Curated by Dominique Pelletier
In collaboration with Retro Modding (Montreal, Canada)
The original Nintendo Game boy, the DMG 001, commonly known as the “old gray brick”, has become a favourite among chip musicians for the particular sounds its 4-channel sound chip can generate and was adopted widely by the retro modding scene for its highly customizable parts, including its iconic plastic shell, reintroduced into the market in a vast array of colours and designs. Customizing the DMG has mobilized entire arts and crafts communities, turning many iterations of this video game console, launched in 1989, into veritable works of modern art, elevating the potential status of any Game boy to collector’s item. More than memorabilia, the DMG is taken out of its original context by being unbranded, degendered, and transitioned into another body, time, and place.
As such, it is helping shape entire subcultures and communities around a desire to preserve and reuse ubiquitous technologies through craft, piracy and exchange. Game boy ROMs, both homebrew and copyrighted, circulate freely on the internet and physical parts are fabricated by third-party manufacturers. In Mexico, where the Game boy only became accessible once it was declared obsolete, the transformation of this technology is particularly relevant. Independent artists and members of collectives like Chipotle, Festival Metadatos, and Format.exe dedicated to marginalized art practices revolving around computing, DIY electronics, retrofuture aesthetics, zines, and memes have given the Game boy a cultural mediator identity, as the world draws its attention towards how Mexican artists use the Game boy and inscribe Mexican culture in global chiptune communities.
Designed in 1989 with our brothers in mind and entering its fourth decade, the Game Boy is in the midst of an existential crisis, encountering new gendered and cultural identities as it finds second hands all over the world. As a canvas, it has allowed artists from the collective to find a sense of sorority around the transformation of its somewhat square shaped monolithic plastic body. A body whose forensic silhouette represents all the missing women in Game Boy culture. Those who are uninvited, those who are rejected, those who don’t feel compelled to partake, or those who are absent from our circles or truly missing from this world.
Through the work of these twelve chiapaneca women, who have crossed borders and pushed boudaries, the iconic game console has reached new heights, grown wings, pried open its third eye and come out of its shell. It has incarnated endangered or emblematic species of mezoamerica, like the jaguar, parrot, and axolote, as well as Xolotl, prehispanic god of the infraworld. It has encountered narratives through the voices of our sisters, our neighbours, our ancestors, and through the beings that accompany us in our everyday lives, like canines Tommy and Vincent. It has taken on new shapes through heating, molding, and the addition of beads, clay, ceramics, mosaïc, plush, and textile. Its has been drawn back to its native Japanese culture through the mind of a Mexican teenager’s fascination for anime. It has found something significant to wear. It has seen light and has grown plants and flowers from its root of plastic.
By aborting its green circuit boards, it has found a voice without voltage, music or play, it has travelled beyond what was permitted or expected, it came to life once more, transcending the concepts of time and borders to become lanscape.