exposed the means of representation by producing an accompanying video that discusses in detail exactly how they created the final special effects (see clip below). In this sense, the sensationalism or “spectacle” of the video is quietly disarmed and allowed to exist in the realm of technique and not just theatre—an important element that complicates the “art” category many people want to place this kind of project within.

Check out both the original video and accompanying tutorial for yourself. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the innovative and boundary-breaking approach of this work: