'99 Problems [WASTED]’ (2014), GTAV intervention, by Georgie Roxby Smith, courtesy the artist and James Makin Gallery
With big guns (and even bigger boobs), little clothing and orgasmic-like screams, female avatars in the gaming world are pretty much made for the male gaze. Melbourne-based video artist Georgie Roxby-Smith uses her art practice to comment on this portrayal of women, and has made gaming central to her body of work over the last three years. We caught up with Georgie, an avid gamer herself, about her walks on the virtual wild side ahead of her inclusion in the John Fries Award finalist exhibition and the Sydney Contemporary art fair, both opening in Sydney this month.
The Creators Project: How did you begin to explore gaming in your art?
Georgie Roxby-Smith: I hadn’t gamed since I was in my early teens but my partner had a PS3 and I was like, “Oh, give us a go,” and he set me up with Call of Duty and Skyrim. It just blew my mind, because of how far the games had come and how cinematic they were. I was also horrified at the violence and the culture around it, and how they represented women. That really kicked off that whole run of work.
It is interesting how women are portrayed in gaming. Usually without many clothes on…
When the last Lara Croft came out, which I did that ‘Domestic Goddess’ work on, it was the first time she had a female writer on it and we expected big things. She wasn’t as sexualised as she had been before, but those death scenes are like—wow. They were really graphic, and those death cries were like orgasms. When you’re trying to do something in the game you’ll die, like, thirty times, and you have to go through it every time.
‘Lara Croft, Domestic Goddess I & II’ (2013) by Georgie Roxby Smith, courtesy the artist and James Makin Gallery
For your latest work ‘Happy Endgame’ you actually built an arcade game. What was making that like?
I thought it would take six months and it took a year-and-a-half. I tend to learn technology as work with the idea, so I was learning programming. Yay Georgie! We finally got it launched for a show and it was banned from the gallery because it had a swear word in it. So it was like, “We’re launching the work… No, we’re not.”
That must have been a bit disappointing.
Yeah it was a bit, but the galley is changing its policy because of it.
I think that galleries have a duty by their very nature to get you to think, though.
Yeah. It’s challenging and it bloody should be. It should move you and shift something in your thinking, and make you feel challenged.
What would you say you learned from the whole project over all?
I think it took me full circle with the practice that I’ve been working on for the past few years. To be able to get to that point that I make the game myself, to bring that power back to myself rather than just be a gamer. It also has a female protagonist, and she’s the powerful one—she shoots down these white male hero stereotypes. But the irony in the game is when she gets to her end point it says “this is not a game” and it throws you back to the start, so it’s actually perpetual anyway. Hopefully my art practice isn’t perpetually stuck in that loop!
What’s next for you?
I think I’m in one of those spots where my practice is shifting. I feel like the gaming stuff is where I want it, and it’s become—it’s kind of a non-issue now, because it’s so widely understood. So I’m really looking forward to starting to work with my hands again. I really miss it!
‘The Fall Girl’ (2012), Machinima, PS3 Skyrim, by Georgie Roxby Smith, courtesy the artist and James Makin Gallery
Georgie Roxby Smith is represented by James Makin Gallery. Some of her work will be showing as part of the John Fries Award finalist exhibition, which runs from September 5 - October 10 at UNSW Galleries, Sydney. She will also have work displayed in the curated video section of the upcoming Sydney Contemporary art fair, which runs from September 10-13 at Carriageworks. Find out more about artist here.