8 BIT a documentary about art and video games

This was the official website for the 2006 hybrid documentary, 8 BIT.
Content is from the site's 2006 archived pages.

a documentary about art and video games

mutationengine presents 

8 BIT 
a documentary 
about art and video games 

created by 

Marcin RAMOCKI and Justin STRAWHAND 

8 Bit Documentary Trailer




S Film Examines Crossover of Ideas from Gaming Culture to the Fields of Music and Art


October 7, 8:00 p.m. October 11, 8:30 p.m. The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters New York, September 12, 2006—The Museum of Modern Art presents the world premiere of 8 BIT (2006), a feature-length documentary exploring the history of artists and video games. This mélange of rockumentary and art exposé examines early hacker culture and interviews contemporary musicians, artists, and programmers who repurpose game hardware, modify existing games, and create original games.

Filmed in New York City, Los Angeles, Paris, and Tokyo, 8 BIT offers a global perspective on the artistic approaches of those who grew up playing early video games on the Atari and Commodore 64 consoles.

With commentary by media critic and author Ed Halter of The Village Voice, and new media curator and writer Christiane Paul of the Whitney Museum, as well as interviews with more than 20 artists and critics, these recent artistic strategies are put in the historical context of modernist and postmodernist discourse and examined as potential examples of a transition into fresh, uncharted territory.

8 BIT argues that in the 21st century, GameBoy rock, machinima, and game theory belong together and share a common root: the digital heritage of Generation X.

According to organizer Barbara London, “8 BIT ably chronicles the modernist and post-modernist tendencies in the relatively recent history of video game-based art, but also suggests that the bitbending antics of the post-video game generation hint at a new current in the uncharted waters of 21st century art history.”

8 BIT. (2006). USA. Original concept and direction by Marcin Ramocki. Produced and co-directed by Justin Strawhand. With artists Cory Arcangel, BIT SHIFTER, Bodenstandig 2000, Bubblyfish, Covox, Mary Flanagan, Alex Galloway, Gameboyzz Orchestra, Glomag, HUAROTRON, JODI, Paul Johnson, John Klima, Johan Kotlinski, Nullsleep, Joe McKay, Tom Moody, Akiko Sakaizumi, Eddo Stern, TEAMTENDO, Treewave, Chiaki Watanabe, and Carlo Zanni; curator Isabelle Arvers; media critic Ed Halter; and new media curator/writer Christiane Paul.

The premiere of 8 BIT is organized by Barbara London, Associate Curator, Department of Film and Media, The Museum of Modern Art.

The Museum of Modern Art 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

Hours: Wednesday through Monday: 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Friday: 10:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Closed Tuesday

Film Admission: $10 adults; $8 seniors, 65 years and over with I.D. $6 full-time students with current I.D.

(For admittance to film programs only) Call (212) 708-9400 or go to www.moma.org for detailed museum information.



8 BIT is a hybrid documentary examining the influence of video games on contemporary culture. 

A mélange of a rocumentary, art expose and a culture-critical investigation, 8 BIT ties together seemingly disconnected phenomena like the 80’s demo scene, chiptune music and contemporary artists using machinima and modified games. 

Produced in NYC, LA, Paris and Tokyo, 8 BIT brings a global perspective on the new artistic approaches of the DIY generation which grew up playing Atari and Commodore 64. 

Some of the artists featured in 8 BIT include Cory Arcangel, Bit Shifter, Bodenstandig 2000, Bubblyfish, Mary Flanagan, Alex Galloway, Glomag, Paul Johnson, John Klima, Johan Kotlinski, Nullsleep, Joe McKay, Tom Moody, Akiko Sakaizumi, Eddo Stern, TEAMTENDO, Treewave and Carlo Zanni. 

With the help of media critic Ed Halter and new media curator and writer Christiane Paul, these very recent artistic strategies are put in the historical context of modernist and postmodernist discourse and examined as potential examples of a transition into fresh, uncharted territory. 

8 BIT insists that in the 21st century Game-Boy rock, machinima and game theory belong together and share a common root: the digital heritage of Generation X. 

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Joe McCay Audio Pong   Cory Arcangel

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Operation Velvet Strike    Bubblyfish

Mary Flanagan / Domestic



8 BIT: A Documentary about Art and Videogames

World Premiere of Video Game Rockumentary at the Museum of Modern Art October 7th.
Explores worldwide artist subculture obsessed with repurposing old video games and computers

Barbara London, Museum of Modern Art curator: “8 BIT chronicles… the relatively recent history of video game-based art, but also suggests that the bit-bending antics of the post-video game generation hint at a new current in the uncharted waters of 21st century art history.”

New York 9.18.2006: Musicians, armed only with Nintendo Gameboys, play to packed concert halls. Hardware hacking punks turn ancient Ataris into video synthesizers. Politically charged cyber-performers spray protest graffiti in online post 9-11 war games. Artists obsess over Pac Man and Super Mario Brothers like Warhol mused over Campbell’s Soup and Marilyn Monroe.

These are the signs of a new cultural phenomenon sweeping the world. This “8-bit culture” scavenges the age of the arcade and the Atari for inspiration and cheap materials. Part nostalgia, part rejection of advancing technology, “8-bit culture” finds its voice by exploring and exploiting old technologies and ancient computers less powerful than today’s pocket calculators.

Malcom McClaren, writing in Wired Magazine: “Chip music… represent(s) the most anarchic display of the antihero in pop culture… repurposing defunct devices to end-run a music industry in total decline constitutes a revolution. Chip music is the final repository of the marvelous, its makers the last possessors of the wand of Cinderella's fairy godmother.”

