David Blandy’s largest UK show to date opens at Brighton’s Phoenix gallery 1 – 23 September. In true Blandy style the gallery will be transformed into a riotous gaming arcade, with film projections, computer games, life-sized cut-out figures, comics, posters, lego models, drawings by leading Manga artist Inko and an 11-hour deadly gaming tournament in which the audience is invited to participate.
Odysseys brings together for the first time Blandy’s custom-decorated arcade cabs, adapted to play games of his own devising, and key video installations including Anjin 1600 (2012) and Child of the Atom (2010). The works draw on the visual language of Japanese anime to tell deeply personal stories that question the ethics of cultural tourism, but that also question whether we find ourselves through the games that we play and how the films we watch form part of our collective memory.
Anjin 1600 (2012) is the first part of a new, episodic animation which references the 1980s Franco-Japanese TV cartoon Ulysses 31. Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, and the extraordinary journey of William Adams – the first Englishman to reach Japan in 1600 and the only westerner to become a Samurai – Blandy re-imagines Adams’ adventures as a futuristic space odyssey in a steampunk galleon-style starship.
Driven by his belief that he owes his existence to “one of the most terrifying events of human history”, Blandy’s Child of the Atom (2010) is a meditation on the tragic effects of the Hiroshima atom bomb of 1945. If the bomb had not been dropped Blandy’s grandfather would not have survived as a Japanese Prisoner of War. Narrated by the fictional future voice of his young daughter, the film intersperses documentary footage of her and Blandy’s guilt-ridden pilgrimage to the city with apocalyptic anime flashbacks of the bomb’s devastation.
Blandy’s game Duels and Dualities: Battle of the Soul, is based on Street Fighter II, using a series of the artist’s alter-egos, each with their own special powers in a customised 2D fighting arena. The gaming reaches its climax on 22 September when The Fight Lab transforms the gallery into a gaming tournament space, with the public invited to duel it out day and night.
The arcade cabs also feature new and previous works such as The Black and White Minstrel Show Rhythm Action Game (2012), from the underground (2001), Soul of the Lakes (2005) and Samurai Story Part 2 (2008).
Using video, performance, digital technology, animation and comics, Blandy’s work investigates how popular culture such as television and computer games shape our identities in works that are often simultaneously humorous and philosophical, ironic and profound.
David Blandy (b. 1976) has exhibited widely, including shows at The Baltic, Gateshead; the Liverpool Biennial; Turner Contemporary, Margate; Spike Island, Bristol; and Platform China Project Space, Beijing. His work is distributed by LUX, and he is represented by Seventeen Gallery in London. www.davidblandy.co.uk andwww.seventeengallery.com
Brighton Digital Festival 2012 is a month of exhibitions, performances, meet-ups, workshops and outdoor events that run alongside Brighton’s iconic digital design conferences. This year the Festival will have over 100 events in it, a growth of 70% on last year. In 2011 it attracted an audience of over 14,000 visitors and participants. The Festival builds bridges between Brighton’s thriving digital creative industries and Brighton’s equally vibrant arts community. It includes events organised by a diverse range of designers, tech companies, community groups, arts organisations and individuals who are passionate about Brighton’s digital culture. 2012.www.brightondigitalfestival.co.uk
Lighthouse is a digital culture agency occupying a strategic position at the intersection of arts, film and creative industries, supporting, commissioning and exhibiting work by artists and filmmakers. Lighthouse creates inspirational programmes showing how important filmmakers are in a changing media landscape. Lighthouse also runs the UK’s leading mentoring programme for filmmakers – Guiding Lights and the BFI Shorts 2012 film scheme. www.lighthouse.org.uk
Phoenix Brighton is a charitable arts organisation based in central Brighton. Phoenix provides over 100 studio spaces and supports a gallery and education programmethat bring together professional artists and the general public in a friendly and creative environment.