It’s not uncommon for artists to play with pop culture references when it comes to their work—but FAILE, a Brooklyn-based collaboration between Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller, takes the idea of a game a little more literally than most. Their latest exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum includes the largest manifestation yet of The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade, an interactive environment where viewers (and participants) can play video games, pinball machines, and foosball tables that were specially redesigned by McNeil and Miller alongside another artist, BÄST. 

We spoke with Sharon Matt Atkins, Brooklyn Museum’s vice director of exhibitions and collections management, about organizing the exhibition and the golden age of arcades.


What was the artists’ thinking behind the Arcade installation? Did they have an inspiration?

They were trying to create an environment that wasn’t like your typical static gallery, where the art is on the wall, and landed on this concept of games. It grew from the arcade (they took older original machines and customized them) and became a full, immersive environment where they designed everything – even the cabinets, sounds, lights, and walls. They first did the arcade in 2010. This is the fifth and largest version. The installation as a whole has been really popular. When someone’s in there, they sort of loose themselves in the moment of playing the game, but at the same time engaging with their art at every turn.

It makes me think of interactive sculpture or installations, like some pieces by Felix Gonzalez Torres.

You can trace art’s interest in games through the 20th century, whether it’s Dada or Joseph Cornell’s game boxes. Then this fascination with the arcade or gaming shifted from a source of inspiration into the art itself.

Why did the artists decide to include pinball machines?

Another big part of their arcade is nostalgia. They grew up going to them. It was a place of socialization and interaction in their youth. So one of things they really wanted to do is recall that golden age of video arcades – and certainly pinball machines were a prominent part of that.


There’s a surprisingly long history behind pinball machines. They were developed as early as the 18th century, but they didn’t really become what we know them know as today until the 70s and 80s.

Right – the late 70s and the 80s were really the hey-day. I looked into the early 20th century too, into penny arcades and that tradition. FAILE also has an exhibition in Times Square right now where that was very much part of the history.

This isn’t the first time pinball machines have been in a museum. I thought it was really funny to discover that there are entire collections dedicated to them in places like Las Vegas and Budapest.

A lot of people have been coming by to play them. One night we even had a tournament. Right away, people on our own staff got excited. We were joking how everyone would be taking their breaks inside the exhibit.

The pinball machine we have in our sale, a Simpsons Data East machine owned by Sam Simon, was given to the show’s original writers and producers. Apparently they kept one near the writers’ room in case they needed a break, too.

There’s as huge following. People who grew up playing will certainly want one.


LEAD IMAGE: The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade, Miami Beach, 2013. Courtesy of the artists. © FAILE. (Photo: FAILE).