Tag Archives: Art

Reflection VII: «Pathos»

I’m on overtime again. Been postponing due to lack of creativity. Trying to mine the information gathered last week. We talked about morality in games, and we attended the installation Textransformations by our professor Mia Zamora. Which I did enjoy, but my views on installations are often binary – I either like it or not. I often find myself trapped in the realm of traditional art.


The installation opened for collaboration with the viewers. A container of words and glue gave us all we needed to compile poems. I wouldn’t call myself a ‘lyrical word-smith’, but I found some words that gave meaning to me – happiness, shining, for, camera. Which is ironic, since I prefer taking melancholic portraits. I do however feel happiness when I capture something beautiful, and hopefully the recipients feel the same.

MPE-9325


Feelings are in a way the keyword for last week. When talking about games, and art in general, is it possible to produce an empathic reaction? I do think so, but it’s not always an easy task to accomplish, because human emotions are tricky.

We played some micro games based on morality in class. I chose the game Bad News, a text-based game with some graphical elements, were the goal is to make you an expert in spreading fake information. The game emphasizing how people exploit human emotion to polarize society, to push us towards tribalism. Anger, and the related feelings, are easy to manipulate, and I often quote one of my favorite characters from the Star Wars saga, Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Morality is no easy subject. Philosophers have tried for centuries to find a decent theory to explain it, and the area of ontology and epistemology is rough. I’m glad that Norway still require students to go through Examen philosophicum and Examen facultatum, even though lots of students find the course to be tedious. I believe that a basic understanding of philosophy is necessary in our society – and that it will be more than ever useful in the future. One thing that I learned last semester is that there is no perfect theory within the humanities, but by learning about the existing ones, we can use them for understanding, if applicable to the situation.

Bringing this back to video games; I do believe that one can construct artwork that can make other people feel something – either empathy, sympathy or compassion. I’m not going to wander into the steep canyon of morality as an objective phenomenon, but I guess that there are people out there able to produce art as in video games with an empathic core without deep theoretical knowledge. I do however think that combining theory and some understanding of human perception will benefit a developer. More on this topic in the next post.


In other news; I want to mention some games, people and content from a classic. Beginning with the new game A Way Out, which is an action-adventure game, developed to be played with another person in a split-screen configuration. I’ve not played it myself, but I’ve watched a full walkthrough by one of my favorite gamers, jackfrags, and a friend of his – almost 5 hours. Story aside, I was really intrigued by the game mechanics and how the developers use several aspects of game theory to experience – even jumping over to a 2D perspective with horizontal scrolling. The game also includes a homage to the earlier types of games – like Four Across and early arcade fully playable in-game. You can also pick up a banjo and play some tunes with the same mechanic as Guitar Hero.

 


Earlier in this course, we talked about digital art and the difficulties in preserving it for the future. Technology required to view certain pieces become obsolete and emulators are not always a perfect solution. I stumbled upon an interview from VICE with a man dedicated to preserving gaming history.
He decided to as much of the history as possible – from the games themselves to packaging to literature and other aspects of relevant culture. “What I’ve come to understand, is that the game itself is only part of the story, you can play Super Mario Brothers, if you play it now, it’s a good game. That game if you examine within its context was a revolutionary game.” (Frank Cifaldi)

 


Lastly, a gem from the content box. The GTA franchise has been praised and loathed since its inception 1997, but one aspect of it is amazing – the radio channels. I’ve spent so many hours just driving around the cities just listening to the radio – music, commercials and talk shows, tailored to the game. My favorite is from GTA III and is a purely talk show channel called Chatterbox FM. Filled with satire and humor.

 

Stories, structure and the analysing digital art

Last week we interpreted a piece of digital art. The piece was called Sky Magic live at Mt. Fuji and depicts drones flying in coordinated patterns overlaid with classical Japanese music. This is very similar to the form of poetry or short story analysis required to get a passing grade in the Norwegian school system. The structure of the university lecture and so many from my middle/high school classes was extremely similar. We are presented with a piece of art and told to think of it’s meaning, what is the message? When I was younger I really enjoyed these tasks. They gave me the chance to unfold my creativity and find strange connections to what I was reading/seeing and my own experiences. The work I produced in these early days where heartfelt and personal… and universally they would get bad grades.

