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'GTA V' Player Channels His Inner Ai Weiwei

Digital artist Roc Herms transports Weiwei's iconic gesture to Los Santos.

by Rubén Moldes
30 April 2015, 5:00pm

Screen captures by Roc Herms, courtesy the artist

A version of this article originally appeared on The Creators Project Spain. 

On the surface, the Grand Theft Auto series shares quite a few common themes with the work of Ai Weiwei: both are known for their controversial, critical, and often humorous takes on modern civilization. Both seem to have a particular fondness for rebellion against authority, and the rejection of unified power in favor of decentralized culture. Now, digital artist Roc Herms has taken their relationship one step further by creating a virtual reinterpretation of Weiwei's Study of Perspective series in GTA V. 


Images from Ai Weiwei's Study of Perspective, via MoMA

As the artist explains to the Creators Project, in a virtual world as rich as GTA V, "things can happen that weren't previously defined by programmers." This game's open potential to exercise free will is why the artist chose the platform for his reinterpretation of Weiwei's iconic series. It's also the reason why, Herms artist adds, the saga has become so popular: players are allowed to diverge from the game's storyline and forge an entirely new narrative, with the freedom to either "do things artistic or not."

In Weiwei's Study of Perspective, which was captured over the course of 20 years, the artist pointed his centermost finger at well-known landmarks across the world. Herms mimics this action in GTA, traversing through Los Santos, giving the finger to the city's most emblematic landscapes. Both are systemic and symbolic critiques against authority—for Ai Wei Wei, it's the Eiffel Tower and the White House. Herms approach targets the game's programming restrictions and the status-seeking approach to the franchise's narratives. "Maybe there aren't yet governments in GTA, but its just a question of time," Herms explains. In both the real world and the virtual, it seems, we can still count on a brave few to throw their middle fingers in the face of the status quo.

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