I had a chance to visit the exhibition titled ‘Bit Generation 2000 TV GAMES‘ held at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito over the Century from October 28, 2000 to January 28, 2001.

This exhibition focused on the cultural aspect of the 30-year-old videogames industry beginning with the first commercial video game ‘Computer Space’ which appeared in 1971. It proposes videogames are shifting from things ‘to play’ to things ‘to think’.

Bit Generation’ means ‘a generation’ of these 30 years where the world’s value has been transposed from ‘Atom (money = substance)’ into ‘Bit (numeral = information)’, and ‘videogames’ are used as the best material to understand this generation.

Excuse me for being personal, but I’m just 30 years old. It can be said that I’ve am the ‘Bit Generation’. Since the time a cool videogame linked to TV in my living room, videogames have had a close relation with my personal development. I was excited over ‘Block Breaker’, though it’s composed of only dots and lines, devoured ‘Game Center Arashi’, a comic book about a charismatic gamer, challenged ‘Invader Game’ with a passion for videogames, stayed up all night playing Family Computer when it got to my friend’s home, and was moved to tears by Xevios’ at first sight.
We all have always experienced the latest technology through videogames and can’t help having a kind of ‘expectation’ that something ‘new’ might come from videogames.

This exhibition allowed visitors to see and experience some important videogames that have marked the stages of the times, and gave us a detailed interpretation on what kind of key videogames needed to evolve.

Among all the exhibits, one installation that compared the spatial difference between ‘Atoms and Bits’ was exhibited within the first space. It was really impressive to me. With real table-tennis tables and the videogame ‘Pong’ projected onto the table-tennis tables, or ‘Pac-Man’ machine where visitors can actually walk around on, it was an efficient introduction to take visitors into the context of videogames by setting up the formless Bits into a space. Also, it was a symbolic scene in that the world of videogames found its way into museums, though it’s been on a different level from art.

The whole exhibition showcased the real videogames, the history and terminology around them, people who are involved in the production process, all sorts of hardware, interface and others. For those who are not interested in videogames, it was really easy to understand how videogames have evolved.

On top of that, it became a rare exhibition where visitors could see exhibits and play with them. The scene of parent and child playing videogames together in a museum with sounds in the background made me feel strange but happy. Totally different from the usual contemporary art exhibition that visitors have to go forward to see the works, trying to understand the difficult context, this exhibition gave me the impression that the space has become familiar to us.

Since last year, there were lots of highly-motivated exhibitions with the theme ‘summary of the 20th Century’ or ‘views for the 21st Century’ because of the social expectation within ‘the end of a century’. From the end of 1999 to the beginning of 2000, an exhibition entitled ‘Tokyo the year Zero’ was held here at Art Tower Mito. The exhibition attempted to reset the context of the past contemporary art in order to enter the year 2000 (the year Zero). As an exhibition to meet the 21st Century, this ‘Bit Generation’ focused on the strong videogame culture in a different context from art, and tried to create a stir in the culture after it’s reset. The greater part of Shift readers must be in the ‘Bit Generation’.

I think this exhibition gave a hint for creation in the 21st Century to both our generation and the next generation by putting ‘videogames’ into a museum. Needless to say, the 21st Century is still a blank sheet of paper.

Bit Generation 2000 TV GAMES
Date: October 28, 2000 – January 28, 2001
Place: Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito

Text: Chibashi
Translation: Mayumi Kaneko

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