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Colin Marshall

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32. Cory Arcangel's Video Ravingz (2002)
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Visually, Video Ravingz looks a lot like the glitchy patterns you get trying to play old, dirty NES cartridges. The canonical technique to address this situation has always, I suppose, been to blow vigorously on the contacts and hope for the best, and I admit to having done that myself in my dissolute youth. But I now understand that move isn't advisable. Sure, you might get the game to work in the short term, but your spittle (or whatever) corrodes it in the long term, causing even worse contact issues. These days, I'm a Q-Tip-and-Windex man. Works every time.

Unlike those cartridges encased in 20 years' buildup of human saliva, though, Arcangel's features a coherent soundtrack. It's an NES sound chip rendering -- I guess you'd call it a "chiptune" version today -- of a popular 80s pop song that I've been hearing all my life but about whose title, artist or lyrics I have never known anything. I feel like I'm supposed to know this song, and that I'd probably slap my head in recognition if I were to hear who recorded it originally. It's not Tears for Fears, I think, but it's a band on their order. Friends assume I know these things because of the knowledge I display of the well-known pop musicians of that era, but I don't generally know the chart-busters. Thomas Dolby? Most definitely. "She Blinded Me With Science"? Nah. Wang Chung? On intimate terms. "Everybody Have Fun Tonight"? Psh. And so on, even to whatever band has been chiptuned here.

Though Arcangel apparently made this out of what was once Super Mario Bros. 2 -- my childhood favorite of the series, though one that's earned only the legacy of a lukewarmly-regarded oddity -- you'd be hard-pressed to identify it from what remains. Of his vintage-game transformations that I've seen so far, this is the most complete, though I can't imagine what I'd do with an installation of it.

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