“You have interesting thoughts on the piece, but miss the bigger picture, the intended message”

I struggled for a long time to improve my grades in art analytics and during most of high school I was a top grades student in this regard, but my enjoyment was gone. The more I learned of the “right” way to interpret art, the more I felt my own voice fade away. So, when I was told we would discuss this piece over a twitter chat I was apprehensive. I really like Zamora and Lavine. Their teaching methods fit my style of learning and their work is inspiring, I want to take their tasks seriously. So, I started going into the old soul sucking routine of looking at composition, pashing, lighting, how audio and visual contrast etc etc. From this I concocted a tame tweet about new vs old and their intermingling.

Not that the subject matter in and of itself is tame, far from it, but I had neither the time nor inspiration dig deeper or find any interesting takes. This has been bothering me for a week now. As mentioned last post I’ve been stuck on a piece since and that piece is my thoughts on the matter, but it always ended up into the same landfill of easy conjecture. And in the process of rewriting the post over and over again both in text and in my head, I’ve found three major reasons for why I failed the activity.

  1. I had no strong feelings about the piece.
  2. I’m bad at presenting ideas on twitter
  3. I prefer art which are or can be a story

The piece is a pretty and I really like the music, but that’s pretty much it. I can see this resonating with some, but for me it was just a good ad, nothing more. I’m also as any reader of mine should know, a very wordy person. I like taking my time when I present ideas and thoughts. It’s not that I’m unable to boil something down, but that sort of work takes time and effort. And taking time and effort on twitter is something I’m not really used too. To me it’s a site to share random thoughts, like the flint in a lighter. The lighter gas is subconscious ideas, the flint can ignite them, but produced flame is used to make something unrelated to the lighter. Twitter to me is a tool not suitable for discussion.

Lastly the big part, I prefer art in story form. Once we get more into games and e-lit I have tons of examples of pieces I enjoy, but most digital art ends up in the same box as Sky magic. A box filled with neat trinkets which are pretty or cool in a technical aspect, but nothing more. This idea of art as stories is also why I really enjoy memes. Take the so beloved meme of guy eyeing up a girl while with another.

other woman

The situation is something inherently familiar to anyone who has grown up in a culture of monogamy. You can use this familiarity to create a story. Every version of the meme has a structure; Initial state of happy couple where you learn the name of him and her. Middle stage where he scorns her in favour of a new person. And there it ends. You, the viewer, must fill in the conclusion. You have to imagine the joke or message, and this is not some deep analysis, but an effortless urge to bring closure to a story.

And then again you have the meta story. The story of where the meme came from and how it’s usage has changed over time. My appreciation of the meme peaked after someone pointed out that the stock photo is based upon the red lady scene in The Matrix or at least lines up extremely well.

Other matrix

How adorable and juicy! Now you can add another layer to the story. It’s no longer a random couple, but good old Morpheus and Neo having a walk and the distracting lady is whatever this version of Neo desires. Of course this is not taking into account all the versions incorperating older and newer memes for a continous canon of internett tomfoolery.

Memes might not be seen as high art, but I enjoy them. I’ve always detested the use of high/low art classifications. In my work with nerd youth culture here in Norway I constantly met with derision when trying to scrounge up funds. Nerd culture is amateur culture, unlike classical arts which is professional culture. I can see the distinctions and why a classification of this sort is useful, but why use such charged words. By calling certain art low, you insinuate that it’s inferior. It’s like the escapism fears from pulp/fantasy books of the eighties. Just because something is made to entertain everyone, not just the learned does not mean any inferiority. But this scorn of story and structure is still quite prevalent in all facets of the art community. People disparage their work because it’s just low culture. Excellent pieces are disregarded because of their origins or method of production.

