‘No life, no dying’: Condo-complex walks inspire video game art at Surrey gallery

Clayton-area resident Sandee Moore creates “Labyrinth: Surrey Condos Edition”

Artist Sandee Moore with her “Labyrinth: Surrey Condos Edition” video game installation at Surrey Art Gallery.

NEWTON — When Sandee Moore first moved to Surrey three years ago, she wasn’t sure what to make of the suburban townhouse complex she found herself living in.

“It sounds like a ridiculous exaggeration,” said the former Vancouverite, “but I really did kind of get lost in the complex when I first moved there.”

She frequently went for walks with her dog and, eventually, found inspiration for her latest work of art.

It’s called “Labyrinth: Surrey Condos Edition,” the largest and most interactive work currently featured at Surrey Art Gallery.

The first-person 3D video game, complete with “Dance Dance Revolution”-style foot pad, hand railing and giant screen, takes up an entire room of the gallery as part of “Views from the Southbank III,” the final exhibit in a year-long celebration of the gallery’s 40th anniversary.

The somewhat interactive game was made to look like her Clayton Heights-area neighbourhood.

“It’s all done in watercolour paint, because I kind of wanted this romantic sense of the paint playing off of the traditional video game aesthetics,” Moore said as she demonstrated her work prior to the exhibit opening Sept. 19.

Tree leaves shimmer in the wind, and the player’s footsteps can be heard on a triggered audio file. Odd objects can be spotted around the complex, such as the perfectly-good panini sandwich resting on a grass median, a child’s owl-shaped purse hanging from a tree branch and a formidable tower of cigarette butts overflowing from an ashtray outside of someone’s door.

The “walker” can only look around Moore’s game environment, which she began creating last January in time away from her work as a tax professional.

“I got thinking, ‘What if I made a really stupid video game and pared away (elements)?’ – kind of like how abstract expressionists remove everything from a painting except for the essentials, which would be the canvas and the pigment. I thought, ‘What can we take away from a video game and still have it be a video game?’ So this is just basically an environment that you can walk through. There’s no life, there’s no dying, there’s no positive or negative consequences to anything, there’s nothing to do.”

Moore learned from her previous video game programming projects that she doesn’t have the skills to make an exciting game.

“I considered making a purposely boring game, stripped of goals, scores, peril and excitement, and thought this aimless game would be a perfect metaphor for the suburbs where I now found myself living,” she wrote in her artist statement for “Labyrinth.”

“Surrey has become a refuge for many that cannot afford the urban metropolis, but are unwilling to forfeit the dream of home ownership,” she continued. “The realization of this dream is an un-peopled labyrinth of domestic architecture and retail spaces. While there is a temptation to view this structure negatively, the labyrinth is a rich and ambiguous metaphor for examining suburbia.”

The gallery’s exhibit, subtitled “Information, Objects, Mappings,” brings together three different sets of artwork by 22 artists. The showcase continues at the Bear Creek Park gallery until mid-December. For details, visit Surrey.ca/artgallery or call 604-501-5566.




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