Going Viral

By Carla Rapoport August 19, 2020

Lumen is always pleased to discover artists using the online environment to express their creativity. Given the constraints of lockdown, there’s no surprise that this year’s 3D/Interactive Category includes some incredible web-based experiences. One of my favourites in this year’s Longlist is Lena NW’s Viral.

Lena NW is a multidisciplinary media artist whose work reflects the millennial dilemma of being deranged and jaded from internet-induced media oversaturation. Presently based in Los Angeles, Lena moved around a lot throughout childhood. With no hometown, Lena found her cultural and communal grounding online. Her work, as a result, explores the internet culture’s intersection of identity, sexuality, ethics, language, and mental health.

An artist with a wide range of interests, her practice merges game development, illustration, animation, video, music, performance, and writing into interactive narrative experiences.  She also raps under the name Fellatia G.  

Lena is best known for her PC and web browser-based games. Her breakthrough game Fuck Everything, was first recognized on Rhizome Today as “a testament to the (browser-based) medium,” and an “incisive, wry critique of misogyny across popular culture.” She then received the Rhizome Internet Art Microgrant to create her second game, Viral, in 2015 with collaborator Costcodreamgurl. Lena’s most recent feature-length musical game, Nightmare Temptation Academy, won the Night Games Award at IndieCade 2019, and the Most Amazing Award at A MAZE. Playful Media Festival 2020

Lena’s work is influenced by the ever-morphing socio-political dramas enacted online. Inspired by the DIY amateur execution of early net art (e.g. mouchette.org), as well as the flash game renaissance (e.g. newgrounds.com), she often condenses time into warped worlds reconciling a lifetime of internet addiction from the late 90s to the present. Her work dips deep into digital culture, using memes, snuff media, shock sites, cyber-bullying, Iive-streaming, kid’s cartoons, video games, anime, hip-hop mutations, furries, fanfics, doxxing, pornography, etc., are remixed and collaged. In her work, shock is not a provocative crutch, but rather a genuine means of self expression corollary to the relentless consumption of unrestricted aberrant content. As she puts it: “The desensitization to atrocity is a defense mechanism to cope with a culture where the horrific becomes mundane.”

Why not try for yourself? Play Viral at: http://www.viralgame.org.

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