There are two kinds of players. Those who play video games. And those who play with video games. Marco Mendeni belongs to the latter category. It is not a matter of semantics. For a player, the message is the medium. For Mendeni, the medium is the message. The difference is crucial. Mendeni appropriates a medium in its entirety – its aesthetics, logic, and eidos. He likes to take things apart and put them back together – not exactly as they were. Iteration is the name of his game. Mendeni triggers epistemological short circuits through actions that subvert the viewer’s expectations. He brings to the surface the parameters which regulate the inner workings of virtual environments. His foregrounding practice evokes the techniques of the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers, like Jean-Luc Godard. The director of À bout de souffle deliberately disrupts the arbitrary logic of narrative and aesthetic conventions that define our sense of cinematic reality (Galloway 2006). In the process, he forces the spectator to come to terms with the artificial nature of film. Mendeni applies Godard’s method to a different medium: digital games. Like his precursor, he does not abide to the rules. On the contrary, he invents new rules, new contexts, new games. Mendeni creates novel solutions, situations, and simulations. His eclectic practice ranges from synaesthetic performances to the heaviness of concrete, which reifies fluid, abstract moving images. Sounds, installations, and gestures: Mendeni plays with channels and codes, signals and formats. He produces a peculiar kind of video art by tinkering with the games’ virtual camera. He photographs simulacra. He juxtaposes lines and polygons, colors and noise. He wanders into uncharted territories, discovering secret passages. DECEPTIVE PERCEPTIONS urges the viewer to acknowledge the role of algorithms in creating a world as Will and Simulation. What happens to the transcendental categories of space and time as we move from the material to the ethereal? DECEPTIVE PERCEPTIONS is an invitation to dissociate and deconstruct, to displace and discern. After all, Mendeni’s works are a possible reaction – and a very convincing one – to Bruno Munari’s call for arms. In his seminal Manifesto of Machinism, apparently penned in 1938 and published in 1952, the Milanese artist wrote: “We live in a world owned by machines. We live among them, they help us do everything, from working to playing. [...] In a few years, we will become their little slaves. The artists are the only ones who can save mankind from this danger.” According to Munari, artists must develop a close relationship with technology, abandoning the traditional disciplines of painting and sculpture, doing away with “romantic brushes, the dusty palette, the canvas, and the easels.” The artists, Munari added, “must learn the mechanical anatomy of the machines, their mechanical language, their nature… They must distract them, make them behave erratically, create works of art with the machines, their tools.” Mendeni took up the challenge, turning the machines’ errors and glitches into a new kind of aesthetics. But there is nothing automatic or impersonal in this manipulation. His practice could not be more different from Andy Warhol’s desire “to become a machine” (Swanson 1963). Mendeni is a visual mechanic. A hacker who deconstructs, rebuilds, and repurposes his favorite toys. He makes them do things they were not designed to do. By reinventing the code, Mendeni turns machines into artworks, fulfilling Munari’s mandate. He introduces the viewers to new visual and psychological landscapes. Mendeni is a game changer.
Don’t call it Op Art. This is the true art of the machine.