Since the advent of modern media, entertainment has always had its detractors. Video games are often accused of either causing violence or romanticizing it. Movies featuring wars and large-scale battles are utilized to tell stories that downplay the physical damage, instead focusing on the emotional impact on a very small scale. Vietnam Romance, a playable installation at the Postmasters Gallery in New York City, seeks to reassess the entertainment value of media released about the Vietnam War, in particular, with a large exhibit that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy to a point where they become indistinguishable.
Artist Eddo Stern has pointed out that the realities of the Vietnam War are being lost in the stories being told with the war as a backdrop, and has created a video game (another medium by which stories are revised through the lens of entertainment) to allow patrons to control the events unfolding within, using an Xbox controller. The scenery was hand-painted, with hand-drawn animations, which are being projected onto four screens, for a 36-foot-wide viewing area.
As a means of illustrating just how flippant he feels the U.S. has become about remembering history accurately, Stern created his paintings using “online data scraped from tourist information sites, Google maps, Ebay war memorabilia listings, top of the charts music archives, and a Vietnam movie database of characters, actors and extras.” The country’s pop culture feeds the project, which is then fed by the actions taken by those who choose to play it. Each level is named after a significant piece of entertainment either from or about the Vietnam era, such as The Deer Hunter and These Boots Are Made For Walking. “If you hated the War but like the Movies, you’ll love this Game!” is Vietnam Romance‘s tagline, which, if nothing else, sums up Stern’s point fairly well.