Remember Carthage

Saturday, 01 February 2014

Remember Carthage

From a strip club on the outskirts of Las Vegas, a man begins to recount a dream-like memory of his search for an abandoned hotel resort in the Sahara desert. Female 3D models, aimlessly repeating the same pole-dance animations, populate the strip club. In a world apparently already devoid of human activity, the man longs for absolute solitude.

So begins this strangely divergent short film by Montreal-based artists Jon Rafman and Rosa Aiello. Constructed out of a patchwork of footage captured inside computer games such as Second Life,Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Rome: Total War, Remember Carthage continues Rafman’s practice of exploring and documenting the virtual spaces provided by such software.

A repetitive treadmill of achievement and reward common to computer games is embedded into the narrator’s story. Referencing the programmatic nature of the spaces being appropriated, Rafman andAiello have the narrator oscillate between states of searching and resting while regularly repeating formulaic phrases such as “in the corner of my eye, I see [animal] [action]”. As if he is not privy to the artificial nature of these described experiences, the narrator at one point mentions that he has a strange feeling that he has been in one location before.

The narration increasingly fades from past to present tense. Just as tangential as the collage of video game footage that accompanies it, the narrated story gives the impression that, rather than being a single cohesive memory, it might actually be an amalgamation of disparate memories from various ‘characters’, multiple plays of the same content or even an unconscious merging of the experiences of a physical player and his or her virtual avatar.