Paden DeVita was born in 1989 in Rochester, NY. He received his BS in photography from the University of Central Florida in 2012, and his MFA from University of Florida in 2016. His work centralizes around virtualized or simulated environments and their affects on perceiving the physical locations they are modeled from. In 2016 he represented University of Wisconsin Green Bay as their artist-in-residence, and recently instructed courses on the fundamentals of photography at Daytona State College. Currently, Paden is an active working artist while also engaging in the private sector of production photography.
Video game culture, methodology, and experiences influence my art practice. I regularly conduct explorative analysis of virtually constructed worlds, their operations, and development to increase an understanding of how spaces and places are perceived. Experiential conflation from the video game Fallout: New Vegas and the comparable site specificity of the Mojave Desert provides impetus to inspect the fundamental principles employed to generate video game terrain. Positioning the natural and the technological as interchangeable and unified experiences introduces the indefinite and discursive properties of a permanently rendering mediation. The disruption separates from the repetition and boredom that catalyzed it, granting an increased agency of the mediated event, allowing us to view space as a constantly shifting idea rather than a static object. The validity of simulated and perceived real experience is questionable when the resultant hybrid idea forms the primary basis for visually understanding a space.
Laboriously activating boredom operates as catalyst for a greater comprehension of space. An environmental awareness of the game environment only occurred after inhabiting it and moving beyond the Sisyphean tasks of narrative quests. The narrative characteristics that once made up the usual participation with New Vegas are now the background, and what was just noise before emerges as a vibrant system for inspection and intense exploration. Through the operation of ignoring these events, the repetitive and fractured properties of the virtual land were fully revealed for inspection. Video games systematically load a virtualized landscape by compiling a number of files, dozens and sometimes hundreds, organized into folders. Each file is a flattened texture, such as sand, rocks, or grass, and saved in various resolutions for application. These textures are then multiplied and mixed with others to develop an environment. In every literal sense, it is the same sample of gravel wherever there is gravel. The sample file is pasted over and over again filling the sprawling landscape, and these are the same rendering methodologies I employ to cultivate the imagery of C:\MOJAVEDESERT\TEXTURES.
My work neither operates as an original or a copy. These images are not copies as they do not fully or accurately represent the desert. The spaces presented do eventually find their position as something created to entirely replace either the real or the simulated: Baudrillard’s simulacra. They are imagined and hyper-realized manifestations of the desert creating an entirely new image. They introduce the terrifying reality that the real does not matter, it is inconsequential because we already have an idea of the place before we ever experience it. We use google maps, view hundreds of images, have an agenda, and an itinerary. This idea of a space is the event under continuous construction, as opposed to memories of a space that are fixed and remain unchanged. Momentous spaces may often feel static and nostalgic, however they more accurately fit into transient shifting ideas, especially when we are no longer directly inhabiting them. The fundamental alteration of space as an idea “under construction” neither confirms nor denies the “truth” of a particular space. Here an understanding emerges that the past and future do not currently exist and we must deal with how space is perceived now. At this juncture we see technological and personal mediation as the primary means for introducing ourselves to the world and as arbiters of our own truths.
A pastoralized environment is one that treats the space as existent on both sides of natural and simulated, and highly romanticized. The effect is one of comfort and denial of the viewer to access the natural. The natural is the raw, unedited, beautiful, and yet terrifying aesthetic and experiential effect of the space. The simulated gives us only the aesthetics of the space, with the removal of the experience subverted by a distanced encounter from the elements. The results of which make the user experience the natural while also in domestic or personal space; the possible antithesis of the natural. The range of these interactions can include video games, films, television, digital images, gardens, house plants, and literature. Most activities that aim to substitute or ask the user or viewer to imagine the feeling or suspend their disbelief to fill in gaps that are denied in standard senses, these are manipulated in multiple ways, but almost always subvert one of our senses.
In many cases, the image replaces emotion, experience, or feelings entirely. As we take for face value and expand upon minimal information to fill a vast region. One snippet of a space is adequate, as we have been trained to accept with films and viewing images. Directorial and curatorial slices of the space which aim to explain and describe it with what’s included and excluded, here there is a normalization of providing a notion of the thing rather than an attempt to totally measure that thing. We see the same practices in statistics or geological sciences. Small samples provide means to expand and suggest a multiplication of these results to fill the space. This is largely disparaging when equivocating in visual language.
The complexity of this relationship is magnified in the act of camping, and my works Wishing You Were Here, To Wish You Weren't Here. In its most basic function or purpose it provides the camper with an escape to nature, but to remain distanced by carrying a minimum level of materials, equipment, and tools to remain as comfortably domestic as one’s preference allows. The extremes of this action are accountable in themes and actions of survival, one that views the natural as oppositional and dangerous, rather than a romanticized escape. The shift between camping and survival is the possibility of escaping back to civilization, whenever and on demand. Relinquishing any control over to the natural tips the experience into the realm of survival. The act of camping is then an act of conquering, if only temporarily and with futility. The images we carry around possess us to believe a certain atmosphere while inhabiting the natural; gathered from many pre-existing ideas of images or secondary experiences. The imagery associated with both camping and survival is highly diagrammatic, explanatory, and simplified, either in emotional terms or descriptive terms. Arrows, technical line drawings, illustrations, and minor details to impart suggestions of the materials at hand all in efforts to teach, or exemplify some action or task to aid our time spent in the wild.
Most of us can agree that sunsets are pretty and encountering wild animals is cool. But what do we as individuals, and as a society do with these fascinations, and more importantly why? We have limited and concentrated engagements with the wild. It could be the zoo, it can be walking through the park, hiking a trail, or going camping. These are all direct engagements, but there are an increasing number of indirect engagements with the wild that develop a stranger relationship. These different types of engagement are outlined in a hierarchy by French philosopher, Bernard Stiegler. He introduces several levels of experiences ranging the level of engagement with the subject or object at hand. There are primary experiences which are ones we directly encounter; you pet a wild wolf. There are secondary experiences; someone told you about this one time they pet a wild wolf. There are finally tertiary experiences; you see a picture of someone petting a wild wolf and in conjunction with what you know about petting dogs, you imagine what that’s like. Tertiary experiences are incredibly fascinating today because of how frequently they can occur. If you wonder what something is like, you can at will, search for and find images, footage, and text about that particular experience without ever having to do, see, or experience that thing for yourself. And as of that moment, those images, videos, and words hold a spot in your memories as relatable and important information for those experiences. We actively seek tertiary experience by researching locations before visiting, and passively absorb tertiary experiences by watching films, playing video games, and layering our memories on top of one another into an infinitely transmutable and shared space.