09.06.12

This art game actually judges your body

A young woman models an elaborate dress in front of a shadowy and judgmental audience. As she contorts her body into increasingly untenable positions, the audience rewards her with their approval. If she stops, they scowl, then leave.

This isn’t a description of a fashion show. It’s the premise of the new Kinect game and art installation, A Fitting, which asks players to put themselves in physical pain to gain the admiration of others.

Creators Amanda Dittami and Blair Kuhlman, both of the Interactive Arts and Media Department at Columbia College Chicago, wanted to make a game that reflected a young woman’s painful experience of trying to feel attractive in a society that sets impossible standards for beauty. It’s a social experiment, and for Dittami, 24, a personal one.

“I think about this issue every day,” she says. “It used to be worse, but just getting dressed and putting on makeup, I think about it. That’s one of the reasons it was so important to make the game.”

Kuhlman and Dittami worked with modern dancers to create poses that become more and more difficult to hold over time. They created a distinct late-Victorian aesthetic for the game that, Dittami says, suggests a sense of “uncomfortable elegance.” The game is on display at Columbia starting today, and, if the women can secure funding, will travel with the Art Works for Change exhibit Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women and Art later this year.

Dittami calls A Fitting “an endless game”, but that’s not strictly true. If players stop posing altogether, leave and return to the Kinect’s field of view, the perspective of the game changes. It shows the female protagonist for the first time, through her own eyes, as she really is.