Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art

Friday, August 7, 2020Sunday, January 10, 2021
Organized by Rory Padeken, curator

Tabor Robak
20XX, 2013
HD video, real-time 3Dduration 6 minutes, 43 seconds, 80-inch monitor
Courtesy of the artist and team (gallery inc.)

Prevalent in popular culture for decades, video games exert a huge impact on contemporary life. Yet, video games have rarely been examined as a major influence on contemporary art. Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art draws attention to the immense cultural influence of video games by presenting the work of 23 national and international artists for whom games are a rich source of creative expression. Through paintings, sculptures, textiles, works on paper, animations, video games, video game modifications, and game-based performances and interventions, the exhibition offers new ways of looking at and thinking about video games that so many have experienced only as entertainment.

The exhibition’s title refers to a type of video game set in a digital world freely navigable by the player, who may select their objectives rather than follow a strict linear sequence. The title also suggests the many possibilities video games provide for artists to convey meaning. Open World foregrounds how artists use video games to call attention to polarizing issues around gun control, immigration reform, and gender and racial equity, recognizing that in contemporary society, virtual worlds and real life are inextricably linked.

Participating artists include Alan Butler, Ueli Alder, Cory Arcangel, JooYoung Choi, Joseph DeLappe, Krista Hoefle, Invader, Butt Johnson, Angelo Ray Martínez, Michael Menchaca, Feng Mengbo, Joan Pamboukes, Oliver Payne, Tim Portlock, Tabor Robak, Rachel Rossin, Jacolby Satterwhite, Skawanneti, Suzanne Treister, Nathan Vincent, Bill Viola, Angela Washko, and Mathew Zefeldt. Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, The Tom and Marilyn Merryweather Fund, and National Endowment for the Arts.


Published by the Akron Art Museum, and distributed by ARTBOOK I D.A.P., a full-color, 100-page catalog accompanies the exhibition. Produced by Lucia I Marquand, the publication features essays by Theresa Bembnister, Akron Art Museum associate curator; Samantha Blackmon, associate professor in the Department of English at Purdue University, Indiana; and Andrew Williams, associate professor of art and design history and program director of the BF-A in Games Design & Development at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.