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Jesse Darling

Online, Visual arts

A story-game about life, death and the illusion of free will versus the great algorithm in the sky. Set in a sprawling purgatory of urban junkspace between IKEA and an obsolete airport, the two lead characters – lovers, brothers, colleagues and frenemies – grapple with their obsolescence in a world where nothing is quite what it seems. Generative machine learning meets comparative mythology in synthesising the environment and the creatures who dwell there, creating a recognizable but ghostly image of the material world, a shadow of the present. As the player participates, a narrative unfolds in real time. Bringing together strands of a practice that encompasses text, drawing and dramaturgy, this is the first work of its kind by Berlin-based artist Jesse Darling in collaboration with game architect Christian Kokott.

Loosely based on the three books of the Divine Comedy - Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso - the first part of a narrative game in which you move through a junkspace underworld will be released online as an introduction to a world of ghostly drifters, walking billboards and talking trashcans. How far does free will extend within an algorithmic architecture? And will you ever admit that you're dead?

We recommend using Firefox or Chrome to play Bardo. Currently only the desktop version of Bardo is available.

Picture: Streetview sprawl of IKEAfields styled by a neural imaging tool trained on the etchings of Gustave Doré, work in progress 2018


Concept, text, design: Jesse Darling
Programming, Design, Production: Christian Kokott
Curator: Elodie Evers
Artistic Production: John McKiernan


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Jesse Darling and Christian Kokott at the A MAZE, Berlin 2018. Photo: Jens Keiner

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