Joseph DeLappe is not your ordinary artist. He’s a professor of art at the University of Nevada, and some have called him the first “gamer artist.” In October 18, 2002, with the TV show Friends still on the air, he and five gamer friends staged a recreation of “The One Where No One Proposes,” the premiere episode of Season 9, in the medium of a Quake III Arena game server (that is, a massively multiplayer environment where hundreds of players compete in the same arena). The project was called “Quake/Friends.” Each character in the show was given an avatar in the violent shoot-‘em-up, and the players used the in-game messaging system to render the episode’s dialogue: “Our performers functioned as passive, neutral visitors to the game—we were constantly killed and reincarnated to continue the performance. The piece was presented a second time in 2003 using six projected points of view, multiple audio channels and microphones for each performer.” The episode they were reenacting was not quite a month old at the time of the first performance. It was kind of a big deal at the time—the New York Times gave the second performance of the piece a writeup with the title “Take That, Monica! Kapow, Chandler!”
More recently, DeLappe’s work has shown a more explicitly political flavor. From 2006 to 2011, DeLappe undertook the impressively subversive “Dead in Iraq” project, which involved logging on to the U.S. Army recruiting game “America’s Army” with the username dead-in-iraq and typing in the names of all 4,484 (at that time) service persons who had died to date in Iraq. In 2013 DeLappe commenced the “Cowardly Drone” project, which was essentially an elaborate effort to fuck with Google Image search results. He would take images of e.g. MQ9 Reaper Drones and Photoshop the word “COWARDLY” on the vehicle’s side in large bold letters, then re-upload the images with unprepossessing titles like “predator drone” in the hopes that some of his images would come up as hits in Google Search. The images are intended as “a subtle intervention into the media stream of US military power.”
DeLappe’s newest idea, “In Drones We Trust,” is combining a critique of the U.S. military’s use of drones with the defacement of U.S. currency. He noticed that all U.S. bills in wide circulation (except for the $1 bill) feature an etching of an august edifice connected with the U.S. government on its reverse side. (The $2 has a reproduction of Joseph Trumbull’s painting The Declaration of Independence.) In each case the building comes with an entirely featureless, placid sky, so DeLappe figured, why not add a menacing image of a drone to them? “It seems appropriate,” writes DeLappe, “considering our current use of drones in foreign skies, to symbolically bring them home to fly over our most notable patriotic structures.” He has created a couple hundred rubber stamps with the drone image and you can get one for yourself for a nominal price that simple covers the price of postage ($3 for domestic orders). I ordered one, and I can’t wait to ... er, use it on non-currency bits of paper! (Actually, if I’m reading this right, it’s not illegal to draw on or add markings to U.S. paper currency.)
No video of “In Drones We Trust” that I could find, but here’s a look at “Quake/Friends”:
via Internet Magic.