Check the press section of our curriculum vitae for all the publicity we've generated, including appearances in or on the New York Times, MTV, VH1, Newsweek, ARTnews, Time Out NY, Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, fab, eye, & more!
Learn more about the Prize Budget for Boys, creators of Pac-Mondrian.
"One thing is certain: Pac-M[ondri]an is the most popular ar[t]cade game in history."
We put up a web page in February 2004 to enter Pac-Mondrian in a contest for video game art sponsored by rhizome.org that would have included a show at the New Museum for Contemporary Art in New York. We proposed to offer $2000 of the prize money to gamers in a competition: $1000 for the Pac-Mondrian high score and $1000 for the best level design. Unfortunately, we did not win the contest.
In July, thinking that we were offering the prize money, two blogs with large readerships linked to our proposal: boingboing.net (Best American Blog - 2004 Bloggies), and metafilter.com (Best Media Blog - Forbes 2003). Subsequently the meme spread. We put a disclaimer on the page that the high score and level design competitions would not transpire as proposed. However, by the end of the month over 20,000 people had played Pac-Mondrian, and Howie Kahn from ARTnews called looking for an interview for an article in their November issue. The following testimonials were found on blogs linking to Pac-Mondrian.
"Mondrian + Pac-Man + Boogie Woogie = Brilliant"
"Art hits the arcade. Play the classic game while enjoying the Piet Mondrian background. Who says art isn't fun?"
"Pac-Mondrian combines the transcendent perfection of Pac-Man with the aesthetic genius of Piet Mondrian. There's never been a higher concept video game. Seriously, this cracks me up."
"Words can't express just how truly right this is: Pac-Mondrian. Video games meet modern art, and the music that accompanies it is jazz. Now all I need is someone to make me a first-person shooter in a Hieronymous Bosch painting, and I can die happy."
"best. game. ever.
"And the winner is...
"Pac-Man meets Piet Mondrian as only an abstract painter and a ravenous circle-being can! Move Pac-Man in the time-honored manner around the canvas of Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie-Woogie," all the while being chased by indignant Norman Rockwell fans. No, just kidding, they're all ghosts, while many Norman Rockwell fans are still alive."
"Abstraction Will Eat Itself."
"Pac Is Back: Why are artists so fascinated with old video games? Because they're the freaky subconscious of the digital age."
"The coolest part IMHO isn't that you're playing Pac-Man on a Mondrian canvas, it's the boogie woogie sound effects."
"The idea of having Pac Man race around in a Mondrian painting is too wonderful for words. And jazz, too!"
"Pac-Man is analogous with the artistic program of this specific painting, which was all about capturing the structure and noise of kinetic activity. There's also a physical shimmering in Broadway Boogie-Woogie (unreproducible on the web of course) that mimics the flash of neon and lights in a city. Pac-Man also has an aesthetic of throbbing lights."
"Transfering the maze to the grand scale of the painting makes you feel like you're playing kickball on a baseball diamond, or roller-blading on a great expanse of concrete in Neimeyer's Brasilia. I.e. the transfer in scale becomes a transfer in logic, from that of the game designer to the historically conscious European master -- to run around freely and stupidly in it is like, well, playing hide and seek in the Hermitage. It makes my nose bleed just thinking about it."
"Ah, I love this - what happens when you cross modern art with video games: Pac-Mondrian, that's what. It's Pacman on Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie. Nuff said."
"Classic Modern Art meets Modern Classic Video Games in Pac-Mondrian...a very clever mashup, I didn't realize the whole Pac-thing would be quite so robust."
"I doubt I'll ever tire of the many ways people continually recreate classic video games. In May, you may remember that I talked about a surreal experiment in New York entitled PacManhattan. Continuing on that same theme, let me now introduce Pac-Mondrian, a game I saw mentioned on waxy.org links.
The designers of Pac-Mondrian have fused Pac-Man, fine art, and the road-house piano blues song "Boogie Woogie Prayer" into one bright, psychedelic, I-ate-too-many-shrooms downloadable video game. And guess what? The game is surprisingly fun, especially with the raucous blues song playing in the background. The designers even went so far as to include a level creator, allowing game players to create their own funky-yet-strangely-alluring levels. Give the game a try and let me know what you think!"
"Lots of folks are linking to Pac-Mondrian, but it's worth the saturation linking."
"Is It Art?
