We are delighted to share our new project, The Mythic Being in Liberty City.
The Mythic Being in Liberty City is a replay of Adrian Piper’s 1973 performance The Mythic Being entirely produced and (re)enacted within the virtual space of Grand Theft Auto IV’s digital metropolis, a replica of New York City. The work exists as a) machinima and as b) a set of framed digital prints on archival paper measuring 12x18 inches.
The Mythic Being is one of Piper’s most celebrated works. In the early 1970s, the artist created a fictional character, in many ways autonomous and antithetical of Piper, wearing an Afro wig, reflective sunglasses, and a black t-shirt, roaming the street of New York. Piper produced a series of performances, cartoons, classified ads, and drawings on black and white photographs to document the evolution of her alter ego. The character named “The Mythic Being” first appeared in 1972, as an experiment in a domestic setting. At that time, Piper performed the role of a black man, appropriating the manners, gesture, and swagger of masculinity. She took photographs and disseminated them as paid advertisements in The Village Voice. Subsequently, The Mythic Being went from private to public sphere, appearing in the streets of New York. In two staged performances titled The Mythic Being Cruising White Women; The Mythic Being Getting Back, Piper/The Mythic Being gazes at women walking in the streets, pretending to mug a man in the park. Both performances were documented with black and white photographs.
In 2016, we replayed Piper’s performance within the urban spaces of Liberty City. The original game was modded and the main character, Niko Bellic, was replaced by an avatar of Piper/The Mythic Being. The Mythic Being, like GTA’s Niko Bellic, is a dangerous character, one who “embodies everything you hate and fear”, a chauvinistic, and ruthless alpha-male. The phallocentric view of the world that Piper criticized in her performance is the normative mode of play of the Grand Theft Auto games. Thus, this work challenges both the idea of masculinity in video games and the meaning of performance in simulated environments. The Mythic Being in Liberty City is both an appropriation and a subversion of Grand Theft Auto, which stands metonymically for the medium of video games. Above all, it questions the idea that games are instruments of fun, tools of escapism, and/or means to achieve "entertaiment". It simultaneously embraces and rejects the normative, "preferred" use of gaming, by turning the practice of modding - popular with fans and acolytes - into a personal/political gesture. In the hostile, adversarial, and confrontational spaces of Liberty City, The Mythic Being faces his/her most formidable antagonist.