New York, 1933. An enormous gorilla falls off the top of the Empire State Building. This scene has long exerted a powerful grip on the collective imagination […]. New York, 2005. The same gorilla falls off the same skyscraper. This time however we do not see the modernist silhouette of the Empire State Building, beside which even the giant beast looked like a speck in the sky. This time we see the scene through the eyes of the lead character, who has also climbed up to the top of the building in a last-ditch attempt to save the soft-hearted monster.
You immediately start wondering why Peter Jackson, a great admirer of the original Kong, decided to leave that magnificent image out of his remake and opt instead for a powerful but decidedly less vivd subjective view. There has to be a reason for it in the story. In the first King Kong the lead character was a victim of the beast’s love, while in the remake it is more of a reciprocal thing. The psychological side plays an important role in the story, so it is therefore natural that the viewer is presented with the character’s point of view. But this is not enough to justify depriving us of the image we have been waiting for throughout the movie. When watching this remake the trained eye of the movie buff has to deal with the “insider’s eye view” that videogames have got us accustomed to, and his or her expectations are foiled. The need to experience a story from the inside has taken over from our desire to identify with powerful iconography. […]
I have chosen this example not in order to show that film, which has played such a decisive role in the development of the videogame, is now in turn being profoundly influenced by the younger medium. […] What I want to look at is the more general picture: how videogames are conditioning the aesthetics and registers of other media.
[…] Firstly in new media the act of aesthetic contemplation is replaced by immersion, which on the one hand disorients, and on the other creates a feeling of omnipotence, evident in the “user as demiurge” aspect of videogames. Secondly, hypertextuality does away with the distinction between the roles of author and spectator, generates confusion between various levels of expression, and destroys any sense of temporal depth. Thirdly, the visual takes over from the textual, and the virtual from the physical, destroying the distinction between real and imaginary. Lastly the “life on screen” wipes out the distinction between living and non-living, giving rise to a new form of fetishism. According to [Fulvio] Carmagnola, these four points come together to eliminate “the reassuring categories that allowed us to discriminate, assign a level of certainty to the tangible world and therefore to pass judgment with certainty.”
Modern aesthetic criticism perceives this setback strongly, and its suspicions are naturally aroused.
The new media theorist Lev Manovich […] has an entirely different brand of enthusiasm. “A computer: Never before a single machine was an engine of economy AND the main tool for representation. INFO-AESTHETICS needs to reflect this duality.” Info-Aesthetics is a heated encounter between the aesthetics of modernism, child of our industrial civilization, and that of informationalism (Manuel Castells), and it “suggests that the new aesthetics already exists in information interfaces and information tools that we use in everyday life. In other words, new aesthetics of information culture manifests itself most clearly in computer software and its interfaces. Similarly, I argue that computer applications employed in industry and science - simulation, visualization, databases - are the new cultural forms of information society. The challenge before us is to figure out how to employ these tools to create new art; in short, how to interface them not to quantified data but to human experience, subjectivity and memory.
There is nothing “solid” about these virtual landscapes. Solid comes from Latin solidus, indicating firm and stable objects. The virtual landscapes of the videogames, on the other hand, are fluid, transient, and unstable. They simulate solidity, but are fragile, much more fragile than the reality we take for granted. These spaces are made of polygons, that is, they appear to have three dimensions. They are solid in the sense that they present a “uniformly close and coherent texture”.
Our spaces are changing shape before our eyes. Marc Augé’s non-places have been superseded by hyper-places, the electronic landscapes of the videogame that have transcended the screen to become a forma mentis, a way of understanding and conceptualizing reality, an updated version of cognitive mapping. Hyper-places are abstractions of mediated spaces, like those we experience on television and cinema. Hyper-places are spatial instantiations of simulations Hyper-places are pervasive in technologically-advanced societies. These spaces have their own set of rules. An inner logic. Peculiar chronologies. Specific dynamics. Videogames do not really simulate reality: rather, they simulate mediated realities. FIFA Soccer is not a simulation of soccer (the sport), rather it is a simulation of televised soccer, with its visual and rhetoric conventions and codes.
