The Shape of Gold. 8/12 – Alex McLeod
31.07.2021 – 30.08.2021
Golden Prison, 2018
still from digital video animation
15 sec loop
BUILDINGBOX presents, from July 31st, 2021 to August 30th, 2021, a video by Alex McLeod (Toronto, Canada, 1984), the eighth artist of The Shape of Gold, the annual exhibition project curated by Melania Rossi, which investigates the use of gold in contemporary artistic research through the works of twelve artists invited to compete with the chosen theme. The installations are visible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the window in via Monte di Pietà 23 in Milan.
Alex McLeod is a video artist from Toronto (Canada), who tackles the concepts of morality and perfection in the realm of artificial intelligence. Inspired by video games and science fiction, his video creations are part animation, part surrealist sculpture, and mingle illusion and abstraction in captivating environments inhabited by non-human characters. The window on via Monte di Pietà presents Golden Prison, a looping animation depicting a prison of gold in which a creature, also gold, walks diligently round and round in an endless circle.
The protagonist of the video is an NPC (Non-Player Character), whose traditional role in a virtual environment is to provide the player with an antagonist to compete with or a bystander to interact with in some kind of storyline. With recent advances in computer science and artificial intelligence, the A.I. that powers NPCs is reaching new and complex heights. Especially in high-budget games, NPCs may own a virtual home, have virtual families, morals, and feelings. Giving NPCs self-awareness raises ethical questions, as they are driven by code that simulates the spectrum of human emotions. If the machines we do battle against in virtual worlds have the ability to feel pain, is it right to punish them just for existing?
In his video works McLeod highlights the “non-player characters” which take the form of awkward, endearing figures; by placing them in the spotlight, he challenges our ability to sympathize or empathize with non-sentient creatures. In the case of Golden Prison, the artist was interested in the dual nature of gold, which can be both solid and liquid. His creature seems midway between the two states of matter: it looks scratched, although a liquid cannot be scratched, and it is shapeless yet compact, devoid of memory but endowed with coordination. Despite the precious look of the gold, the digital simulation used to create the animation is a free downloadable 3D rendering software. These are the paradoxes that Alex McLeod explores in his work, and uses to make the digital world, which aspires to an ideal of perfection and order, humanly imperfect, inconsistent and weird.