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A Game Within a Game

In Conversation with Giath Taha

Together with artist Giath Taha, curator Mirjam Kooiman parachuted onto a deserted island inside the online video game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) for a unique in-game encounter. Whilst strolling around the virtual landscape, they discuss the motivations and meanings behind Taha's photographic exploration of this digital space.
Becoming a Ghost. Meeting Moment © Giath Taha.

about the talk

Avatars flying through the air, tumbling down naked, ready to land on a 3600 square kilometer virtual island where they have to fight against a hundred others: welcome to PlayersUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG).

In this online video game, players are dropped onto an island without any resources or instructions but the task to kill each other. The last man standing wins. Though played across the world, PUBG is massively popular in Syria, which feels peculiar given its eerie similarity to the actual state of ongoing war in the country.

When a peaceful uprising against the president of Syria turned into a full-scale civil war in 2011, artist Giath Taha decided his armour of choice would not be a weapon, but a camera. Eventually he was forced to flee the country. Fascinated by the popularity of PUBG in Syria, Taha started entering the game to take screenshots, documenting a virtual simulation of the reality he left behind.

Soon, Taha found out that his brother, who remained in Syria, was a passionate player of the game, and even the commander of a virtual battalion. By this time, Taha and his brother hadn't seen each other for ten years. This encounter sparked a new game within the game: how to spend as much time together without getting killed. Registration of their shared experiences within the game is what Giath Taha turned into the video work Becoming a Ghost (2021).

In Foam's first in-game talk, curator Mirjam Kooiman meets Giath Taha on a PUBG island to discuss his motivations for entering the game, his photographic approach to this virtual environment and the special encounter with his brother.

Screenshot of the in-game interview with artist Giath Taha
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A Game Within a Game - In Conversation with Giath Taha © Foam

Part of Foam 3h: Giath Taha Becoming a Ghost

The video installation Becoming a Ghost by Syrian-born artist Giath Taha captures the artist's emotional reunion with his brother in the online video game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), while they haven't been able to see each other in real life for ten years.

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Maybe my eyes turned blue, 2021 © Giath Taha

about Giath Taha

Giath Taha (b. 1982, Syria) studied Photography and Applied Arts at the Walled Izzat Institute in Damascus and Literature at the University of Damascus, Syria. He subsequently graduated from the MA Artistic Research at the Royal Academy of Arts (KABK) in The Hague in 2021. He received both the MA Artistic Research Department Award 2021 as well as the Royal Academy Master Award 2021 for his graduation work Becoming a Ghost (2021). Taha participated in several group shows. His exhibition in Foam 3h is his first museum solo show. Giath Taha lives and works in Amsterdam.

The exhibition Becoming a Ghost is made possible by the Van Bijlevelt Foundation and the Leeuwensteinstichting.

Foam is supported by the VriendenLoterij, Foam Members, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, the VandenEnde Foundation and the Gemeente Amsterdam.

In 2022 Foam receives additional support from the Mondriaan Fund and receives a contribution through the Mondriaan Fund from the Ministerie van OCW.

A Game Within a Game - Article - Foam: All about photography Curator Mirjam Kooiman is meeting artist Giath Taha inside the game PlayerUnknown's Battleground to [...]
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A Game Within a Game