Videogame spaces are as authentic as the real ones, or as Baudrillard would probably say, as fake. Videogame spaces are global, they speak a visual language that transcends local idioms. These spaces are a-historical, or, better, they create their own history even when they evoke “real” historical events. These are spaces that can be traversed individually but also collectively. Some can even be inhabited. They are all excessive, hence the prefix hyper. We cannot fully explore them: they always escape us, somehow. Videogames are mostly about architecture, not narrative. But even architecture is not what [it] used to be. As Virilio wrote in The Aesthetics of Disappearance, “architecture [is] no longer in architecture, but in geometry; the space-time of vectors, the aesthetic of construction is dissimulated in the special effects of the communication machines, engines of transfer and transmission” (1991, p. 64). Videogames are about simulating movement in space(s). Videogames are all about manipulating time and space.
[…] In a sense, videogame spaces are the prototypes of the cities of the future. Paul Virilio wrote that the airport prefigures tomorrow’s urban spaces. Airports are standardised spaces (or non-places, according to Augé), air-conditioned, and under a pervasive surveillance. Simulations are like airports: liminal places. Points of departure. Points of arrival.
We have here, then, an important element of the distinction between aesthetic and moral values. It is the same that has been pointed to in the famous contrast between work and play. These terms may be used in different senses and their importance in moral classification differs with the meaning attached to them. We may call everything play which is useless activity, exercise that springs from the physiological impulse to discharge the energy which the exigencies of life have not called out. Work will then be all action that is necessary or useful for life. Evidently if work and play are thus objectively distinguished as useful and useless action, work is a eulogistic term and play a disparaging one. It would be better for us that all our energy should be turned to account, that none of it should be wasted in aimless motion. Play, in this sense, is a sign of imperfect adaptation. It is proper to childhood, when the body and mind are not yet fit to cope with the environment, but it is unseemly in manhood and pitiable in old age, because it marks an atrophy of human nature, and a failure to take hold of the opportunities of life.
Play is thus essentially frivolous. Some persons, understanding the term in this sense, have felt an aversion, which every liberal mind will share, to classing social pleasures, art, and religion under the head of play, and by that epithet condemning them, as a certain school seems to do, to gradual extinction as the race approaches maturity. But if all the useless ornaments of our life are to be cut off in the process of adaptation, evolution would impoverish instead of enriching our nature. Perhaps that is the tendency of evolution, and our barbarous ancestors amid their toils and wars, with their flaming passions and mythologies, lived better lives than are reserved to our well-adapted descendants.
We may be allowed to hope, however, that some imagination may survive parasitically even in the most serviceable brain. Whatever course history may take, - and we are not here concerned with prophecy, - the question of what is desirable is not affected. To condemn spontaneous and delightful occupations because they are useless for self-preservation shows an uncritical prizing of life irrespective of its content. For such a system the worthiest function of the universe should be to establish perpetual motion. Uselessness is a fatal accusation to bring against any act which is done for its presumed utility, but those which are done for their own sake are their own justification.
At the same time there is an undeniable propriety in calling all the liberal and imaginative activities of man play, because they are spontaneous, and not carried on under pressure of external necessity or danger. Their utility for self-preservation may be very indirect and accidental, but they are not worthless for that reason. On the contrary, we may measure the degree of happiness and civilization which any race has attained by the proportion of its energy which is devoted to free and generous pursuits, to the adornment of life and the culture of the imagination. For it is in the spontaneous play of his faculties that man finds himself and his happiness. Slavery is the most degrading condition of which he is capable, and he is as often a slave to the niggardness of the earth and the inclemency of heaven, as to a master or an institution. He is a slave when all his energy is spent in avoiding suffering and death, when all his action is imposed from without, and no breath or strength is left him for free enjoyment.
