Deep Play
VT Artsalon, Taipei, Taiwan. 01.10.22 — 29.10.22

Artists — Vladimir Nadein, Dina Karaman
Curator Shih-Yu Hsu
The Deep Play exhibition presents ongoing research concerning GTA: Criminal Russia, an unofficial online multiplayer modification of the controversial video game Grand Theft Auto.

Instead of mocking the USA, the game is set in a generalized Russian city with idiosyncratic buildings, infrastructure and national symbolism. In this so-called 'online simulator of Russia,' events are modeled and enacted by individual players and the thrill of the game is delivered through strict roleplay and rigorous control over potential chaos.

With its obligatory military service, every player is initiated through the humblest of beginnings and set on the only path available to attain a governmental career in a wide range of agencies with their own institutional ladders. Players are styled in the avatars of prison guards, riot police, colonels and politicians, where they are compelled to exercise power over inferiors. Violations of in-game rules and laws entail prison terms. This explosive formula of stringent rule enforcement coupled with the required realistic acting leads to scenarios whereby violence spirals out of control.

The research is based on gameplay records and live streams that have been uploaded on YouTube by the fandom. Each video is documentation that chronicles the environments, events and in-game interactions inside the virtual universe, as perceived by the players themselves. The artists have used the wealth of this spontaneous online repository to structure their own resistant archive that registers the testimonies of deep play bound in a paternalistic, militarized society. These collective worldbuilding practices, in-game power struggles and realistic role-playing eliminate the boundaries between the virtual and the real, causing violence and repression to be persuasively rendered.

The collection of digital documents is processed through documentary machinimas, bringing to light the mechanisms of imperialist state propaganda that finds its way into game worlds, promotes nationalist ideologies and consecrates wars.

We acknowledge and greatly appreciate the following organizations and individuals without whom this exhibition would not have been possible: Ministry of Culture Taiwan, Very Temple Artsalon, Hu Yung-Fen, Wu Szu-Yao, Chi-Ping Yen, Shih-yu Hsu, Hikky Chen, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, Erica Petrilo, Sergei Yahontov, More Nice Be Good Art Exhibition Service.