Artist Jon Rafman’s video A Man Digging uses video captured inside Max Payne 3, the notoriously experiential killing-based video game, and reworks it into a short film. In it, Payne, the troubled and traumatized former NYPD detective, now a vigilante São Paulo, realizes he exists, but exists in a designed and very limited space. He narrates various scenes, just after carnage.
“Payne tells viewers how much he craves the real, referencing the game’s advanced technology, but says he can’t stomach it,” Art F City recently described. “Scenes of massacres and bullets flying back the narrative.”
Payne says he got himself lost in the game, which took a lot of effort. When he succeeds in his pathetic escape, his consciousness seems to wander around the hidden digital spaces, post-carnage — bullet-ridden trains, abandoned strip clubs, shipyards permanently pummeled with rain. He thinks about about the functions of emotions in faces as “single images frozen forever in the singularity of their drama,” among the blinking background lights, under the helicopters idling endlessly midair, by the piles of slumped corpses and still-twitching, bleeding bodies.
“Memory is not a tool for exploring the past,” he says. “It is the medium for experiencing it. I am a man digging. I have to go back again and again.” Poor Max Payne.