Work and play here take on a different meaning, and become equivalent to servitude and freedom. The change consists in the subjective point of view from which the distinction is now made. We no longer mean by work all that is done usefully, but only what is done unwillingly and by the spur of necessity. By play we are designating, no longer what is done fruitlessly, but whatever is done spontaneously and for its own sake, whether it have or not an ulterior utility. Play, in this sense, may be our most useful occupation. So far would a gradual adaptation to the environment be from making this play obsolete, that it would tend to abolish work, and to make play universal. For with the elimination of all the conflicts and errors of instinct, the race would do spontaneously whatever conduced to its welfare and we should live safely and prosperously without external stimulus or restraint.
In this second and subjective sense, then, work is the disparaging term and play the eulogistic one. All who feel the dignity and importance o the things of the imagination, need not hesitate to adopt the classification which designates them as play. We point out thereby, not that they have no value, but that their value is intrinsic, that in them is one of the sources of all worth. Evidently all values must be ultimately intrinsic. The useful is good because of the excellence of its consequences; but these must somewhere cease to be merely useful in their turn, or only excellent as means; somewhere we must reach the good that is good in itself and for its own sake, else the whole process is futile, and the utility of our first object illusory.
We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed.
"For better or worse, most Game Art tends to be parasitic, to borrow a term from Anne-Marie Schleiner, as it appropriates and repurposes existing technology for its own goals. It also elevates that appropriation to the status of a radical gesture. As Miltos Manetas writes: "An artist who works with videogames doesn’t create or change anything himself. He just extracts the hidden notion by looking carefully at the parade of symbols the game is offering already. … A videogame "artist" is not the one who creates a videogame, but someone who "copies" it. As well as a painter is not the guy who eats a piece of bread, but the one who "paints" it, a videogame artist doesn’t even play a videogame but he just extracts stuff from it.""
… the two processes, that of science and that of art, are not very different. Both science and art form in the course of the centuries a human language by which we can speak about the more remote parts of reality …
It is conventional to think of conceptual art as Western art’s linguistic turn. Yet the conceptual work that emerged out of the minimalist negation of medium by a generic conception of ‘objecthood’ was less concerned with language than ideal systems of logical, mathematical and spatio-temporal relations. If there is a basic unit of intelligibility within minimalist or systems-based conceptual art, it is neither the act/event not the word, but the number; if there is a syntactic structure common to such art, it is not the sentence, but the formula; and if there is a discipline in which it is grounded, it is neither composition nor linguistics, but geometry. Philosophically, this work is closer to a pre-aesthetic, rationalist metaphysics of the beautiful as an order of perfection, than to the post-aesthetic premises of a conceptual art grounded in either a philosophy of the act/event or a philosophy of language. Its closest artistic predecessor is serialism in modern music.
Conceptual art was the product of successive and overlapping revolts against four defining features of the artwork as previously understood within the art institutions of the West, and as epitomized in particular in Clement Greenberg’s discussion of modernist painting: material objectivity, medium specificity, visuality and autonomy. Each rebellion contested a dimension of the aesthetic definition of the artwork by drawing attention to the role of ideas in the production of meaning from visual experience. But each did so in a significantly different way. Each form of negation thus had as its positive outcome a different set of resources or strategic options for a distinctive type of conceptual art, as follows:
1. The negation of material objectivity as the site of the identity of the artwork by the temporality of ‘intermedia’ acts and events. This led to a type of conceptual art linked to the history of performance in music and dance.
2. The negation of medium by a generic conception of ‘objecthood’, made up of ideal systems of relations. This led to a form of conceptual art closely related to the history of minimalism.
3. The negation of the intrinsic significance of visual form by a semiotic or, more narrowly, linguistically-based conceptual content. This produced a type of conceptual art connected to academic philosophy and the history of the readymade.
4. The negation of established modes of autonomy of the artwork by various forms of cultural activism and social critique. This generated a range of forms of conceptual art associated with the legacy of the historical avant-gardes of the 1920s in the politics of the 1960s, and with Constructivism and Productivism in particular.
Page 1 of 37