Inspired by role-playing video games, Ryan Kuo’s Puzzle rebuilds conversations from his personal history as a first-generation immigrant growing up in rural America. In looping, disembodied encounters, themes of Confucian patriarchy and filial piety encounter American idealism and self-preservation. Instead of viewing these as opposing forces, Kuo attempts to piece them together across the barriers of memory and language.
As questions and confusion accumulate in dialogue boxes, graphical tiles reassembling fragments of places that Kuo once inhabited or imagined build up in layers of love and restlessness, nostalgia, and speculation. Traveling backward and forward through time but never repeating itself, the programme generates new sequences of conversations and compositions each time a viewer opens the work. The instability of the experience—the terse, bilingual conversations and sprawling maps and structures—reflects the difficulty of retracing the steps that bring us to the present moment. In a provocative gesture, there is no play in the game. Instead, through amnesiac loops that reiterate frozen values and attempt to say what cannot be said, the artist outlines identities and societies stranded in the past, resulting in a turbulent present and insinuating an unknown yet deterministic future.
For the best viewing experience of Puzzle, we recommend using a desktop.
Read the Written Response
In response to this commission, artist, poet, and cultural technologist Maryam Monalisa Gharavi contributes an epistolary essay Family Atlas to reflect on familial communications and the expression of love.
About the Artist
Ryan Kuo is an artist and writer based in New York City. His work often uses digital systems and sequences to invoke a person or people arguing. Projects have been commissioned and shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC), Queens Museum (NYC), bitforms gallery (NYC), TRANSFER (LA), Stroom Den Haag (The Hague), Goethe-Institut China (Beijing), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), Goldsmiths (London), Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (Cambridge), and MIT Media Lab (Cambridge), and have been published in Artforum, Art in America, BOMB, and Rhizome. He was born in Elkins, West Virginia, and holds a Master of Science in Art, Culture and Technology from MIT.
About Digital Commissions
M+ is committed to providing platforms for projects by creative practitioners who propose new frameworks and discussions for visual culture. M+ launched its ongoing series of digital commissions in 2018 to address aspects of digital culture today, pointing to new, pressing lines of enquiry. The experimental, browser-based works in this series explore the intersection of visual culture and technology, encompassing data visualisation, interactive design, gamification, and creative technology.
Image at top: Ryan Kuo, Puzzle, 2022. © Ryan Kuo