Zoya is a historian and journalist of games and playful art. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Memory Insufficient, and a consultant at Silverstring Media.

skot deeming, also known as mrghosty, has done more exciting work in games and new media than I dare imagine. A curator with a long list of digital art exhibitions under his belt, a VJ (that’s “video jockey”, one who mixes not just sound but moving images) and a member of Concordia University’s fantastic TAG lab, skot’s work centers the mod, the hack, and the glitch. Through theoretical work and hands-on interventions, he constantly interrupts patterns, shatters illusions and reveals things that were out of focus.

His latest show finished earlier this month. I caught up with him by email to ask how it went.

First, could you give a brief summary of the show?

10995618_822197601189789_7228282755806183219_nThe title for the show was Impossible Architectures: Glitch, Decay and Structure in Digital Worlds… essentially it’s about using glitches and decay as organizing principles in the work, rather than say as unwanted bugs that interrupt conventional gameplay.  It was a collection of six works by artists from around the world (Kent Sheely, Notendo, Jack Squires, Sergei Mohov, Data Tragedy, and Luis Hernandez). The exhibition invited visitors to explore these strange, broken and decaying digital spaces, and in some cases, to contribute to the their instabilities.

It was part of the Cluster Festival of New Music and Integrated Arts, in Winnipeg Canada.

The title is “impossible architectures” — could you tell me a bit about how you relate to the notion of “possibility” in your work on games?

As a curator, I think possibility is always something that kind of lingers in the back of my mind. Click To Tweet

When researching works for exhibitions, regardless of the themes or forms I’m working with, I always want to find works that extends our understanding of what is possible in terms of new media and game based works.  More specifically, I think that this has a great deal to do with works that push themselves between the cracks of both of these worlds; often they overlap, but they are largely siloed in most contexts. For me, the possibility lies in works which stretch our understanding of games and new media art, that is to say, works that can readily be regarded as both.

We usually associate the concept of “decay” with age and neglect: years pass and concrete is covered in moss, wood rots until it needs to be replaced, copper turns so completely green we assume that it always looked that way. How do you think about decay in a digital context?

I think that the conventional and popular understanding of digital technology is that it is wholly stable, that we can store media objects as collections of bits of data and assume that they will last “forever”…. but in reality that is far from the truth.  Bit rot is a real thing, storage media breakdown over time, and each time a new operation system is released, it often renders older forms of software and media “obsolete”. Video codecs change their standards and parameters, often rendering outdated media files unviewable… all this to say, that decay is very much a real part of all things digital, and this idea of stability is really a false notion. It’s why I am fond of works that address this topic, it forefronts the issue, often in unexpected ways.


Could you describe for me an ideal journey that a person might take while exploring the spaces of this show?

Of the 6 pieces in the show, most of them deal explicitly with worlds that break down, either over time, or through having people interact with them. For me, I think, the ideal journey that i would envision for anyone visiting the show, is the understanding of how digital spaces operate, how conventional digital architectures can be twisted and broken in order to create a vastly different experience. If all digital experiences are built on the illusion of stablity in their front end, I wanted visitors to understand that deep below, instabilities abound.

I wanted visitors to experience instability, and become willing participants in it. Click To Tweet

Do you have some thoughts about the historical precedent for the kind of work you were doing in this show? What were your inspirations?

I honestly hadn’t even thought about any sort of ‘historical precedent at all with this exhibition. I’m not sure I would want to make such bold claims about such a thing either, to be honest. I think that this exhibition marks the collection of works that were already out in the world. In fact, much of what was shown here (5 of the 6 works), I had curated in other exhibitions in different contexts, and have been working with most of these artists for several years. This was simply the first time I had brought them all together into a single exhibition.

As for what inspired the show, that has a lot to do with the fact that the directors of Cluster asked me to curate an exhibition around the theme of Interface (the theme for the 2015 edition of the festival). I guess what I wanted to do, is push the idea that digital architectures themselves are kinds of interfaces, in fact I think all architectures, IRL or digital operate in this regard. Then I thought about how can we destabilize this notion of interface? How can we move beyond seeing screens and controllers, and understand how we are affecting and interfacing with the systems within these works?

IMG_20150327_212438It’s sort of a constellation of larger inspirations, seeing the work in the global Game Art scene, and following along with the Glitch.Art scene as well. Often many of these artists participate in both, and I kind of had one of those “watershed moments” and it all just came together. Glitch Art and Game Art scenes not only share overlaps with artists, but also in terms of their underlying mandates; to destabilize, and speak critically to an increasingly proprietary digital world. Both of these scenes intervene in cracking that notion open, in hacking, breaking and tweaking the guts of the thing. It’s this kind of work that I’ve been interested in for a very long time.