Shinji Murakami. 2600

4 Apr 2024 – 5 May 2024

Regular hours

11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00

Save Event: Shinji Murakami. 2600

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New York
New York, United States

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The Atari 2600 wasn’t the first home video-game console (that was the Odyssey, which Magnavox released in 1972), but it was the first to truly capture the world’s imagination—the first widely coveted home video-game console. To be a kid in the late 1970s and early 1980s was to be enthralled by Asteroids, Berzerk, Combat, Defender, and all the classics that made up the roster of games for the 2600. The console, with its faux wood-paneled sides, is an icon of the past; a totem that evokes nostalgia even in people who weren’t alive for its first incarnation.

Like a digital Icarus, the 2600 soared to unimaginable heights only to be brought, fatally, down to earth. A combination of low-quality games, market saturation, and the rise of the home PC ended Atari’s reign, ushering in a lull in the world of video-game consoles. A new era began in 1985, when Nintendo’s NES—which had appeared in its home country of Japan two years earlier—debuted around the world. This catalyzed the dominance of home consoles in an uninterrupted evolutionary trail that leads up to today.

But the Atari 2600 lives on in a curious afterlife. Emulators for many of the games can be found online and played on laptops and phones. Hobbyists continue to not only play the classics, but to make new games that use the same technology and aesthetics as the originals. The artist Shinji Murakami is one such person.

In this exhibition, Murakami showcases work that is inspired by—and also additive to—the universe of the Atari 2600. Murakami has been focused on making art in this vein since 2021, when he became fascinated by the historical value and minimalist visuals of the 2600. But also of interest to Murakami, upon investigating further, was the robust community that exists around vintage Atari products even now.

One can find, in the lively forums at the AtariAge website and the Atari2600 subreddit, a virtual family of 2600 aficionados and obsessives who modify old games and craft entirely new ones—which is just what Murakami has done here with Pizza Boy, Mars Lander, X, and Emoticons. All were made with the kind advice and support of the online 2600 circle. Bringing today’s technology to bear, Murakami has also made a series of paintings which take advantage of AR codes to direct viewers, via their smartphones, to playable versions of Murakami’s games. It’s an artful synthesis of both so-called “obsolete” and state-of-the-art tech.

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Shinji Murakami


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