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Gaming as a Call to Action

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Jessica Comola

Emergent Digital Practices student Cherish Marquez responds to border politics.

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Cherish Marquez

Cherish Marquez, an MFA candidate in Emergent Digital Practices (EDP), uses 3D world fabrication to immerse her viewers in cultural, historical and political journeys of exploration. Marquez chose DU’s Emergent Digital Practices program to advance her artistic experience and study a wider range of mediums under the guidance of a diverse faculty.

“The EDP program has given me the opportunity to push my limits as an artist, a creator and an inventor. I am currently studying 3D modeling, game development, animation, AR/VR development, creative coding, wearable technology, Arduino sensors, music development and theory,” said Marquez.

Right now, Marquez is working on her MFA thesis, which examines the historical and political contexts of her home town, Sierra Blanca, Texas. This work will take the form of a solo show next spring. Marquez’s work has been previously shown at the Vicki Myhren Gallery and Denver’s Leon Gallery.

Her exploratory game, Slot of the Odds, is currently featured at the Redline Contemporary Art Center as part of their juried show, Was it Worth it?  Marquez explained the timeliness of this work, saying, “I made this game in response to the current issues surrounding border politics today. I am from a border town and have been immersed in these issues for most of my life.”

In Slot of the Odds, the player surveys a desert landscape and is eventually confronted by a slot machine and a giant wall, which prevents the player from moving forward. The player activates the slot machine, playing the odds in order to cross the border.

Along the journey, the player activates and interacts with 3D text, religious artifacts and images that represent risks encountered during border crossing, especially issues of sexual assault and other barriers faced in higher percentages by women. Music plays in the background, which Marquez created by transcoding pro- and anti-border wall speeches into notes.

“The game represents a world that is between our reality and our perception,” Marquez explained. “The game ends with a call to action and provides information about recent events regarding the many children that have been separated from their families. It is important for me to speak about these topics, especially now with the recent shooting in El Paso, Texas.”

Marquez says the power of 3D world fabrication like that of Slot of the Odds lies in its ability to provide an immersive, multisensory experience for the viewer.

“I work in this element because it allows me to create worlds that alter one’s sense of reality by combining the physical and digital world in order to take the viewer on a journey of exploration. Lately when I approach my work, I think about how I can incorporate ancient rituals with technology, and how I can push the ‘magic’ within these spaces in order to give them a voice within our digital world.”

Marquez has earned a Graduate Assistantship through EDP and a CAHSS Dean’s Scholarship for her innovative work. Most recently, she has been accepted into The Barton Institute’s CiviCO Social Enterprise Fellowship Program.

While in the EDP program, Marquez has found valuable mentorship through faculty members Laleh Mehran and Rafael Fajardo. The faculty, she said, is educated across many facets of digital practice.

“It is through the faculty that I have learned technical skills, theory and interdisciplinary practices in science and technology. Without the education I have gained from each professor, I would not have the well-rounded artistic practices I have today. EDP has afforded me skills I would not have gained otherwise and I am excited to see where that will take me.”

Upon completing her MFA, Marquez plans to continue her artistic practice and show her work, while teaching in her community and volunteering at galleries. To view more of Marquez’s work, visit her website.

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