Overstimulation Propaganda

Fantasia Malware is a collective and label that makes fantastical, magical, corrupt, and chaotic software. They develop and publish experimental video games and live performances. The members of Fantasia Malware are Chloê Langford, Jira Duguid, and Gabriel Helfenstein. For Solitude Journal, we spoke with Chloê and Jira about their experience of the world as Baroque and lurid, and how the games of Fantasia Malware lend themselves to iconic, erotic, chaotic, and nonlinear worlds of myth-making and storytelling.

Chloê Langford and Jira Duguid from Fantasia Malware in conversation with Denise Helene Sumi — Nov 30, 2022

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Overstimulation Propaganda

Fantasia Malware, Orchid Collector, 2020–21. Courtesy of the artists.

Denise: What is moving through time and space in your game environments? The player, the games’ characters and 3D objects, the narration, or storytelling itself?

Chloê: I do feel like all of them have this way of moving that’s like … umm … where the game is played in a kind of circular way.
Jira: I would say that everything we do is like an assault, like the game moves through you, like you’re the …
Chloê: … the vessel for an assault.
Jira: … and so the games are moving through you …
Chloê: … so you are a top …
Jira: an artistic top.

During your game/performance Orchid Collector, the collector says: »We should be aware it is dangerous to have too much time.« Why? Isn’t it the gamer’s ultimate dream to binge on gaming forever?

Chloê: The things we make are … short and chaotic. I feel like in a way our games are kind of bingeing, just short bingeing. Binge very intensely for a short amount of time.
Jira: Yeh, it’s an entire season in ten minutes.

I think we’re a similar age, and your game The Life of Saint 𝔉iona Bianco Xena reminded me of two things: I, like many others, grew up in the nineties watching Leo and Claire in Romeo and Juliet, this film was kind of my personal nineties climax that was full of charged Baroque decay. And the three of us likely all played Zelda’s Ocarina of Time – you know, Saint 𝔉iona kind of looks like one of the six great fairies from the fountains. You mentioned you are interested in »excessive Baroqueness – both aesthetically and in the design of systems, overstimulation, megamalist aesthetics.« Tell us more.

Jira: In talking about references or inspiration from the past, something I like about older games is that their technical limitations meant that life or reality had to be represented by triggers and icons. It’s a very strange kind of gambling simulation experience. You have a limited pool of things and you’re trying to evoke something larger with that and it creates a very particular atmosphere, which is something that I find inspiring about the games of a certain era … in the way they had to abstract.
Chloê: I think it’s a big compliment to Saint 𝔉iona that she looks like one of the six giant fairies, she could definitely inspire some giant lady fetish. What about overstimulation or Baroqueness? I feel like I am constantly overstimulated, but I sort of like that or I feel like I need to be overstimulated to function.
Jira: Yeah I dunno. For me, I’ve always been drawn to this extremely lurid …
Chloê: … even just the word lurid, it’s such a hot word …
Jira: … and to answer why, I just feel like it’s my experience of the world, the world around me is a lurid, Baroque, and a fucked-up thing.
Chloê: I feel like that’s both how things are but also how I need things to be, and when there’s not enough noise, I become destructive rather than creative or something … I don’t think that we are making an intentional critique of noise or overstimulation. I think it’s just an honest expression of how we feel. It’s not a value judgement.
Jira: Yeah, it’s more like overstimulation propaganda. I can’t explain it, it just feels like it’s my truth.
Chloê: When I made the clock (UR KAOS UHR), part of what I was trying to make the work about is this idea of thriving on chaos … like when you abandon control and let chaos come into or through you, then you can kinda ride the wave of this chaos and it’s kind of generative.


Thinking of megamalist aesthetics and reading the description of your last event at transmediale studio – where you invited Jeremy Couillard to play Escape from Lavender Corporate Island – made me think of the grotesque Cronenberg/Pattinson movie Cosmopolis, in which a multimillionaire drives through the streets of Manhattan, haunted by »the glow of cyber capital« and the »Specter of Capitalism.« Do you feel the need to create games as a critique on the »temporal data-driven« organization of late-capitalist human life, and its surveillance machine, or are your games simply part of our already dystopian present?

