In the absence of actual social interaction or options for meaningful home renovation during a pandemic, millions of people have recently instead found comfort and pleasure in playing Animal Crossing, a game that allows you to cultivate your land and rearrange your bedroom within the confines of a screen. Now, in order to enrich the game’s experience, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles has begun to offer an open-source online tool that gives players of Animal Crossing the option to decorate their “homes” with more than 70,000 artworks featured in the museum’s extensive open-access collection. Basically, the tool functions as a program that converts works by (for example) Rembrandt or Van Gogh into pixelated distillations that are both cute and pleasurable to look at.
Additionally, users of Animal Crossing haven’t just been adding pixelated paintings to their digital homes and gardens: they’ve actually been using their tiny avatars to recreate famous works of performance art from the real world. The artist Shing Yin Khor has gotten a lot of traction on Instagram for transforming her Animal Crossing island into what’s essentially an exhibition space. There, Khor has recreated works by Barbara Kruger, Jeanne-Claude, Chris Burden and Marina Abramović.
Definitely the best recreation Khor has made is her Animal Crossing reinterpretation of Abramović’s iconic piece The Artist is Present, which originally took place with audience attendees at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and which is now unfolding between different Animal Crossing players within the game. During a time in which museum visits and performance art now feel like experiences that are all figments of a long-forgotten dream, it’s comforting to see art re-interpreted and reimagined by creative people forced to channel themselves through the confines of a blithely enjoyable game.