Erm.. Yes well I’ll let that rant go for now. I’ll probably pick it up during our more e-lit oriented lectures a few months from now. I’ll just end on this little note:

Our appreciation of art is subjective. Don’t disregard what others find meaning and joy in, but don’t punish someone for not getting what you like. It’s fine to be bored by universally lover pieces, so many people are and the only way we can get more of the art we enjoy is to shout out when we find something that speaks to us.

Reflection II: «Permission»

Sunday again, and time for another reflection over the past week. People say that everyone can write, but can anyone become a writer? I’ve struggled with writing most of my life. I can speak with passion about any subject that I fancy, but I often find a mental barrier, or filter, that somehow causes thoughts to scramble, which leads to incoherent text at times. I’m also in a constant rush to catch the monkey in my mind, running around with the dictionary.

I recently heard the idea of thinking in images and thinking in words, Dr. Jordan Petersen talked about his fascination for the well-known Carl Jung. People leaning towards either side, and some people having the ability to do both. With regards to creativity, I believe that highly creative people within visual arts do think in the realms of images, academics in words, and some of the best writers can probably do both – as in describing their imaginary fantasy with perfect sentences.

I believe that I’m of the image-type. I often struggle to convey thoughts that I have, often during photoshoots. Being able to draw can often ease that tension. So where am I going with this introduction. I was sitting here wondering about what I was going to write about this week, we’ve been through some basic meme creations and talked about eras within digital arts. About people breaking free from the traditional art found in museums. People striving for a new way to be creative. So, I thought about this for some time, and then I remembered someone I truly appreciate, John Paul Caponigro, fine art visual artist and photographer. He’s spoken about the creative process at a number of occasions (links below) and believes that everyone is creative, and that permission, passion and persistence are key points.

Gail Sher laid out some simple thoughts in the book “One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers”; Writers write, writing is a process, you don’t know what your process is until the end, and if writing is your process, the only way to fail is not to write. This thought is applicable to most creative fields if you just replace the word ‘write’ with anything else.

Caponigro speaks about the power in using words to form association with creative ideas. They can help us spark the fire to light up the subject at the right time. This made me think about Google Cloud Vision API, a system for image analysis. Anyone can use it to detect a large number of details in an image, like if there’s people in them, text, relevant keywords, colors, and other properties. Fun way of ‘seeing’ deeper into an image and extracting useful information.

I’d like to say in summary that we need to be open to artistic expression. We may not enjoy the aesthetics of every piece or specific genre, but there is always someone that does. The debate around subjectivity and objectivity in aesthetics is not an easy nut to crack, but I do enjoy this quote from David Hume:

“Not to mention, that there is a species of beauty, which, as it is florid and superficial, pleases at first; but being found incompatible with a just expression either of reason or passion, soon palls upon the taste, and is then rejected with disdain, at least rated at a much lower value.” (Of the Standard of Taste).

Google Cloud Vision API: https://cloud.google.com/vision/ 

Defining art

As a collective, we humans really like to categorize things. Ourselves, our political leanings, other cultures, types of media and sub categories of the media. Not only are categories and excellent way to sort through tons of stuff, but also in removing a lot of preamble in day to day conversations. While labels like feminist or liberal brings a ton of baggage it gives an indication of what kind of person you are talking too. Sporting pins or other icons representing your chosen category acts like a filter. I would naturally steer away from people sporting a MAGA hat or a Pepe/FBI t-shirt. This saves both me and the other person a lot of grief. Categories and labels has always been an important part of representing yourself. The whole “are games art?” debate and social justice stance that labels regarding self-identity and how its best left up to the person being labelled, show’s us the influence of categories.

Which is why I’ve had so much fun in reading my fellow student’s blogs. In their words you can see a certain uncertainty in what extent this and that falls under the umbrella of digital culture and digital art. You can see this too in the structure of the course. It’s split in three parts, digital art, games and electronic literature. Does that mean that games and e-lit is not digital art? I can see breaking digital art into different facets, but when it’s split into its own category what does that mean.

