First Person Shooter

Much like a gun can empower its operator by reinforcing his/her sense of efficacy and agency, image production and dissemination plays a foundational role in shaping public perception, and therefore shaping personal or collective processes of self-determination.

Marginalized communities lack not only the material means towards self-determination, but also the representational authority over their public image; the means that influence how they are portrayed and perceived within the public sphere.

The three traditional ethnographic subjects depicted in First Person Shooter each bear a distinct legacy of cultural misrepresentation, whether carried out historically by anthropologists or currently by tourists. Overtime, such skewed depictions solidify into cultural stereotypes, from the starving African child to the stoic Native American to the illegal Mexican immigrant.

Through overlaying the aesthetics and logic of a first person shooter video game onto found documentary footage, this work lays bare the symbolic violence often committed towards numerous “others” as defined by the imbalance of representational authority.

During gameplay, the post-colonial discourse from which the ethnographic subject emerges confronts a very different formative logic; that of facial detection algorithms, which define and transpose target zones over human faces needed to accrue “kill” points. Such algorithmic discretion is blissfully unaware of the socio-cultural discourse that has manifested through the deceptively violent practice of image making.

Technical Description:

The interactive installation is comprised of three parts; (1) a LCD screen with its polarizing filter removed, which causes it to appear white to the naked eye, (2) a SLR film camera with a Wiimote controller attached via a PC sync cable, (3) and a Mac mini computer running the first person shooter program. The Wiimote is connected to the computer via Bluetooth. The PC sync cable is soldered to the Wiimote’s motherboard, causing the first person shooter program to register a click when the SLR’s shutter advances. The content of the LCD screen can only be accessed when looking through the SLR camera’s viewfinder, due to a polarizing filter on the lens of the SLR camera, which re-polarizes the depolarized light being emitted from the LCD screen.