"Pac Man mod-ernisé.
"Va garçon, jouer au Pacman, va!"
"This is what Mondriaan is all about. I once made a copy of one of Mondriaan's paintings with the pacman icons painted on the lines, but this Pac-Mondrian is the real thing, it moves and plays music."
"Pac-Mondriaan is een leuk spelletje voor de zondagochtend. Eindelijk gerechtigheid. Kunst zoals kunst bedoeld is."
"Les amateurs de jeux d'arcade et d'art se retrouvent sur ce site d'artcade pour s'affronter dans des parties de Pac Mondrian endiablées avec des prix à la clé!"
"You take, you know, art, like for example Mondrian's serendipitously computer-game-looking Broadway Boogie Woogie, and you marry it with something as close as possible to like, well, Pac Man, and you get what apparently only can be called PacMondrian. The thing is, it's fun, and it's got something to do with art."
DayPop Top 40
"Oh, that's just cool."
"mondrian was an early 20th-century neo-plasticist painter with a style reminiscent of my first attempts at trying to master microsoft paint. pac-man was an addictive early 80s arcade game where the objective was to gobble up dots while chased by four colorful ghosts. combine the two and what do you get? pac mondrian."
"Like Pac-Man? Like Piet Mondrian? Then you'll love Pac-Mondrian! I'm just waiting for them to come out with Pac-Manet, or Pac-Seurat (think of all the dots!)"
"I'm waiting for the M.C. Escher-inspired version of Donkey Kong, where Kong's barrels roll around an endlessly descending staircase. Or maybe a Dali-esque Mario Bros. game, where the player eats mushrooms and grows to gigantic size...uh, wait a minute..."
"Pac-Mondrian. Ha ha, funny. Better him than Jackson Pollock. That would be a nightmare. Although maybe Centipede could clean it up."
"Yesterday I blogged about my recent New York mag essay, in which I mused over why today's artists are so joyfully plundering old retro video games. Then today I went to Boing Boing and discovered Pac-Mondrian -- a hilarious mod of the game created using the style of the famous artist. You can play the game online for free here!
As the creators note, Piet Mondrian's signature gridlike style was inspired by Manhattan's urban life -- as well as the boogie-woogie jazz scene, which he loved. In the game, you pilot a traditional Pac-Man around a Mondrianesque maze, munching portions of the painting while pursued by ghosts. Better yet, the munching triggers synchopations in the jazz."
"This is Waaay Better than Pong."
"Pacman your way around Broadway Boogie Woogie - Pac-Mondrian, now that's just silly."
everyone's favorite politically correct 80s video game couple- that's mister & ms. pac-man for short- have been popping up in all sorts of medias lately. i guess that's what happens when children of the 80s reach arty farty age!
look what some new yorkers put together. PACMANHATTAN! man i wish i'd come up with this idea myself. they use the existing nyc grid, cell phones, and wi-fi to create an urban pac-man free for all!
and, americanadian po-po-mo-mod group PRIZE BUDGET FOR BOYS put together this little ditty for the rhizome.org commission. pac-mondrian! once again, brill! though their copy seems a bit highfalutin': "Expert video game players are virtual virtuosos, playing the joystick with the creative intelligence wired into their nervous systems to create beautiful patterns on digital instruments." oooohkay. at any rate, a nifty idea."
"I love it!"
"Pac-Mondrian! craaaazy Nice music too."
"that is awesome.
"pac-mondrian, "where gaming meets modern art," is a delightfully kitschy remix of mondrian's broadway boogie woogie."
"I reckon someone was bound to do it eventually. I'm glad someone did it this nice-like though."
From Water Cooler Games:
Comment from David Thomas on July 13, 2004
Funny--I've used Modrian to illustrate the aethetic simialrities in modern art and video games. But the comparison I always used was Tetris. I mean, come on, Tetris and Modrian have a clear structural similarity.Maybe Pac-Man belongs with Pontillism, don't you think:)
Still, pretty cool idea.
Comment from Ian Bogost on July 13, 2004
David > I mean, come on, Tetris and Modrian have a clear structural similarity.
Good point. And I agree. But I suppose Pac-Man is perhaps more analogous with the artistic program of this specific painting, which was all about capturing the structure and noise of kinetic activity. There's also a physical shimmering in Broadway Boogie-Woogie (unpreproducible on the web of course) that mimics the flash of neon and lights in a city. Pac-Man also has an aesthetic of throbbing lights.
