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MoMA 'Applied Design' exhibit explores video gaming as art

Trey Fields, 18, and Madison Eve Gentry, 18,

Trey Fields, 18, and Madison Eve Gentry, 18, both of Cookeville, Tenn., play video games at the Museum of Modern Art's "Applied Design" exhibition. (March 1, 2013) Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

It's OK to touch the art work at a new MoMA exhibit where video games are on display and visitors can play Pac-Man and Tetris games -- all in an attempt to show gaming as an expression of art.

The exhibit "Applied Design" recognizes that video games -- on display at the Museum of Modern Art for the first time-- are "functional and elegant" art objects that express the interaction between humans and machines, senior curator Paola Antonelli said.

A video game's software is a design that triggers the brain to respond, Antonelli said at the exhibit's opening last week. The exhibit features 14 games with hand devices and ear phones.

People can play the early 1984 Tetris game where a player knocks out flat white dots from its columns. Another video game is the 2009 black-and-white Canabalt game in which a man races across a city skyline vaulting chairs, pigeons and buildings before falling to his demise only to start the race again.

The simplicity of Canabalt gives people a break from modern life's fast pace, said 20-year-old JoEl Eldridge Walker, a student at the University of North Carolina who is studying to be an architect. "All day we are engaged in intellectual activities and to stop and play a game that is simple and easy to get into like Canabalt slows down the mind."

The exhibit includes 100 objects from contemporary furniture designs of chairs and tables to graphic visualizations such as a live wind map that tracks wind currents across the United States.

"It's beautiful .?.?. totally unaffected without style or pretension," said Queens carpenter Yanik Wagner, 38, of Sunnyside. Wagner works at the museum and became immersed in the moving wind tracker, displayed on a flat screen.

"It's fun to look at and see the wind lines overlapping like a drawing in motion," said Jason Fry, 40, of Brooklyn, who also works at the museum.

Other objects demonstrate the interaction between machines and nature.

A functioning air purifier with a flowered plant inside serves as a "mobile greenhouse" that continuously cleans the air by circulating it through the plant and its water.

"Pig Wings Project" is a digital photograph of synthetic and live pig tissue that was created through stem-cell technology. The cell tissue is shaped into three sets of wings illuminated in neon red, green and blue on a black background.

"You don't know what part is real and what part is fabricated. For me that's engaging," Walker said.

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