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Cory Arcangel

Super Mario Clouds

2002

Artist

Cory Arcangel (1978-)

Title

Super Mario Clouds

Date

2002

Medium

Handmade hacked Super Mario Brothers cartridge and Nintendo NES video game system

Dimensions

Dimensions variable

Edition information

2/5

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee

Accession number

2005.10

Object Label

For this video installation, Cory Arcangel “hacked” a cartridge of Super Mario Brothers, the original version of the blockbuster Nintendo video game released in the United States in 1985. By tweaking the game’s code, the artist erased all of the sound and visual elements except the iconic scrolling clouds. On a formal level, the project is reminiscent of paintings that push representation toward abstraction: how many elements can be removed before the ability to discern the source is lost? Arcangel, who was trained in classical music, considers computers and video game consoles his instruments, and insists on mastering them prior to creative exploration; he will often learn a new programming language in order to develop a work. What might be viewed as nostalgia for the popular entertainments of an earlier era depends, in fact, on a rigorous conceptual approach to computer hard- and software as well as a refusal to participate in contemporary culture’s lightning-fast cycle of technological turnover.

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