Art or not art? That is the question… – Musings on Video Games

17 Jun

imagesForgive me for my bad Shakespear impression…but first,…I have to slap myself for writing this. Not only for this unexcusable attempt to write a fitting title, but for the whole idea of actually meddling with the game politics and speak my mind about it. (What outrageous thought…) If you haven’t noticed by now, this is going to be a lot more serious than my other “reviews”….I’m so going to regret this, am I?

So, don’t like, don’t read. I’m not angry when someone disagrees with what I’m writing about. I’m a supporter of open mind and free discussion. So, I’m going to throw the central question in here.

“Are Video Games Art?”

…Don’t mind me if I’m getting a headache right now, because this topic is a glorious absurd vicious circle and of course, I can’t withstand the temptation to write about it. (I’m slowly thinking I’m a masochist at heart…)

What is the clear definition of art, in general? I dare you to not open wiki or google (bing, yahoo or use the classic book dictonary) the word “art”. What comes to mind when we think about art? Well, pictures, sculptures, paintings, music, literature, performing arts and so on.

And why do we consider these things as art? It is human made, is a part/product of our culture, has influenced culture and was/is influcenced by it. We admire it, we debate about the meaning, we consider a deeper meaning behind it, or just simply accept it as “a piece of art” because we were told that this is art. It’s a human product, build out of our knowledge, vision, time, interpretation and talent.

First of all, this is a personal definition and I don’t know if it does cover with other definitions or not. The problem with such topics is, in general, that there a many definitions in different contexts on art. And don’t get me started on culture. In some circles it either provokes a neverending discussion, which may or may not escalate or dead silence, depending on where you bring up this topic.

In my point of view, it is rather subjective, strongly depending on different influcences, the culture we have grown up in and the knowledge we have aquired through years, on the period of time we are living and our own interpretation. What may be on wiki or in a dictonary is the general accepted explanation, but that doesn’t mean, that it covers the essence what different people might see in the topic of art. But let’s explain it with a personal example.

By all means, I’m no art student and I’m not familiar with the history of art in any way…but I was on different exhibitions. I went through classic art like portraits (Mona Lisa and the Kiss by Klimt being famous examples) to sculptures of Michelangelo to Impressionists to “Modern Art”. The first examples being almost beyond price and the last a pile of bananas on a table.

You can guess what my reaction. I was seriously confused. I considered art as something exeptional, as a product not every human can produce, as something unique, a talent not everyone has and now I was confronted with a pile of banana peals which can be considered as art (This is nothing unique since every person could do such a thing). Then it was explained to me that this piece of art is about the message the creator wants to send to the viewers and the discussion around it. Since I’m a writer in the amateur department I’,m familar with this. When telling a story you want to get a point across, but what point it is, can vary from the point of view.

And that is a major thing which is funny and frustrating at the same time.

For example you can take it for what you see: A sculpture, a stone, a simple story of a boy and a girl or a pile of bananas on a table. Or you can try to explain it with symbolism and interpretation thereof. And the last thing can be considered a problem in some cases. Symbols and interpretation of symbols vary, depending on the person and the person’s culture and story. A dagger can be a weapon, a threat, a symbol for war or a soldier, of betrayal or , according to Freud…You know what I mean.

images (1)A coded critic on society? On economy? On enviroment?  Or was Freud right?

And depending on the person you ask you can get a different interpretation. If you don’t ask the creator, that is. They were sheldomly asked what they really meant by it or say it is “to provoke the mind and people”. I feel with the authors who suddenly were accused to embed a hidden message in every thing they describe, even if they didn’t have the intention to do so. (Oh there are red curtains in the book! That has to mean something!)

So, bananas on a table is art, because it stirrs up your train of thoughts? Because it provokes me to question it? Then what about Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey? They did as well stir me thoughts and provoked me to ask how could it be considered literature, but it can hardly considered art (…or I’m I wrong?) Of this, I draw the conclusion that writing is an art form, but it doesn’t produce art automatically, at least, in my opinion. I have nothing against Modern Art but some pieces make me wonder..,Is this really art? The answers I get ranges from yes to no to maybe.

What has that to do with Video games? It is made for enterainment from humans for humans. But so are books,    films, theatre performances and music. I dare to say their first and furthermost goal is to entertain humans in different ways. But when does entertainment become art and when is art not some form of entertainment? You may think, maybe sculptures or portraits are an example to rebut this argument, but aren’t they entertainment in things of aesthetic? Of self picturing? In every work is a hidden meaning, but only the creator or employer knows what kind of meaning. Either he/she wanted just a statue or I don’t know, wanted to show off their money or talent, or something completely different.

Of course there are other important questions as well. In case of film or video games, what defines this point of turning the work into art? Just because someone threw in some symbols, so we can interpret what it should mean? Maybe. Or is it what the story behind it that tries to tackle and question society? Could be as well. There is no clear definition of what differs the one from the other, although some consider that there is a line. There are people who will never consider video games as art form or modern art for that matter.

I can remember that I was called narrow minded because I questioned some exhibits on modern art and asked if that is really art, because everyone can splash some paint on the wall and say “Look here I created art”. People called me out that “I don’t understand art” and “don’t see the meaning and idea behind it.”. I won’t deny it. I don’t have the slightest clue what art is supposed to be. I think art describes something that humans created. Something man-made, but at the same time I don’t consider everything that humans create as a piece of art. I think, I don’t know. And I’m well aware that what I’m taught about art depends on my society and own experiences with it. In the end, human societies decide what can  be regared as art, regardless the individual person. But societies always change.


Poetical and entertaining…How can this be not art?

My conclusion is: Programming games and telling stories are an art form, since it creates something, yet at the same time, it doesn’t always create art depending on different views. To say that Video Games will never reach a certain level of art or isn’t art, is, in that perspective at least, a little bit rashly and an argument without good footing. What art is, depends on different factors and let’s be honest, the argument that art can be timeless or at least, survives a certain periode of time, because it is unique and will be remembered…Pieces what we see today were, to put in bluntly, just lucky to survive to this day. What we consider as art can be forgotten by the next generation.

But I will come to an end with this. I called it a vicious circle because there isn’t really an end to this debate. It is a subjective matter and thus everyone can have a different opinion without really being right or wrong.

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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Musings


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