Super Mario Clouds
Mar 24, 2022
Cory Arcangel's 2002 artwork Super Mario Clouds uses a real Nintendo NES cassette with hardware modifications to remove all content except for the clouds and blue sky.
Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002
As you can probably tell, these are clouds from the first Super Mario Bros. on NES.
This artwork Super Mario Clouds was made by Cory Arcangel in 2002, and this GIF image is not the original artwork, the original artwork used a real NES cassette, Cory did hardware modification on the cassette to remove all the content except for the clouds and blue sky.
In order to understand this work, it is necessary to know a little about video games.
Super Mario Bros. has eight scenes, each with four levels, and this image shows the first level of the Super Mario Bros. Guess how much capacity Super Mario Bros. It takes up 64 Kilobytes
We've all downloaded pictures and listened to Streaming music, we know how crazy that number sounds these days. 64KB of space, stuffed with an entire game, how they do it.
That's their solution. These are all the elements that appear in the Super Mario Bros., and they're all stored in an image called a TileMap. Instead of putting elements in the background in advance, developers write code to record where and which elements to use, and the game map is generated synchronously while playing. That's what made Super Mario Bros., a 64KB game with 32 levels possible.
Back at Super Mario Clouds, you can see that all that hard work they did to reduce the size of the game just turned to nothing. In the development of classic games like Super Mario, every line of code was carefully thought out in order to fit a game into a poor little cassette, but 17 years after the game was released, in an age where information technology is exploding and every single image you post on Instagram is bigger than dozens of old games combined, Cory Arcangel decide to modify a sophisticated game that is almost impossible to reduce the size, leaving only minimal identifiable features for the audience to know this is Super Mario. In my opinion, this is a deconstruction of the game, even if almost all the elements on the screen have been removed, we can still tell that this is a cloud in Super Mario, so before we lose the ability to identify the source, how many elements can be deleted?
Many people who are familiar with the original Super Mario Bros. claim to be aroused a sense of blue by Super Mario Clouds, which is a reinterpretation of the work, and contrary to what Nintendo developers thought in 1985, another question arises, should artwork be Author-centric, or Audience-centric, as in Roland Barthes's The Death of The Author?