MIAMI BEACH — Growing up in the 1980s and early 90s, I remember the reputation of video arcades as shady places where pedophiles lingered, cop cars frequented, and truant teens spent their lunch money. Before the internet, video arcades were places of escape and fantasy, where you could immerse yourself in games like Galaga, Centipede, Q*bert, Street Fighter, and dozens of others, all while being part of a silent group of fellow gamers who found the titles as thrilling as you did. It was a place of (mostly male) teenage faux heroism, where people fought dragons, jumped hurdles, and eagerly wanted to find out who was the king of each console. People proudly left their names on the screen when they generated a high score and bragged about their accomplishments in school yards and lunch rooms across the land.
Fast forward a few decades and video arcades are largely the relics of memory, but that’s not to say they aren’t missed and don’t deserve to be revisited.
“A lot of artists make art about their childhood and there was something about [arcades] … it was an amazing time and place,” says Patrick Miller, who is one half of the artist group Faile, by way of explaining the latest incarnation of Deluxx Fluxx, an artist-designed video arcade presented by Perrier. “The environment is such a part of it, it was dark, it was seedy, you didn’t know the people who were going to be there … there is something almost risky and exciting about that. Then there is playing the games and getting lost in that.”
A collaboration with street artist Bäst, Faile’s Deluxx Fluxx will be unveiled in South Beach, Florida, tomorrow, Tuesday, December 3, and it will be open for the duration of Miami’s art fair week. While the duo have created similar arcades back in 2010 in London and New York, the Miami version will be their most extensive, as it will include unique video games (many of which are Miami-themed) in specially designed consoles, a foosball game, and two pinball games designed by the artists from scratch.
“For the teenager, it was the black market, you could get anything at the arcade,” Miller says, and it is hard not to see why that shadowy darkness that could conjure up almost anything is similar to the sensibility at work in Faile’s own art.
“From the old style art work and the typography and patterns, and the way subject matter gets boiled down into this one thing on the side of a machine is something we respond to in our art work and trying to tell these stories in single images, color, and all those things … and it’s very much about that aesthetic … a lot of our subject matter is about trying to make a commentary about larger things but in a whimsical way and piecing together these bits of our past and current times and playing with that,” he says.
A veteran of the street art scene, Miller considers the arcade a way of “taking it a step further.” The thrill of the unexpected personal connection with the viewer on the street has been something that has fueled Faile’s early work, but as they’ve matured they’ve sought new ways to connect. “The arcade was great because you come in confused and the art captivates you and then you leave with a smile,” he says.
The 8-bit aesthetic of the video games, their promotional gifs (two are included in this post), and the beautifully painted consoles with their black-light look seem to be a natural fit for South Beach, where high and low, brash and sophisticated easily mingle on every sidewalk.
Deluxx Fluxx opens on Tuesday, December 3 and continues until December 7 at 1604 Washington Avenue (at 16th Street) in South Beach, Miami. Doors open daily at 3pm.