Jira: I feel like for me it’s about processing that experience, it’s not necessarily a value judgement and it’s not necessarily dystopian, it’s more like interpreting the present.
Chloê: Yeah, in a rational sense I might have critiques to make of that culture, but in the work it’s more like an emotional processing or a way to make sense of this constant flood of meaningless symbols.
Jira: There’s like the big picture political or structural reasons, but there’s also how you experience it as a person … advertising is kind of a beautiful hypnotizing thing, when you think about it in a purely experiential way. Which is also how we live. There is the emotional experience of things.
Chloê: Yeah; the final scene in your game Mirror Mall, which is about your experience of walking around Times Square …
Jira: … high on mushrooms …
Chloê: … high on mushrooms. What I remember you writing to me about going to Times Square was that it was the most beautiful but hollow thing …
Jira: … it was the saddest and most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I mean, if you live in a casino hellscape, of course you make things that look like that or are about that…
Chloê: When I think about Orchid Collector, how it’s a game where the rules don’t make sense, and I think this is also kind of like life. There are all these structures and systems, and they don’t make sense, and the reason they don’t make sense is they’re made of symbols, but the symbols don’t mean anything anymore. Value has been destroyed and you live in a world where there is a flood of meaningless symbols.
Jira: It also makes me think of my experience of social media, how these websites have gone from being a linear experience to being algorithmically mediated with emotionally manipulative notifications. It’s a system that you have to respond to rather than control. Like a hamster on a wheel. It’s this thing that you have to balance and your agency is gone, you just have to navigate it and it’s relentless.
Chloê: Yeah, and that kinda sounds like what you said before, about the work being an assault. Jira: We’re addicted to things that make us feel like shit.

In the The Life of Saint 𝔉iona Bianco Xena, one can observe a fascination for slugs. Can you discuss this in relation to certain characteristics of a slug, such as fluid/liquid rhythms and slowness?

Jira: I just don’t think about things like this. I can’t give you a logical reason why we chose slugs.
Chloê: I don’t think there’s a logical reason. I do think there’s something about the way slugs are gooey and amorphous and lumps of nothing and also they’re supposed to be disgusting but they’re actually beautiful, and this relates to the character of Saint 𝔉iona.
Jira: With making Saint 𝔉iona, there were these threads that we were all developing and like any myth-making or storytelling, the next person is exaggerating or evolving the parts of the story that resonate with them. And somehow a reference to slugs became central.
Chloê: Slugs are also formless, so they can take on any form or move in any form and that’s kind of how the story in Saint 𝔉iona Bianco Xena works; it’s this story that keeps changing shape.

Your games ooze with eroticism, pleasure, and sensations. How do you succeed or fail to translate the temporality of arousal/climax in your games? Do you aim for a catharsis or a transcendental bliss within your games?

Chloê: I don’t think catharsis, but maybe transcendental bliss. The kind of bliss where your mind has been obliterated …
Jira: … from a good fucking …
Chloê: … like an aggressive kind of transcendental … your brains have been fucked out.
Jira: An extreme presence that you can only get from being fucked really good.
Chloê: This is why we’re artistic tops.

Your games evoke a sense of spiraling. The rules are broken and absurd. The player gets lost in time. Do you feel that video games lend themselves well to forms of non-linearity?

Jira: Absolutely, that’s one of the things that interest me most about video games, their non-linear structure. Ultimately, I feel like making games is about making a series of systems to create an interesting interplay between different elements. That’s what interests me most about games … thinking about creating systems in an artistic way or in an expressive way to evoke some kind of emotion or idea.
Chloê: What do you think about spiraling? I definitely like the idea of spiraling.
Jira: Yeh me too … because it’s like …
Chloê: … because it’s kind of like obsession, which I think is something that we’re both … have an interest in … have a tendency towards …
Jira: … dabble in …
Chloê: … yeah, dabble in obsession.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Overstimulation Propaganda

Chloê Langford (Fantasia Malware), UR KAOS UHR, 2022. Courtesy of the artist.

