“Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start”—many who played console video games in the 1980s and 1990s will recognize this particular cheat code. Developed by a programmer at Konami who wanted to shortcut his game during testing, the sequence of buttons is now commonly referred to as the Konami code, and it has long been a source of jokes in the gaming industry.
The title of Brian Paumier’s exhibition references this code but intentionally gets it wrong; the title begins “Up, Down, Up, Down.” This misstated sequence can be seen as a poetic enhancement of the code, conveying a sense of vertigo—one imagines a body going up and down, left and right; or a psyche. Such vacillations parallel those of the iconography in the nine works on view. Some, such as NANDI Vehicle of Shiva (all works 2016) or Raj, depict plastic figurines particular to Southeast Asian history and mythology; others, such as Torero Verde and Borrega, are derived from Mexican popular imagery.
The show seems exploratory, an expansion of Paumier’s photo-based practice that is indelibly marked by his recent time spent in India, as well as his upbringing in Oxnard, California, where the majority of the population is of Mexican ancestry. Six of the works are digital prints adhered to illuminated LED panels, and the two others place his photographs inside reproductions of vintage arcade marquees in custom-built powder-coated aluminum frames. These latter works are dynamic and assured—like a well-loved game, which is fun whether or not you cheat.