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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  October 2007

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING October 2007

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Subject:

Re: exchange pieces and time structures

From:

Corrado Morgana <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Corrado Morgana <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 16:09:35 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Hi Marc et al...

Some interesting points that have started me thinking..

The dialogic relationship between the viewer and the work has been talked
about and should be talked about ad infinitum, but what interests me is a
bit further back in the chain and that's the relationship between the maker
and the artwork and back again. Allow me to explain...

Much videogame art and software art, my particular species of videogame art
being arguably an extension of software art, can seem esoteric and too niche
for it's potential audience. I'm not saying that this is a failing but it's
this nicheness that is important. Videogame art must be self-referential or
it isn't videogame art. But this dialogic relationship with the viewer is
compounded by the relationship the maker has with the tools and modalities
of engagement that these tools foster; that is, the modes of production that
artists and enthusiasts engage with; hacking, modding etc and more
performative engagements such as crafting, cheating, exploiting etc..

For a work of videogame art to function successfully there may need to be,
arguably, some knowledge of these methodologies and languages within the
viewers experience otherwise much work can easily be dismissed. Let's face
it, this is a problem with all art, however I think it is more so with a
medium that relies on viewers insider knowledge and sometimes sense of
nostalgia, as in retro hacks (Mario Trilogy-Myfanwy Ashmore, Cory Arcangel
etc..) far more directly than other forms. Those with experience of
Nintendo's games will have a very different relationship than other viewers
of these works. It may surprise, but the art world is not full of gamers!
Usually when I try to describe my own projects over a beer, the response is
more often than not 'well I don't play games so I'm not really getting it'
!!!@$%£"

Another, somewhat similar, example ..

JODI's Max Payne cheats only
I have a particular engagement with this work that will differ to that of
many other viewers. I am a gamer and have completed both Max Payne games
used in the work. I am also a videogame artist and novice modder so have
tried many of the cheats that JODI have used within the work, however my
interventions/cheats did not have art productive intentionality, I used
these cheats, well, just because I could, it was fun.
It's precisely this knowledge of how to achieve many of the glitches and
effects JODI have produced that’s stops the esotericism. This allows (me)
the viewer to appreciate and relate to the work (interact and dialogise if
you will)as an artwork and not an exponent of technical mastery, as a piece
of experimental machinima/machinimart which also has a parallel notion of
shared memory; lots of gamers have walked those corridors and probably used
the nude Mona Sax avatar cheat! These prior experiences enrich the work-
It's a great piece..come and see it at HTTP gallery in November if you can 

Videogame art is generally an appropriation of cultures; an interaction with
cultures as an art producer (paraphrasing Axel Stockburger). Every
interactable actor, be it a moddable game engine, online environment or
cultural trope, has a set of qualities that the videogame artist chooses
precisely because of these affordances. Every different environment is
practically a medium in itself; kinda like 'painter', sculptor, 'coder',
'videogame artist working with Unreal Tournament', 'videogame artist working
within World of Warcraft'... There's also the issue of contingency, why
would a producer spend significant time learning how to operate within one
environment over another? Questions have to be asked before adoption. Does
it offer a good set of creative tools, is it within the technical skills of
the artist/producer, will the potential final artefact be critically robust?
Yadah yadah....

This is a far more complicated set of decisions than whether to use Flash or
Director as the completed artefact may be inherently bound by these
decisions both aesthetically and conceptually. Generally a web app, is a web
app, is a web app, regardless of what technologies are used. A work of
videogame art, particularly a mod or a hack, is bound to its roots and the
paradigms and metaphors of videogames themselves

John Paul Bichard at the 'Videogames and Art' book launch at London
Knowledge lab describes how he 'learns' a game to extract the most from
it-this includes playing it to completion and then affecting a strategy to
exploit the games creative qualities and affordances-sort of like an artists
residency within a game engine. There is significant investment here which
I'm not sure other practices require, the artist has to 'interact' (play!)
with the game before they can 'interact' (play!) with the game, well produce
art, that is. Once the game engine is old and has for whatever reason
exhausted it's currency it's time to move on and find another

Curation has to engage with these modalities as well and there have been
Machinima presentations, modding programmes etc but because it's such a new
arena, many of these have understandably had to be overviews of practice.
Hopefully as the scene matures that will change. Zero Gamer's underlying
themes are about these diverse modes of production..sort of. Zero Gamer is
more explicitly about artist production and enthusiast production and their
media art crossovers

To return to Verina's questions and pose another angle, it might be worth
looking at Bakthin's notion of the chronotope- a chronotope is that which
embodies time and space/place.
In the language of viewing an artwork does the artwork itself function as a
chronotope, governing the spatial temporal narratives of the whole system or
should the chronotopic 'hub' be moved to the viewer or maker...or maybe it
should be moved out to encompass all the actors.. who knows, I'm not sure if
this is that helpful..but!