Jira: Yeah, it’s interesting because people often talk about a gameplay loop, there’s this idea that you start a new game, you collect some things, you go back to the hub and then you start again and that’s the loop. But a spiral is interesting because it’s …
Chloê: … it’s getting smaller or bigger …
Jira: … it has a third dimension, the loop never goes back to the same place but it’s repeating itself.
Chloê: Which is sort of how life feels. Also a spiral can feel both freeing but also …
Jira: … maddening …
Chloê: … or manic or you can be spiraling inwards …
Jira: … or outwards. When I think of spiraling I think of inward and I think of actual panic and it makes me feel anxious.
Chloê: For my performance at transmediale studio in September, part of is just a cave, running really fast through a cave, and there is no game play, you’re just running for a really long time. But yeh the idea is about obsession …
Jira: Sounds like a fever dream …
Chloê: Yeah, like a psychotic spiral.

Would you like to name a few game developers, coders, hackers, or games that particularly inspire(d) you?

Jira: For me there’s two chapters of my life, the first would be the obscure strange alien uncanny older games, particularly LSD Dream Emulator from Osamu Sato. And then in the present it’s people like our peers or our friends …
Chloê: That’s what I was going to say, I don’t care so much about games, but what I do care about or what I am inspired by is what the people we know are making.
Jira: To name a few specifically, Jeremy Couillard, Halberball.
Chloê: M, who is going to perform with me in September and alpha_rats, who designed the posters for our event series this year.

The essay about Chloê’s latest work UR KAOS UHR by your friend Merle Leufgen begins with a (fake?) ancient proverb: »Make and unmake the rhythm of your life. When to sleep and when to eat, when to fall in love and when to grieve, when to bleed. What is time but desire moving through space?« Can you talk more about desire and how it manifests itself in your games?

Jira: I make games that are how I desire to be fucked.
Chloê: I feel like desire is also how I experience the world. I don’t necessarily only mean sexual desire towards specific people, but something about the way you feel when everything feels full of possibility and you desire to interact with that possibility and that kind of leads you through time and space, it’s a like a path that you follow or that pulls you along it …

While playing UR KAOS UR I became somewhat hooked on activating the »secret« modes: »erotic time« with its critter-like sounds and »breathing« that comes with a clear high and relaxing tone, pausing the chaotic noise for a moment. How do these modes relate to the rest of the game’s temporal and auditive modes?

Chloê: In Orchid Collector, there is the really chaotic maze play, where we are running through the maze, but then there are these dream sequences or interludes and everything is paused and you just focus on one thing and that thing is crisp or direct. This is similar to what the question is describing, this really chaotic noise and then this really sharp, single tone. There’s something about that as an experience that draws me. The contrast between moments where you are being flooded with sensory input and then moments where everything goes quiet and you only hear one thing. Do you experience something like this sometimes
Jira: I feel like sometimes I can be a bit … manic and then morose? Experiencing this oscillation between extreme feelings or emotions. Going from feeling like I’m a fucking genius to like I’m a worthless human in two seconds. The intensity of our games is also like both sides of a spectrum and switching between them.
Chloê: I just nearly finished reading Orlando by Virginia Woolf. I think this is something that happens in this book, where there will be this flood of words and sensations and then suddenly everything will stop and switch to something else, and there’s something about that that fascinates me.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Overstimulation Propaganda

Fantasia Malware, Orchid Collector, 2020–21. Courtesy of the artists.

Fantasia Malware is a collective and label that makes fantastical, magical, corrupt, and chaotic software.


Chloê Langford is an artist living in Berlin, Germany. She makes art, performances, and video games using web technology and game engines.

Jira Duguid is a professional Nontent Creator and self-taught new media artist working with game engines in order to commodify dreams/nightmares/memories for mass distribution online.

Denise Helene Sumi is a curator and editor based in Vienna and Stuttgart, and co-editor of this issue.

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