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Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 26.1 (2005) 43-47

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The Intruder

Natalie Bookchin developed her interactive art project, The Intruder, by merging video games, literature, and social and political activism. The Intruder is an Internet-based art project that uses a series of ten arcade-like game interfaces to tell a short love story by Jorge Luis Borges. In combining these familiar scenarios with Borges' short and brutal tale of a tragic love triangle, The Intruder seeks to make the metaphors in these interfaces—shooting, wounding, surveying (a woman's body)—grossly apparent.

Players move forward through a linear narrative only by shooting, fighting, catching, or colliding. Instead of winning a point, a player is rewarded with a piece of the narrative, told in a voice-over. Playing transforms readers into participants who are placed inside of the story. Throughout The Intruder, players' subject positions shift back and forth between different and opposing sides in the same story, sometimes assuming the position of the male character, sometimes controlling the female character.

The definition of success is not always apparent in these gaming interfaces. In some games, a player must lose or receive a penalty to continue moving forward through the Borges tale. The story is told in ten game scenarios that together present a loose parallel narrative of a history of computer games. The abstractions in the game are not unlike the abstractions seen in military pursuits where human contact is purged from the brutal acts. The Intruder begins with a reconstructed version of one of the earliest computer games, Pong, and ends with a war game that, like its real-life screen-based counterpart, serves to simultaneously reinforce and abstract violence—in this instance, the story's violent end.

The Intruder is not the only instance in which Bookchin uses the game format to express ideas. Bookchin's Metapet project encourages discussion about biological innovations while players manage an office full of genetically modified pets. Bookchin illustrates moral dilemmas in a playful manner, one that [End Page 43] engages the participant-observer through role-play as the corporate leader with the power to construct his workers' DNA. The project ultimately challenges notions of humanity and biotechnology of the future.

By creating art that is a game, Bookchin targets the computer gaming crowd as well as net art and net activism audiences, providing access to her projects through a variety of channels.

Natalie Bookchin rejects labeling her pieces, as the labels tend to exclude or isolate viewers and participants. Definitions of net art and net activism are best constructed within the context of their exhibition and use. According to Bookchin, net art and net activism are not mutually exclusive. Both forms of Internet work can be creative, thought provoking, and can encourage action. [End Page 44]

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Figure 1
Screenshot from The Intruder, 1999.

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Figure 2
Screenshots from The Intruder, 1999.

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Figure 3
Screenshot from The Intruder, 1999.
Natalie Bookchin connects her extensive knowledge of photographic art to the more experimental genre of Net art to create works that speak of the technology culture. Bookchin's works allow for active participation in the viewing and creating of new temporal art. Bookchin uses the game interface as a medium to share ideas about sexism, Net activism, and biotechnology. Natalie Bookchin received her bachelor's degree in art from the State University of New York at Purchase, completed her MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago, and studied at the Whitney Museum in 1992. She is a faculty member in the School of Art at the California Institute of the Arts.



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pp. 43-47
Launched on MUSE
Open Access

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