Assassination Adventure, 1988. Directed by Mark Allen. Macintosh Apple IIgs/Apple IIc Plus, 1/2 inch VHS; 3 minutes, 21 seconds; color; sound.

During the late-80’s in Dallas I was a video artist. It was a hobby. Today, the term “video art” is extraneous, but back then—and in Texas—work of this nature needed a category. Some things I created showed at places like the Starck Club, a few small gallery exhibitions in Denton, and even on Dallas’ local PBS channel. This is a piece I created in 1988 titled Assassination Adventure. It imagined a cheesy video game based on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was created specifically for the Dallas Video Festival (the festival’s ‘Dallas Show’ featuring 22 Texas video artists, and had the 25th anniversary of JFK’s assassination as its theme). This copy is made from the original compilation of that year’s show.

It was 1988. Large, simplified pixels ruled!

This was created on a Macintosh Apple IIgs, or maybe an Apple IIc Plus. I was in the graphic design school at the University of North Texas, and that’s what we used in my Computer Graphics course (the course was new to the curriculum that year). Since the computers didn’t have an animation program, I had to create separate stills and then run through them by clicking the mouse, then record that with a VCR hooked to the back of the computer, which also needed some other kind of filtering device I’d checked out from the RTV&F department. And, I had to get it all on tape in real time, no editing. I remember my Computer Graphics instructor, Susie Cherry, becoming exasperated as she stayed late with me in the art building, acting as a second set of arms as she pushed the VCR record button over and over and kept repeating “Now…what is this for again?” The soundtrack is the result of my friend Lance Swaim and me going to a 7-11 in Denton late at night and playing a video game while I held a tape recorder up to its speaker. It’s funny to see the results now. Back then, when it came to stuff like this, if you didn’t have a television studio or work at Pixar, you had to jerry-rig everything just to try and get the desired effect. Of course I wanted it to look like a cheesy video game, but even within that capacity it looks absurdly amateur. I remember I showed someone a tape of this piece in the 90’s and thinking it was excruciating. But seeing it 20 years later, I like it again. It’s like an old finger painting.

When the piece showed at the Dallas Museum of Art during the Local Show screening, there was a lot of applause for my piece… and some boos! Back in 1988, that year’s DVF “Local Show” was reviewed by the art critic at The Dallas Observer. I remember it was the first time anything I’d ever done had been written about in any sort of press. I was ecstatic. The reviewer identified my piece as the most “shocking” of the bunch, and I think concluded with “Mark Allen’s Assassination Adventure is cheeky fun…” or something like that (I would love to find a copy of that old review).