Are Video Games Art? Let's Find Out At The Whitechapel Gallery

Harun Farocki: Parallel I-IV (2012-14) ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 100 months ago
Are Video Games Art? Let's Find Out At The Whitechapel Gallery Harun Farocki: Parallel I-IV (2012-14) 3
A still from one of the games used in the exhibition. Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

The graphics in video games are getting better every year, but what happens when they become completely lifelike? Gaming is taking the same journey art took when it evolved from cave painting through to the hyperrealistic artists working today. Does this mean that video games will become more abstract and conceptual? Arguably the independent gaming sector is heading that way anyway.

This is a slice of the conversation that bounced around our heads when we visited Harun Farocki: Parallel I-IV (2012-14) — a one-room exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. Harun Farocki has set up six screens showing clips from video games, each with a philosophical voiceover that talks about the boundaries of life in reality versus the virtual reality in front of us.

Instead of normal gameplay footage, we're treated to the onscreen characters exploring the limits of a game. Planes fly towards the horizon, a cowboy rides a horse as far as he can go and a policeman repeatedly rams against the edge of his virtual world.

The evolution of gaming is also addressed as we see how trees have moved from essentially stick drawings to the complex models present in modern games. Just watching the rustling of these trees is hypnotic.

There are some important philosophical questions here around the nature of existence, and although the narrative can be heavy going at times, the concept of questioning the blurring of lines between worlds makes for a thought-provoking, intelligent display.

Harun Farocki: Parallel I-IV (2012-14) is on at Whitechapel Gallery until 15 May 2016. Entrance to the gallery and this display is free.

Last Updated 22 December 2015

Continued below.