During my lunch break yesterday, I spent about 15 minutes wandering the halls of the Serpentine Gallery, viewing the “New Fiction” exhibition by pop artist Brian Donnelly, better known by his pseudonym Kaws. There were all sorts of statues of his iconic “Companion” character – you can recognize his Mickey Mouse-like face from many vinyl figures or as an awards statue for the MTV VMAs – as well as huge colorful paints. It was a nice way to soak up some culture – and it was all inside fortnite.
the fortnite was essentially a virtual recreation of an IRL show at the real Serpentine in London, which is currently underway. Compared to other similar virtual events, it’s quite simple. It lacks the surreal interactivity of “Your progress will be recorded”, a virtual fortnite installation of 2020, or the exhibition Kid A Mnesia which was created in collaboration between Radiohead and fortnite Epic Games developer. Instead, it’s a fairly straightforward recreation of the gallery, where you can wander around and take in the exhibits at your own pace; apart from the building, there is a large outdoor garden with towering statues of Kaws. (If you attend the show in person, there is also an AR element through the Acute mobile app.)
The most interesting thing about the fortnite version of the show is how it is presented. It’s not tucked away in its own section of Creative Mode, where most players will likely miss it. Instead, for next week, it is the main hub. So if you want to see what the latest popular games are in creative mode, you’ll be dropped off in the garden outside the gallery. From here you can wander around and choose games and experiences to try, but you might also be tempted by the giant red Companion statue that lingers in the background, luring you in to see what this exhibit is all about.” New Fiction”.
It’s basically a Trojan horse for pop art. Whatever you think of Kaws’ work, highlighting it in one of the most popular video games on the planet is a big deal. And it’s all part of an ongoing process of epic culture weaving through what is ostensibly a multiplayer shooter.
There are, of course, high-profile examples, like the massive music events of Marshmello and Ariana Grande. There were also smaller-scale – and much weirder – virtual performances, as well as music everywhere from the dance club on the Party Royale island to the radio stations as players wander through the battle royale. . Meanwhile, prominent artists like Christian quarter and Yuko Shimizu created loading screens and other in-game artwork, and last Halloween players could purchase an in-game character designed by Kaws. fortnite is a big, messy mashup of pop culture, and one that increasingly includes more than big brands like Marvel and star wars.
In an interview with The Guardian, Donnelly described these kinds of projects as a way “to build bridges to a new generation”. It does not replace the experience of attending a real gallery. But it’s a way to put that work in front of people who otherwise would probably never see it. Love it or hate it, fortnite gets a lot of attention – and it’s nice to see it being used to highlight something other than the latest blockbuster movie.