Pseudo-Futurist Video Game Improvisation Extravaganza


A short reportage written in 2009 for the Performa 09 printed catalogue, where Eva and Franco Mattes premiered their in-game performances. Just added to the Performa online archive.

You didn’t need to be in New York to attend Eva and Franco Mattes’s Pseudo-Futurist Video Game Improvisation Extravaganza, because it was set in an artist-run space in Second Life, an online virtual world that anybody can enter via an avatar. When I logged in from Italy, the Matteses’ were performing a piece called Medication Valse, named after (and accompanied by) Jack Nitzsche’s oppressively demure orchestral theme for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). The Matteses’ avatars looked just like them—young and good—looking. Franco was sitting, naked, in an office chair, his body controlled by a computer script that made him slowly twist with the music. His figure soon floated free from the chair; he then embarked on a trippy airborne duet with Eva (also naked), their bodies intersecting—a hand reaching through Eva’s back, an ankle sliding through Franco’s thigh—as the “camera” spun around them. the Matteses’ were simultaneously performing, recording (the documentation was immediately posted on YouTube), and communicating with the audience in real-time chats. After Medication Valse and a short entr’acte came the closing performance, a bizarre “bed-in”: the audience could join the naked artists and perform, all together, any imaginable sexual position.

The event lasted about forty minutes, and was projected live onto a screen at the Performa Hub. Toward the end, members of the Second Life audience started spontaneously creating objects, activating special computer scripts, and improvising performances of all kinds in an uncontrolled, Dada-like atmosphere. The “pseudo-Futurist” extravaganza had turned into a truly Futurist night. The Matteses’ have restaged seminal performances from the 1960s and ’70s in the form of video games and online performances, but here they went even further back, to the roots of experimental performance: the early-twentieth-century avant-garde. Even more than performing, what Eva and Franco Mattes do online is test out heretofore unknown ways of living—and isn’t that what the avant-gardes were doing, after all? — Domenico Quaranta