If you mention Garfield, Minecraft or The Sims, be prepared to watch 20-year-old Rudy Falagán light up.
Take The Sims video game, for example, which explores agency and identity in video games.
“I’m using [Sims] in the future to talk about the idea of reality stars or content creators and this idea of drama and kind of just what that means for them to be in that weird position,” Falagán said. “We want them to have some sort of autonomy and identity, but at the same time, we want drama when we want drama, and we want them to post specific types of content.”
A junior in the Roski School of Art and Design, Falagán uses video art to explore some of his favorite entertainment topics, like video games and social media.
Falagán screen-records multiple laptop desktops and his phone to produce edited videos that explore human interactions with digital spaces. He often works with three different screens at once, creating different workspaces by toying with his computer’s camera.
“This is me pulling out, like recording my text messages, my Instagram pages and posts, me texting friends or just like these screen-recordings,” Falagán said. “Though they’re kind of fake, it’s still real things I’m searching and interacting with. You get both my desktop and my visible self, and it’s this really weird intimate profile you get of me.”
The most unique part about the work he creates is the social concepts that fuel his art, such as the idea of social media as a platform for forming new relationships. He uses his creations to ask questions about themes of connectedness, disillusion and reality as it relates to the digital sphere.
Falagán also explained that social media sparked his unique art form, as he originally directed his attention to Instagram for inspiration.
“I found myself veering more and more toward social media [and] internet culture as a form of escapism because I’ve always been super interested in memes and why people gravitate towards certain types of content or how the internet works in linking together different ideas,” Falagán said.
He started out by selecting specific memes and then deep-diving online to find as many versions of that meme as possible. He then took to his Instagram story, posting his findings one after another. Sometimes his findings would amount to 50 posts in a day.
The reactions he received on his Instagram stories blew him away. He was intrigued by how many people commented or responded to him about the posts “instead of the mindless tapping [through]” that has become so prevalent within internet culture.
According to Falagán, this led him to question why such consumers of media are so inclined to tap or swipe.
Junior Natalie Lee, who has been roommates with Falagán since they met through gender neutral special interest housing their freshman year, said that she, as well as others who are close to Falagán, gets to experience his creations and evolution as an artist in a very “intimate way.”
Lee said Falagán enjoys exploring facets of art in the digital sphere — a medium that often goes ignored.
“Although I may not be eloquent enough to describe his work in ‘art-speak,’ I get to see Rudy toiling away at his art at home,” Lee said. “Whether it’s shredding pounds and pounds of paper, meticulously creating texture on intricate ceramic pieces, editing tons of gigabytes of Garfield, Minecraft and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure footage and spending countless hours recreating real life people on Sims, Rudy laboriously dives into the subjects that he is so passionate in exploring.”
With an artistic perspective like Falagán’s, it would be easy to assume he has been developing his craft forever. But that’s not necessarily the case.
Raised in Huntington Beach, Falagán comes from a mostly “numbers-oriented” family, he said. He wanted to be an engineer at one point before discovering his love for art in the second grade. According to Falagán, art provided support for his mental health rather than taking away from it.
“Mentally, I was like, ‘No, [math] is going to burn me out,’” Falagán said. “I guess that’s why I started going into art — because I was like, ‘Well, art makes me happy.’”
However, Falagán said he is not so sure he can see himself pursuing his as a future career. With a minor in psychology, he has considered pursuing a job as a therapist to work with art in a different way as well.
“I’m keeping it really open because there’s a lot of places I could go, and I don’t necessarily want to commit right now and put intense expectations on me,” Falagán said. “I’m just allowing things to happen.”