Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My latest topics of cocktail conversation

We were discussing art last weekend at a party, mostly because I had been inspired by famed film critic Roger Ebert's recent blog-posting claiming that video games could NEVER be Art. I won't say that I agree with his suggestion. I also won't say that I have seen evidence of video games that are Art to me. The difficulty in the discussion is that each person has their own view of what Art is.

Here is my own response to the original post and to some of the earliest comments in the list.

I really love the definition for art that Scott McCloud gave in his seminal work, Understanding Comics. I wish I could directly quote it. To boil it down somewhat, those things we do (or perhaps the works that we create) that do not specifically contribute to our safety or our property might be considered art. I'm sure that I've mangled that in paraphrasing.

As a board gamer, I think of the crafting of a set of human interactions. Perhaps the way that a good party host might be able to artfully entertain their guests with an amazing meal and elegant conversation. Role playing gamer friends of mine might be seen to use their game as a creative outlet. The results of playing a game may or may not be art, but players are moved in one way or another, and perhaps through asking the right questions we can explore the art or craft of games.

As a dancer, I wonder: does a staged ballet have a distinct artistic value that doesn't exist in a dance in competition? Are contestants in a talent show (or American Idol or what have you) not, for sake of being in a winnable-like-a-game situation, somehow artistically invalidated?

As an improvisational actor, does the fact that my rules of my interaction with my partners were developed by Johnstone or Close mean that my own creative output cannot be artistic?

I would argue that Donkey Kong is as much Art as E.C. Segar's Popeye. From me, that's high praise.

Maybe a more interesting question would be - what shifts might be made to create works (and I do think of games as works rather than products) might become more deeply meaningful than a pastime?

At this point there are at least a thousand responses, so reading the whole thing might be time consuming. Still, mostly rewarding and much smarter than reading the comments on YouTube.

edited to add:
Scott McCloud contributed to the conversation this morning. For those of you who don't know who Scott McCloud is, he created my favorite comic book of all time, Zot! and is much more famous for the seminal critique Understanding Comics.

Also, Allan Gonzalez posted a link to this video on his Facebook. I thought it was amusing and worth including here.

End edit.

The other topic of conversation was feminist porn. It seems that since I first considered the idea of Feminism, the loudest voices on this subject were the Dworkin and Mackinnon, the anti-pornography crusaders. I always felt that while the porn industry has certainly had many examples of exploitative behavior, that it needn't be seen as a completely unhealthy industry. To present a different point of view, I went and looked up this article, which breaks down a few of the different feminist views on pornography.

I really want to read your responses to these two articles. Let me know what you think!