Main Gallery


Leo Castañeda:
Herramientas (Levels & Bosses)

Press Release
Opening Reception

Locust Projects presents Herramientas (Levels & Bosses), a transmedia adventure game experience by Miami-based multimedia artist Leo Castañeda. The immersive installation at Locust Projects invites visitors to play a new video game being premiered in an environment that echoes the game itself and traces the evolution of the game through paintings by the artist, a virtual reality experience, sculptural furniture, immersive video, wall drawings, and more. Levels & Bosses, the game at the core of the Herramientas exhibition, traverses sci-fi environments where all landscapes, technology, and entities share sentience and interconnection.

Mutating between analog and digital platforms, the Herramientas exhibition at Locust Projects represents the next stage in the multi-year Levels & Bosses game development project originated by Castañeda, and serves as the launch of a new fine-art video game studio, Otro Inventario, the first of its kind in Miami. Castañeda, and the team at Otro Inventario have developed in Levels & Bosses, a groundbreaking video game that upends traditional archetypes of game “bosses/adversaries” while players explore nonlinear, science-fiction-inspired levels with a broad range of interdependent abilities, such as camouflage, vibrational touch terraforming, and laser communication. To those that know and understand gaming and game terminology, this expands the lineage of independent games revolutionizing the industry.

Navigating landscapes inspired by Castañeda’s interests in 18th century Romantic painting, Latin American abstraction, and the liminal environments of South Florida, Colombia, and the Brazilian Amazon, the game follows “The-Other” on a quest across timelines to solve landscape puzzles that adapt the aftermath of a cataclysmic implosion, re-imagining structures of antagonism and progression in games.

Herramientas (Levels & Bosses) explores the evolution of Castañeda’s work as an individual artist throughout the project’s development leading into the launch of Otro Inventario, a collaborative art house game studio that uses principles of sustainability and interdependence to expand interactions and world building possibilities in video games and gaming communities. Serving as one means of demo-ing the game created with Unreal Engine 5 software, the exhibition is envisioned by Castañeda and the Otro Inventario team to evolve into future iterations at tech/gaming conferences, and more.

Levels & Bosses is made possible, in part, with support from Oolite Arts’ Ellies Creator Awards, The Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute, The Harpo Foundation, and a Locust Projects Wavemaker Grant in 2018. The artist and Otro Inventario wish to thank the MUD Foundation and Studio Shell for their support of Herramientas (Levels and Bosses).

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Leo Castañeda (b. Cali, Colombia 1988) is a multi-media artist and experimental game designer living in Miami, FL. Fusing gaming, painting, virtual reality, drawing, and interactive sculpture, Castañeda’s work probes how the language and structures of video games intersect with the world at large. Through open mythologies built across feedback loops between analog and digital, Castañeda’s work reimagines the corporeal, ecological, and socio-political anatomies that govern our cultural operating systems. 

Using the language and structure of video-games, Castañeda's work generates multi-media worlds that explore the semiotic bounds of identity, progression, and interaction. His practice encompasses film, video-games and mixed-media installations as well as drawings and paintings that evoke othered worlds between abstraction and speculative fiction. The alien and familiar converge across feedback loops between analog and digital works: paintings and sculptures become forms, textures and blueprints within digital environments just as virtual spaces become references for IRL compositions.

He writes: "The surreality of my childhood growing up in Colombia and visiting family the Brazilian Amazon largely functions as a point of departure for my world-building, with level-design influences, then ranging from Latin-American Surrealism & Abstraction (Roberto Matta, Agustín Fernández, Maria-Thereza Negreiros) to 19th-Century Romantic Painting (John Martin, Caspar David Freidrich) and Sci-Fi Literature (LeGuin, Butler, Borges) as well as epic video-games, anime mythologies, & blockbusters (Dragon Ball, Evangelion, Journey, Shadow of the Colossus)."

His works are organized under the linguistic structures in video-games, where words such as “bosses,” “levels,” “items,” and “stages” recall hierarchies of power throughout economic, cultural, and religious infrastructures. Deconstructing these political terms for formal and narrative exploration, Castañeda's practice reimagines representations and modes of engagement with these figures.

Castañeda received his BFA from Cooper Union in 2010 and MFA at Hunter College in 2014. Residencies include SOMA Mexico City (2014); “Of Games III” at Khoj International in New Delhi India (2015); Bronx Museum AIM Fellowship (2017), and Oolite Arts Studio Residency (2018–2019). In 2019 the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum commissioned Castañeda to create a video animation. He is also a recipient of South Florida Cultural Consortium Visual/Media Artists Fellowship, Locust Projects Wavemaker Grant, and Oolite Arts Ellies Creator Award. After two years as a professor of 3-D animation at Florida International University, Castañeda currently teaches 3-D animation at New World School of the Arts.

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