Jeff Koons Must Die!!!

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Would you pay 25 cents to smash one of Jeff Koons’s enormous balloon animal sculptures? Artist Hunter Jonakin explores this violent fantasy with an arcade-style video game. Below, he offers his theory about why people love to hate Koons and discusses videogames as art.

The Atlantic: Why Jeff Koons?

Hunter Jonakin: Jeff Koons is one of the most polarizing and well-known contemporary artists living today. He attempts to elevate the banal by constructing large metal sculptures that resemble balloon animals, oil paintings that contain subject matter derived from digital collage, and large-scale pornographic photographs featuring the artist and his former wife, to name a few. All of Koons’ art is constructed by assistants. In general, viewers love or hate Koons and his work, and that is why he was chosen as the subject matter for this piece.

Is Jeff Koons Must Die!!! The Video Game an actual, playable game?

Yes, the game is playable and it costs one quarter for each play. I used UDK (Unreal Development Kit) to create the game. UDK is a development framework which uses the Unreal game engine for the creation of video games. I also utilized 3D modeling and animation software, Pro Tools for audio, Flash for text, and Photoshop for textures and 2D images.

Was game design a natural evolution of your artistic practice, or was it totally new territory?

I had been using game engines in order to create interactive, digitally simulated environments, most of which had static views and were primarily intended to be visualizations but not meant to be "played." So, utilizing the engine to construct an actual playable game seemed like a natural progression. At this point, though, I am not interested in conventional game design, but instead the idea of subverting newer technology in order to push the boundaries of new media.

What interests you about arcade games as an artistic medium?

I enjoy contrasts. Although I believe that the demarcation line which separates "high" and "low" art is increasingly blurry, placing an '80s style coin-op arcade game in a "high art" context makes me very happy. 

Are video games art?

In my opinion, everything is art. The question of "what is art?" is too subjective. It's much easier to decide whether a particular work is good or bad or something in between. To say that a work is not art would be denying public discourse regarding the relevance of the piece and, possibly, the further evolution of art itself.

Where can one play the game?

It is currently on view at the MOCA Tucson through August and will also be displayed at the Zadok Art Gallery in Miami from November through January during Art Basel Miami.

For more video by Hunter Jonakin, see http://www.hunterjonakin.com.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
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