Hurt Me Plenty, Aram Bartholl’s current exhibition at DAM Gallery in Berlin, presents works that further blur the line between where our real lives end and our virtual lives begin. Using the infamous Duke Nukem 3D as a point of departure, Bartholl examines how the first-person perspective of the game was designed to make the player feel like they were inside the game, and how that perspective is increasingly becoming a reality as video screens become the lens through which we experience the world.
As Bartholl explains in his private tour, the image of the player’s hand reaching into the virtual world is “like a symbol of us entering digital space.” A series of prints in the exhibition play with the notion of the virtual mixing with the real world by depicting pixelated images using traditional halftone printing techniques on traditional art materials like paper and wood.
Bartholl’s private tour of Hurt Me Plenty is in itself a brilliant extension of the work in the exhibition. Not only does it show the work from the same perspective as the first-person shooter games that it references, his narration is also reminiscent of the video game walkthroughs that gamers commonly record to share their personal gaming experiences via youtube.
Perhaps the most intriguing piece in the exhibition is the work from which the exhibition’s title originated. By taking the phrases used to describe the different difficulty levels of Doom II out of the context of a video game and displaying them in a hand-written font, the difficulty levels take on more ambiguous implications that are open to interpretation from the viewer, just like everything else in the real world.
The exhibition continues through November 1st, so if you find yourself in Berlin and you’d like to see the work IRL, then be sure to drop in and check it out for yourself!