Levels and Bosses Video Game Trailer (2017)
NASA Mission Control Center, Corporate Boardroom, John Martin’s painting The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum (1822)
Leo Castaneda’s work merges the gaming industry with the fine art world, not creating art about games or games about art, but a fusion of the two. Since 2009, his paintings, drawings, sculptures, and VR works have mapped the various landscapes, characters, and actions of a forthcoming multi-level video game titled Levels and Bosses. Categorizing his physical works into the level hierarchies of video games has allowed the artist to abruptly jump from context to context, and style to style, without any more rationalization than the start of a new level.
For Tête-à-tête’s August 2017 exhibition, Castaneda imagines a speculative launch for the video game’s first level. The promotional trailer is inserted into three scenarios, each part of an imagined viral advertising campaign showing up in feasible and impossible contexts alike. The NASA Mission Control Center hints at the idea of the launch going extraterrestrial; the corporate boardroom references the bosses and levels of today’s corporations, where employees, presidents, and CEOs are arranged by rank; and the disastrous volcano eruption scene in John Martin’s Romantic painting The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum (1822) echoes the epic sublime vistas of sci-fi gaming.
In Levels and Bosses, Castaneda positions his bosses as protagonists, forcing the player to empathize with a type of character typically casted as antagonists. His bosses come in several forms, such as a waterfall topped by a cube reminiscent of the monolith in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a caped figure with human-like legs. These floating spectres haunt each scenario, staring back at themselves in the trailer, continuing Castaneda’s tradition of portraying his characters and landscapes in multiple mediums simultaneously. The music, composed by Molly Joyce, features organs droning slowly and repetitively, blurring time and space as the viewer circumambulates the looped scenarios.