Comment from David Thomas on July 14, 2004
Leaving my own humorous attempts at sarcasm aside, I think you make a good point.
Perhaps the deeper relevance is fairly simply--by limiting himself to lines and right angles and reduced color palettes, Mordant ended up presaging pixel art.
A look at Broadway Boogie-Woogie stirs up images of many classic games. I see Dig Dug, SimCity and Robottron without trying too hard. And, of course, the dot motif is impossible to miss.
I stand corrected!
Comment from Ian Bogost on July 14, 2004
Yep, I thought of Dig-Dug as well. And you're right that there is a perverse relationship between Mondrian's technique and modern pixel-art. Both require an immense amount of precision work at the microscopic level to create what appears to be a much simpler product.
Comment from David Thomas on July 14, 2004
Perhaps this is the wrong forum to bring it up, but one other thing that I think is worth pointing out is that structural similarities in game art and fine art are probably both inevitable and a trick of the light.
I gave a lecture at the KC Institute of Art this past spring that was in part about this very subject. I showed a bunch of fine art juxtaposed with video game art, both visually and thematically. it's pretty easy to do.
But the bigger point of that lecture was that these similarities didn't make games fine art or even art. What they do help to show the potential of games as art!
What makes a game art? Well, I'll leave the bigger "What is art" discussion alone for now. Suffice to say that games as art really have to fight in the bigger arena of aesthetics and art history to solve that one!
Comment from Ian Bogost on July 14, 2004
David -- I think you are right that games that incorporate or mimic fine art are not automatically game art. In fact, one could argue that the artistic merit of Pac-Mondrian is more novelty than art.
This does remind me of something entirely unrelated. I am an unabashed fancier of Magritte. I have this fantasy of having a special game room based on Magritte's La Chambre D'Ecoute (The Listening Room). You'd need a house big enough to allow you to devote an entire room to the project. You'd build a big apple that takes up the entire room. Then you'd have to make some kind of trap door or something so you could get into the apple from below, where you'd have a swanky lounge game room.
Comment from David Thomas on July 15, 2004
> having a special game room based on Magritte's La Chambre D'Ecoute
For that idea alone I wish that you become the wealthiest of all ludologists and then invite me to your house to play in your apple room!
Comment from zombie gluesniffer on July 15, 2004
i don't get tetris + modrian. A better version- rotating around the artwork of a sculptor like richard serra, updated 3-d graphics included. it purposely fails in a way.
eventually museum art/interactivity needs to have a real dialectic- mixed up media. video games need to go thru some phase of co-option (theft), get institutionalized and then live independently from the picked-pickets of the rich.
pac-modrian is also a one-of-kind machine, so that's the price-tagged museum piece. it's kinda of cool that they re-simulate the video gamer's experience to that level, but the machine is already out of context. when will they tell them, "don't touch?" this game is those people who can't get over ms. pac-man, but art's history students.
Comment from Chris on July 15, 2004
The only shame about this piece is that they didn't quite push it far enough. The idea is quite clever, but sort of toes the line between smugly self-referential and satire, and ultimately produces a much stronger concept than resulting game (although there are hopes for the level editor).
By basically mapping the classic Pac-Man structure (and there are plenty of poor clones to rip code from) onto the structure of a Mondrian painting, you pretty much just wind up with an out-of-place Pac-Man. Especially when you co-opt the visuals of a game as tightly structured as Pac-Man - this distended version seems sluggish and far less polished by comparison. Unfortunately, this seems to be the trend amongst "art games", not the exception to the rule.
However, take a game like UGA's Rez, which was inspired by the art and writing about Kandinsky, but at no time do you jump up and say "that looks like *** painting!" Instead, the game works as a whole experience, creating its own vocabulary while incorporating the aesthetic beyond visual similarities.
Not to knock the work of the designers of the piece - when I first saw it, I recognized how clever it is. But as a gamer, it felt like a chore to play. High concept should compliment the experience, not supercede it.
Comment from Ian Bogost on July 15, 2004
Chris -- you raise a good point here, namely that the game is oppressively mindnumbing to play, if you try to actually complete the board. And I'm certain that this drole monotony significantly undermines the visual cleverness of the Pac-Man/Mondrian connection by injecting an insufferable tedium into the mix -- a trait which characterizes neither the game nor the painting.
