When I was brainstorming the first ideas for my project, I knew I wanted to make something that felt old and new at the same time. I wanted to give the viewer an experience where they could discover a suite of artifacts that told stories about our future. And this idea of discovery really stuck with me. As a game developer, I believe that games and game-like experiences provide an element of interactivity that really let the player dive into a sense of exploration and make them wonder what lies beyond every corner. It is with this spirit in mind that I began development on Debris, the core of this body of work.
Debris is a point and click adventure game that takes place in a barren world after the disappearance of humanity. How humans died out is not stated explicitly, but what remains are the digital remnants that continue to occupy space for the rest of time. As an alien visitor, you are left to forage through the remains of this world to collect these digital artifacts using digital currency. With the NFT craze sweeping the art world, I was inspired to offer a different way of engaging with crypto art and showcase the potentially darker side of things as well as their environmental impact.
To emulate the surreal and often context-deprived world of crypto art, I created the world of Debris as a surreal environment to wander through. With little dialogue or characters to speak to, the majority of the experience is spent looking at one's surroundings and collecting these digital artifacts. The artifacts themselves are sourced from video games decades old, taken out of their original context to create new meaning. They also exist in the online exhibition as three-dimensional digital sculptures, creating a parallel between technicians engineering meshes and sculptors chiseling away at marble. A similar juxtaposition is created between the digital prints on the wall, showcasing screenshots from Debris. Taken out of the context of the game, these static images invite the viewer to observe them as they would a painting, noting the combination of digital painting and 3D models. Through this post-apocalyptic world, I hope the viewer is able to take away something that makes them think about the future of humanity.
A prolific game developer, Noah DeWald blends his training in visual art and computer science to create inventive new media works. Debris is an interactive adventure game that invites the viewer to explore a post-apocalyptic world after the disappearance of humanity, and to engage in an “archeology of the future” by collecting digital artifacts. These artifacts are also displayed virtually in the gallery space as 3D sculptures. In Noah’s eerily surreal world, the viewer is left to wander aimlessly and contemplate the future of humanity.
Noah DeWald (b. 1998, San Francisco, CA) is a new media artist and birdwatcher currently pursuing a BA with Honors in Art Practice and Minor in Computer Science at Stanford University. His current body of work takes inspiration from our digitally mediated present, a nostalgic longing for "dumb" technology of the past, and what lies beyond the Anthropocene. By merging traditional art practices such as painting, collage and sculpture with the interactivity of browser-based games, Noah seeks to defamiliarize the devices which have become second nature to us.
Over the past few years, Noah has been working with various artists on projects in the Bay Area. In 2019, he collaborated with three other painters to execute Wall Drawing #911, a large-scale Sol LeWitt mural for the new Stanford Hospital. Last year, he spearheaded a series of digital portraits to fundraise $3,400 for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland. Since the beginning of 2021, he has been developing one game per month with his game studio Quite Good. Currently, Noah is working with Rashaad Newsome Studio to develop the Being App, a racial trauma therapy app that incorporates natural language processing as well as diverse forms of virtual therapy. Throughout his time at Stanford, Noah hasdeveloped his diverse knowledge base in the arts through classes with Lauren Toomer, Dana Hemingway, Terry Berlier, Jenny Odell, and Camille Utterback.