The Art of Total Refusal

The media guerilla collective in conversation

The media guerilla collective in conversation
The media guerilla collective in conversation

Computer games are at once the poster boy of the capitalist entertainment industry and the neglected mass medium of our time. The artists' collective Total Refusal explores this ever expanding field with artistic interventions. Important impulses are the role of art as a political medium, media upcycling as well as hyper-realism in computer games.

The artists' collective Total Refusal was founded in 2018 by Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner and Michael Stumpf, and joined by Susanna Flock, Adrian Jonas Haim and Jona Kleinlein in 2020. Launched as "Digital Disarmament Movement", the group now defines itself as a "pseudo-Marxist media guerilla". The open collective criticizes existing practices in the genre of video games and opens up a new perspective with tools of appropriation and repurposing of game resources: "Acknowledging that this media is currently failing to realize its cultural potential, we aim to appropriate digital game spaces and put them to new use. Operating within games but casting aside the intended gameplay, we dedicate these resources to new activities and narratives, seeking to create 'public' spaces with a critical potential."

Since 2018, the work of the artists' collective has been awarded 27 prizes and was showcased at more than 130 international film and video festivals as well as in numerous exhibitions, including the Berlinale, BFI London, Doc Fortnight at MoMA, NY, HEK Basel, Ars Electronica and the Venice Biennale 2021. Since 2019, Total Refusal is also represented in the ZKM collection. Their work »Circumventing the Circle of Death. A Pacifist Finger Excercise« is presented in the exhibition »zkm_gameplay. the next level«.

Total Refusal in conversation with Jérôme Nguyen, Margit Rosen and Laura Schmidt.

Credits Intro-Video:

Font: HACKED by David Libeau

Portrait Fotos:

Adrian Jonas Haim by Nils Olger

Jona Kleinlein by Johanna Nyström

Leonhard Müllner by Jussi Virkkumaa _ Saari Residence

Michael Stumpf by Clara Wildberger

Robin Klengel by Clara Wildberger

Susanna Flock by Leonhard Müllner