I'm a bit surprised that the designers of Pac-Mondrian chose to retain the Pac-Man and ghost characters in original form. I wonder how the experience would be different if those characters were abstracted. Certainly abstraction was the principle artistic principle driving Piet Mondrian.
Comment from Chris on July 15, 2004
It kind of gets into the whole "games as art" arena, but it is interesting to think about how most games that do make it into museums are games stripped of their playability for the sake of expressing a single concept, like Super Mario Bros. minus obstacles and goals (the 'Game On' ehxibition being one notable exception), whereas gamers tend to lament the lack of playability when reviewing a game (i.e. a game like Xenosaga, or Dragon's Lair to be a bit more arcane).
Shouldn't good interactive art be as much about the "interactive" as the "art"?
I do think that the idea you mentioned is interesting - wouldn't it be possible to maintain the "essence" of Pac-Man while abstracting the characters and tweaking the gameplay to fit the environment?
The game is not a direct clone, as the wraparound effect now has a lot more entry points (which can be frustrating because dead ends look just like wraparounds, although I suppose that can be an artistic license interpretation of an actual New York Street), and there are open spaces (which seem counter-intuitive for a character with only 4-directional movement). But the issues seem all the more glaring, I think, because of how close it looks and plays to the original.
Comment from zombie gluesniffer on July 16, 2004
pac-mondrian is kitsch (referencing Greenberg's Avant-Garde and Kitsch). that is what makes it easily disposable, which is a requirement of kitsch. at the same time, it's one of the most successful reproductions to enter into artworld, utilizing modrian's techniques to sell pac-manlike art. everything is too familiar, too obvious, too acceptable to challenge either the video game player or the art theorist.
A mass production video game meets expensive modern painting. who cares about this distinction? modrian sells, pac-man sells- it's alnl part of a big, reproducible image system. that's why it's little more than a new, fashionable look for games. they even have a gimmick- play for money. its politics are as ineffective (or acceptable) as recent advergames. for instance, the beastie boys anti-bush frogger game is the same concept, but doesn't steal from modern art. it attempts to disguise the point of the game (to buy the album) in empty politics. the player wins when a beastie boy makes it to level 10, and then after a quick role reversal becomes a member from the bush adminstration that makes to level 20, and then the game ends. nothing happens. game over. you, a beastie boy, and bush have been successful. at what? also the gameplay is ridicuously easy, hold down the up arrow key to get to to the top in less than a second, regardless of the obstacles. really mindless/ apolitical.
my point is that pac-mondrian and the like only sell video game art as a fashion statement if they don't move into disrupting the concept of art. dadaism + videogames or something more aggressive and less like a new form of cool consumerism pac-modrain needs to move away from this kinda kitsch that can only familiarize us with art. change its distribution. release a series of games that turns art history course into a videogame textbook tool. at least that's more than fashion. video games are already part of pop-culture, so why continue to use them to sell-a-vision. offer new forms. check out- http://www.atari-noise.com/ this has much more potential because it creates something new, unpredicable, spontaneous.
destruction&invention- moving beyond, boring class antagonisms in art.
Comment from Chris on July 16, 2004
I think that Atari-noise is a great example - it takes something that is familiar and recognizable (Just about anyone who had a 2600 has experienced similar "snow" patterns, usually during a reset), but is even accessible to those who haven't played with the 2600 before, because it is accessible as a concept.
Beyond that, the experience is truly interactive - it has a pick up and play experimental quality that most video games have, allowing the user to experience something familiar in an entirely new context, not just in a different wrapper. Even the web-based Director version, removed from the tangible familiarity of the 2600 console, still captures the essence of the experience while creating something entirely new and with many possible outcomes and choices given to the user.
From Water Cooler Games:
Pac-Mondrian! Art hits the arcade. Play the classic game while enjoying the Piet Mondrian-style background. Who says art isn't fun?
Pretty fun, actually, except it runs so slow on my machine... :( I like the teleportation twist.
Oh, that's just cool.
Hm, I couldn't get it to work. I can toggle sound on and off, and hear no sound either way. Arrow keys do nothing. I'm Pac Mad
I love that the drawings of pac man and the ghost -- that were used on the actual game -- look like something I doodled in the margins of my science notes in jr. high. Talk about lo fi.
But, but, but... it's Piet Mondriaan, with double a.
I say art isn't fun.