When it comes to defining digital art in the first place I naturally went to Wikipedia. Siting Wikipedia is as always seen as a great sin, but since anyone can be an editor it also works as a good way to find the median understanding of more ethereal concepts. This hivemind of the masses produced the following definition:

“Digital art is an artistic work or practice that uses digital technology as an essential part of the creative or presentation process. Since the 1970s, various names have been used to describe the process, including computer art and multimedia art. Digital art is itself placed under the larger umbrella term new media art.”

While this is a serviceable start point it’s important to try to flesh it out. This is where the course curriculum comes in handy. Incidentally we have the book Digital art by Christiane Paul. Firstly, she brings a really good point around definition and why defining digital art is a pain:

“Definitions and categories can be dangerous in setting up predefined limits for approaching and understanding an art form, particularly when it’s constantly evolving, as is the case of digital art.”

I don’t envy anyone forced into a position where you must define art. By setting a limit you will always end up excluding innovative pieces that push the boundaries.  Digital art is a relatively new notion, born out of the desire to categorise the outlier to pre-computer art which makes defining it even harder as it’s constantly growing. But despite all this, Paul comes with a serviceable definition of digital art:

“…art that uses digital technologies as a tool for the creation of more traditional art objects – such as a photograph, print, or sculpture…”

And for new media:

“…digital-born, computable art that is created, stored, and distributed via digital technologies and employs their features as its very own medium.”

We can see that the definition offered by Wikipedia clashes with Paul’s. Paul defines new media and digital art as two separate entities while the wiki sees digital art as a sub category to new media. This poses a problem. Which classification should we follow? Categories and classifications are subjective in their nature and their truth is based not in some Boolean fact, but in usage. Even the most common definition of life could also apply to fire which requires oxygen, eats and procreates, but most people would not count fire when deciding what basic right a living thing is given.

My knee jerk reaction is to follow the academic definition presented by my curriculum and I’ll surely use is as my basis in any academic text written for the university. However, there is merit in the tiered setup presented by the masses of Wikipedia. Sub categories allows us to peek between our fingers and jumble ideas while still allowing us to well-fitting categories. Anyone who listens to metal music will be familiar with this approach (please don’t burn me at the stake if you disagree with the classification presented in the graph. I’m but a simple jazz enthusiast which know next to nothing about metal and only needed an example)

 

metalmusic

 

So why should we care about categories at all? If it excludes, muddles and is inherently subjective, what is the point? Well… outside of my earlier points about filtering etc, it helps in creation. Sitting in a blank room trying to dream up a new idea is damned difficult. Most, if not all, has run into option paralyzes during our life. The human mind is great at modifying existing thing or dreaming up solutions to problems, but that’s because of limitations. Given unlimited funds and time we tend to over analyse and design everything. This is where categories shine. Want to make music? What category? Immediately you have a framework. You can subvert expectations, but you’re building of off an existing framework. So, by having a category of art which is defined not only by the digital framework of it’s creation but also by it’s link to traditional art you give yourself plenty of room for innovation while also having a framework.

Finally, I want to shout out a few blogs from other students.

First of its Ane’s blog where she in a stroke of genius recreates the feeling of exiting digital art in Spore. She also links a new song to each blogpost (without auto playing them) which I heartily approve of. https://anelundo.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/art-of-the-week/

Next up is Roj with an insight into evolution of photography. He also sites a very interesting idea proposed by Flores which came up during our lecture. The idea that e-lit and literature will die out in the next half century. While I disagree with the notion I still find it an interesting topic to think about. https://thelifeofroj.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/one-step-closer-to-the-matrix/

 

Lastly from my study buddy John with his really good “Tweet or die” post. The outlining of the discomfort which comes from blending personas, here IRL and online persona, is something I’ve had on my mind ever since my short stint in sociology and first reading Goffman. https://tronkel.wordpress.com/