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Pippa Tshabalala: Telling Death with Digital Killing

Juxtapoz // Thursday, 29 Oct 2009

“I write about art games and videogames,” she explains in her blog bio. “I also present two TV shows on Vuzu (DSTV) called PlayR (the South African version) and The Verge, both about videogames. I occasionally do live visuals for bands, as well as freelance design work and album art.”


Has the increased violence in commercoal videogames normalized death, killing, and violence? That's a fierce and ongoing debate, but Pippa has intelectualized her form of artistic expression in explaining her motivation behind this project:

“From the moment I ran my fingers over the keyboard of my first 286 computer at the age of eight, and booted up a game called Alley Cat, I have played computer games… Subsequently my fascination, some might even call it an obsession, with electronic games in all their manifestations has grown to epic proportions.

“My involvement in the digital arts and specifically my interest in gaming have also sent me down another road – the tactile interpretation of digital art and the sense of dislocation one experiences when viewing art through the physical barrier of the screen.” […]

“There are a number of themes that run through the body of work that I wish to grapple with. There is a major theme that deals with transference of identity and virtual death, but there are also a number of other sub-themes. The first of these is the exploration of self. The second but no less important is the idea of the trophy.

“Identity within a videogame is something flexible. The loss of identity through the process of transference onto an avatar is something that I am interested in fighting and in essence ‘regaining’ through different means. In 3D animation, there is an increasing trend to go towards ever more realistic looking characters, but in recent years a number of articles have been written on the grotesqueness of ‘real’ animated characters, some animators even claiming that working with characters that look too real becomes like puppeteering corpses. Whilst the process is not the same, in a similar manner, I wish to transfer my real identity into the game itself by converting characters to look like me, reasserting my individuality, and making the cartoon characters more ‘real’ and at the same time more grotesque.


“My work is fuelled not only by a desire to transfer the digital into the material, but also by a need to explore the more visceral nature of what is often referred to as ‘a time-wastage medium’. Videogames are no longer the realm of children and computer geeks that remain within the dark confines of their bedroom, lit only by the glow of the monitor – they have ventured into mainstream culture and thus need to be heard and understood as a medium reflective of society.

“And now comes the next step - telling your own version of their death. I want YOU to get involved in making something interesting and public by telling your own stories - stories of how these “people” died… Be creative, be weird, be out there, as long as you’re original - anything goes.


“How to…

1. Choose a photo.
2. Comment - Write a story about how the character died - include as many (or as few) details as you want.
3. Add your name to the end of the story (or if you want to remain anonymous, please just say so - you dont need to add your full name, and you can also go by a pseudonym - Interweb identity and all that jazz).

“I’ll try and upload new photos regularly so you can continue to comment and build up a bit of a story if you want to, that’s up to you - this is an experiment so I’m interested to see if it’s successful and how it plays out.”

Visit Telling Death at


Join Pippa Tshabalala's Facebook page at





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