Emperors of Eternal Evil
From the Crypts of Black Dust
Februrary 21st – March 14th, 2015
But the feeling of being “apart together” in an exceptional situation, of sharing something important, of mutually withdrawing from the rest of the world and rejecting the usual norms, retains its magic beyond the duration of the individual game.
— Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens
For this reason it is impossible to say how long an infinite game has been played, or even can be played, since duration can be measured only externally to that which endures. It is also impossible to say in which world an infinite game is played, though there can be any number of worlds within an infinite game.
— James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games
The Pit was thought to be just a legend, a fable, to most Under-realm Empires. Civilizations beneath have risen and collapsed with the creation tales of The Pit.
— Cave Evil Rules of War
Sometimes there is no exit ahead. Sometimes the only way back is to push further forward. And sometimes, after the final roll of dice, the game does not end, but rather reveals itself to be one moment in a larger system of play. This exhibition collects drawings, notes, audio recordings, and other ephemera created by Emperors of Eternal Evil– materials that hint at the larger framework of play that birthed the board game Cave Evil. Published in 2011 after more than five years of work, the intricately illustrated board game pits necromancers against each other and an unspeakable force. But the game reaches far beyond the boundaries of the tabletop and the two-dimensional dungeons that make up Cave Evil’s hexagonal board.1 It has generated a sprawling mythology and surrounding world that serves as inspiration and content for drawings, sound, and video works.
This is a recursive universe– the game inspired a soundtrack that serves to enhance the experience of playing; inhabiting the world of Cave Evil has led to more sounds (over 5 hours of audio as of this writing), more stories, and more games. The gameplay echoes this generative impulse, as each player must build minions to send forth into the caves, and dig an ever expanding network of tunnels, rooms, and pits. Game development is an organic process of creating and refining rules which eventually form finely tuned mechanics and logical structures. While the first edition of Cave Evil was released in 2011, the development process continues, with upcoming expansions that will introduce new rules and scenarios that perpetuate and build upon the subterranean world of the existing game. “From the Crypts of Black Dust” examines what it means to create a game within the larger context of creative practice and process. It examines how logic and constraints can bring forth a new fictional universe, and how that universe can endure through the circulation of artifacts in our own.
About the Artists
Emperors of Eternal Evil are Mat Brinkman, Jochen Hartmann, and Nate Hayden, with assistance from Manifester, MarderIII, and Wizard333. Together they have released Cave Evil in 2011 (reprinted in 2013) and Psycho Raiders in 2014. Brinkman’s work has been exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, LOYAL, Stockholm, The Hole, New York, M+B Gallery, Los Angeles, and Max Wigram, Longon, among others. Hartmann is a designer/software engineer who recently created the game Symtactics in collaboration with the Network Architecture Lab for the “Uneven Growth” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Hayden has created multiple games in the last 10 years, including After Pablo and the recently released The Mushroom Eaters.
In fact, it is possible for players to excavate intricate networks of caves that creep across the boundaries of the game board and spill out across the table. ↩