Belgrade-based visual artist Igor Simic uses mobile phone games to make darkly comic political commentaries as well as create stunning effects.
Simic's latest game Golf Club: Wasteland, draws inspiration from Yugoslav brutalist architecture. Photo: Demagog Studio
As a student of film and philosophy at Columbia University, Igor Simic realised the potential of video games as art during a talk given by Paul Schrader, the American screenwriter and director who penned Taxi Driver. Simic recalls that Schrader’s lecture pointed to the then on-going exhibition of Marina Abramovic’s work at MoMA and the growth of YouTube – and suggested that the key to the future of art lay in greater interactivity in the increasingly interconnected world that video games offer. When he returned to Belgrade in 2012, Simic initially focused on video art and on directing short films, but kept Schrader’s words in mind. He turned to two programmer friends from high school, and they produced two mobile phone games that tackled social issues of the day with dark humour. The first, Crisis Expert, which involves driving a shopping cart over economic charts, was inspired by the Great Recession, while the second, Children’s Play, put the player in the role of an overseer of a sweatshop production line, where he had to keep his underage workers from sleeping. Their latest game, Golf Club: Wasteland, which features a disgruntled resident of Tesla City on Mars, playing golf in the ruins of Earth in the not so distant future, also draws inspiration from politics. Initially inspired by his video art-work Melancholic drone, the golf element was added partly in homage to President Donald Trump’s former business as a golf-course developer. However, the main target is what Simic terms “Silicon Valley Ideology” – which is narratively and visually juxtaposed with the backdrop of ruins, which resemble Yugoslav-era Brutalist buildings and monuments. This design choice not only reflected the increasing popularity of highly photogenic Yugoslav Brutalism on the Internet, but also symbolism. “Firstly, it looks great and, then, secondly, it is a great example of blind use of scientific planning on humans, and where that leads us. Thirdly, I liked the idea of mixing ‘Silicon Valley Ideology’ with communism.