Ericka Beckman creates films, videos, photographs, and installations that are inspired by game structures rather than linear narratives. The artist approaches images in a unique way that speaks directly to the changing experience of images in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly as found in the development of early forms of virtual reality. Her diverse body of work has been influenced by both the theories of Jean Piaget – the psychologist best known for his theories of cognitive development – and what Vito Acconci, a prominent influence of Beckman’s, once called “the architecture of the self.” Through her interest in games – children’s games, language games, computer games, and otherwise – Beckman foregrounds the ways in which we structure knowledge and how “the virtual” comes to influence and eventually fabricate reality, rather than supplementing it with an imaginary cognitive space.
For the High Line, Beckman presents a suite of four videos, each of which features a prominent architectural element, a relevant theme in the context of the High Line’s perpetually evolving surroundings. HIATUS (1999) follows a young woman in an immersive online game wherein her virtual alter-ego Wanda confronts the beguiling Wang, a cowboy caricature attempting to conquer her artificial world. Switch Center (2003) activates an abandoned water purification plant in Budapest, robust in its Soviet Modernist architecture, whose staged workers, spinning film animation, and music are inspired by Fernand Léger and Dudley Murphy’s Dadaist film “Ballet Mécanique” (1923 – 1924). The dual-screen video Frame UP (2005) follows a comedic half-pinball, half-croquet game played with two balls careening across the construction site of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis during its expansion, which was completed in 2005. In the late fall of 2014, Beckman filmed the new finale of Tension Building (2012 – 2014) at the 1935 Olympics Stadium in Florence. The High Line screening is the premier of the final film, which features footage of a both live and modeled stadium, animated with stop motion and live action animation.
(Photos by Timothy Schenck)