Universal Games

Mariam Ghani, Universal Games video stills
stills from the video Universal Games (2000, RT 2:20, color and b/w, stereo sound)

For a brief period in October of 2000, the two top stories on New York network news were the Subway Series (the Yankees-Mets World Series of baseball) and the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (the Al-Aqsa Intifada). At the same time, the New York Times began using digitally manipulated video stills as front-page cover images, almost exclusively when reporting on the Middle East. As I watched the TV news that month, I started to notice strange similarities in the way the two stories jockeying for top position were reported. The relative gravity of their journalistic content did not seem to correspond to the tone of commentary or change the predictability of the camera angles. And as I turned the images over in my head, it became clear to me how they could be manipulated to support either sociocultural narrative.

Universal Games began for me with the paired images of a young boy throwing a stone and a pitcher throwing a baseball. It grew into a video database of image pairs grabbed directly from the television, each of which was taken through 3 stages of digital processing and retouching and finally incorporated into black-and-white, digitally patterned graphic wallpaper in an allusion to the familiar regularity with which these very different games are played out in living rooms across the world.

When shown as an installation, Universal Games is presented as a constantly looping DVD on a monitor inside a TV cabinet or wall unit, with the 40” x 110” sheets of wallpaper covering the section of wall immediately behind it, and (space permitting) an armchair or sofa in front of it, in order to create the illusion that the video is playing live in your living room.

Mariam Ghani, Universal Games wallpaper
wallpaper from the Universal Games installation (40 x 110 inch inkjet prints face-mounted to DuraFlex, 2000)