8 BIT: A Documentary about Art and Videogames explores this “repository of the marvelous” through all of its incarnations, both in the musical and visual arts. By weaving together arcane histories of digital subterfuge, candid interviews with cutting-edge artists and theorists, wild videogame concerts, and highlights from the best digital artwork being made today, 8 BIT: A Documentary about Art and Videogames exposes the cultural ramifications of video games and proposes that Generation X’s coming to grips with its digital heritage signals the beginning of a new social and artistic reality.




Wired Magazine
July 06 2007 | Permalink
Check out 8 BIT in the July WIRED. We're on the top ten things to do.

December 01 2006 |
8 BIT in Top Ten Films of 2006

Gay Gamer Review
October 16 2006 |
Here you go!

ABC World News Tonight
October 16 2006 |
Check it out!

October 10 2006 |
Harold Goldberg says:
8-Bit: The Best Game Movie Ever Made

Game Set Watch
October 05 2006 |
Here's a review by Matt Hawkins at Game Set Watch.
The entire film is very easy to follow, with concepts and ideas flowing and connecting to each other seamlessly. And you honestly can't say about most films and television specials that have come before it. The editing is excellent, as is the use of illustrations and footage from games to paint various pictures, and each of the interviews, despite one's personal opinions of what is said, help to drive the filmmaker's intent. And that is to catalogue and document this emerging art scene. In the end, despite its problems, the good definitely outweigh the bad. 8 BIT is the start of something, and a very good one at that.

The Reeler

October 3, 2006 / By Paddy Johnson

Art Fag City: Video Game Culture Thrives in New Documentary

A new column spotlights film and video from the New York art community


If you happened to have grown up during the peak period of video game popularity in the '80s and '90s, you probably have a connection to the iconography and sounds of these products even if you don't have an awareness of the variety of subcultures they have since inspired. The shared experience of these two decades may not be enough for the casual viewing audience to understand everything discussed in 8 BIT: A Documentary about Art and Videogames, which premieres Oct. 7 at MoMA, but then again, author Brian Greene urged novice readers of The Elegant Universe, his famous book on string theory, to skip some of the more difficult chapters, and that didn't seem to adversely affect its popularity.


Unlike The Elegant Universe however, this movie was not designed with the intent to make specialized knowledge palatable to the public; videogame subculture is a response to products of mass culture and is thus generally accessible by its very nature. 8 BIT's primary goal is to treat video games as a medium independent from television, video, film, music etc. and situate artist practice within a modern and postmodern discourse. This is quite a lot to bite off given that this not only the first major cinematic attempt to do so, but is also a document of a scene so young that there are almost no artists who have been working in the medium longer than seven years. Yet the scene has become so large that the film selectively features more than 10 artists' music as well as interviews with over 20 key players in the field, from the famous crossover musician and gallery and Net artist Cory Arcangel to Game Boy musicians like Bubblyfish (and those who use even older gear like Treewave and Bodenstandig) to artists like John Klima who use recent game aesthetics to make their art to new media critics Mary Flanagan, Ed Halter and Tom Moody.

Incredibly, while young, the movement boasts enough practicing artists that omissions -- most notably the absence of the collective PaperRad -- are quite glaring. None of the members in this group may be programmers, but that is precisely the reason for inclusion: Visual artists without programming skills who are inspired by 8-bit visuals are hardly an insignificant part of the genre. PaperRad in particular speaks to how video game culture -- when interwoven with advertising, toys, animation, comic books and other cultural phenomena -- are part of the cultural consciousness of their generation.

Like virtually every artist featured in the film, the collective is part of a generation that has never known a time without video games. Perhaps this explains why the scene is made up of individuals who are incredibly intense. You really only need to see one shot of a group of computer nerds heavily concentrating on their portable game systems to get this idea, but if this isn't enough, you can take your pick of scenes with Moody, Alex Galloway and Nullsleep, who each provide more than enough commentary to convince you. Cultural critic Halter provides the best insight into this kind of consuming interest, describing an old video game from the '80s that created a huge controversy for its violent and bloody 8-pixel representation of an injury. Of course, the idea of such outrage today is ludicrous, but as Halter wisely points out, the fact that the cultural imagination could find scandal in these images reveals a significant level of investment in the games.

Illuminating clips and observations like these make the movie. The filmmakers work with the awareness that it isn't enough to simply say that artists grew up playing videogames; rather, they must attempt to illustrate what this means to this group of people. As a common attribute, the blogger and artist Moody tells me, "The DIY (do it yourself), hacker, guerrilla mindset is a constant theme... [T]he topic is bigger than videogames. One thing I like about the film is it casts its net wider than just a small scene."

And despite the omission I mentioned earlier, Moody is right. As the first movie of its kind to document and situate the 8-bit scene within contemporary art discourse, 8 BIT should be recognized for its potential to become a seminal document of 21st century new media arts.


Cory Arcangel
Isabelle Arvers
Bit Shifter
Bodenstandig 2000
Mary Flanagan
Alex Galloway
Gameboyzz Orchestra
Rachel Greene
Ed Halter
Paul Johnson
John Klima
Johan Kotlinski
Joe McKay
Tom Moody
Christiane Paul
Akiko Sakaizumi
Eddo Stern
Carlo Zanni

Bit Shifter
Bodenstandig 2000
Gameboyzz Orchestra
Role Model
Chiaki Watanabe

Velvet Strike
John Simon


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John Simon Every Icon     Eddo Stern Sheik Attack

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Paul Johnson RGB      Nullsleep

Carlo Zanni Average Shovellor