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Leonhard Müllner

Ambient Human Presence

Does the Non-Player Character possess autonomous potential? In their role as minor characters, NPCs seem to be dependent on the avatar. They have to be defeated and robbed by him or are obliged to perform the same movement repeatedly in a loop to bring the environment to life. Can the NPC emancipate from the avatar, making equivalence possible, or at least conceivable on a representative-symbolic level? Do artistic interventions offer a way to liberate them from their servant role? Can Machine Learning assist bots in acting autonomously and symbolically gaining their own life, independent of algorithmic control?

Considering the avatar as the ruling class in the game universe, constantly rising, elevating their status even up to the divine, and becoming rich through loot and grind, it is logical to designate NPCs as the working class of the video game worlds—at least in their representation. This is primarily because their status is generally unchangeable, and their mass is invoked to entertain one or a few entities. Here, the doubling effects of physical reality and its digital imprint come into play. It, therefore, seems requisite to focus on NPCs to allow identification with the many, the weaker, and the working class in the context of alienation.

Is an analysis of NPCs regarding an identification with the many, the weaker, the working class in the context of alienation – which involves grappling with the limits of individual autonomy under communicative capitalism – not more apparent than with Avatar-Succeeders, for whom the system is designed for them only to succeed?

Born in Graz in 1987, Leonhard Müllner currently works as a visual artist and media researcher in Vienna. He studied Experimental Design in Linz, Video and Video Installation in Leipzig, Video Art in Vienna and completed his PhD 2023 in Game Art/Game Studies, under the guidance of Professor Helmut Lethen (supervisor) and Stephan Schwingeler (external supervisor). He co-founded the media collective Total Refusal in 2018.

Keynote speaker:
Leonhard Müllner [Total Refusal]

November 10th, 2023
12:30 to 1:00 pm

Kino Toni, 3.G02 (level 3)
Zurich University of the Arts


Get your ticket here

You may also like at REFRESH #5:
Exhibition Hardy Working

«Hardly Working» by Total Refusal. © Total Refusal.
«Hardly Working» by Total Refusal. © Total Refusal.