Corrado Morgana


-----Original Message-----
From: Curating digital art - www.crumbweb.org
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of marc garrett
Sent: 24 October 2007 02:50 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: exchange pieces and time structures

Hi Verina and all,

Some interesting points raised here,

I just wanted to respond to this part of your text when you say "I was 
thinking about work where the actual content of the artwork and the 
desire on part of the maker is to address ‘limits’ of inter-activity and 
engagement. Where – beside of using technology in a so-called productive 
way..."

After the success of the Game/play exhibition last year which was also 
part of the London Games Festival Fringe, as well as shown in various 
venues around the UK, at our space the HTTP Gallery, London and Q Arts, 
Derby and elsewhere. (Catalogue can be downloaded here - 
http://blog.game-play.org.uk/files/GamePlay_Final.pdf if anyone is 
interested.); we became aware of how so much time was spent playing the 
games rather then standing back at a distance to explore other aspects 
of what was actually going on, and then wondered what else is there for 
all to explore about games when the interaction is taken out of the 
interaction - what is left?

This year, the Furtherfield.org crew with Corrado Morgana critical games 
theorist, are presently showing a co-curated exhibition at the London 
Games Festival Fringe this year, called 'ZERO GAMER'. 
http://www.http.uk.net/zerogamer/

Some of the works being shown at the London Games Festival Fringe, at 
Zero Gamer are works such as

Max Payne Cheats Only by Jodi

Boys in the Hood by Axel Stockburger

Mario Trilogy by Myfanwy Ashmore

CarnageHug by Corrado Morgana

Progress Quest by Eric Fredricksen

1d Tetris by Ziga Hajdukovic
and more...

A collaborative text written between myself, Ruth Catlow & Corrado 
Morgana (http://www.http.uk.net/zerogamer/exhibition.shtml) explores 
some of these issues and ideas.

"The meaning of contemporary media art is often crafted by the context 
in which it is encountered by its audience or participants. The way in 
which participants interact when engaged (in games and art) remains an 
important factor for both artists and game designers, gamers and 
audiences for videogame-art. This provides a starting point for this 
exhibition. It considers on the one hand, avidly and actively immersed 
gamers, and on the other, the gamer-in-every-viewer of art games who 
encounters game modifications, appropriations and detournements as jolts 
to the mesmerizing flow and illusory worlds of regular game play. They 
are thereby placed in a more thoughtful and reflective relationship with 
them. This is the fertile antagonism that informs Zero Gamer.

So, what happens when the action is taken out of interaction?

Of course, the works in this exhibition don't remove all action from 
interaction, but they do shift the sites, times and agents of action. 
The works presented either document the results of a prior performative 
action or an automated performance defined by software affordances such 
as artificial intelligence and in-game physics. Much of the presentation 
of these works touches upon the arena of Machinima. Games creatives, 
whether videogame artists or amateur enthusiast producers have made 
Machinima, a contraction of 'machine' and 'cinema', a significant form. 
This form uses videogame engines- hacking, modifying or performing 
within multi-player games- to produce normally a video document 
following some form of formal, cinematic intent. However this term may 
need some adjustment before we apply it to artists' documents of in-game 
performance or other activity- perhaps Experimental Machinima or 
MachinimArt (coined at the Gameworld exhibition 2006 in Laboral) will 
stand in for these more exploratory forms which belong to expanded forms 
of cinema or documentary not normally or intentionally associated with 
Machinima."

Another interpretation worth considering here is that, we longer need to 
hang onto the 'spectacle' of interaction as the main function, purpose 
or valid reason for being part of it, when engaging with video-games 
now. Claiming the media is not the same as interaction, but sometimes an 
emotional trick can arise where one may mistakenly feel as though they 
gain a kind of agency through the process of being interactive when in 
actuality the opposite is occurring between the user and game.

"Naturally (or unnaturally) digital technologies allow us to get caught 
up in what is real. In our minds, using common sense, we might say that 
a good argument or conversation at a screening event is real. The 
hallmarks of this might be the sense of humans talking, the smell of the 
room, the interjection of one voice over another or a familiarity with a 
place. However, if Baudrillard were to play SimCity I'm sure he might 
say that it was just as real as visiting Newcastle or Denver.

Commentators such as Beck and Wade* would go as far as to pose a 
generational shift where put simply those born after 1970 have been 
absorbed in games culture as role play for life. Those born before - the 
'analogue' baby boomers - see computer games as time wasting or passing 
fads. What I pick up from contemporary media theory is a desire to 
explain and summarise. The internet is definitely a good summary of 
itself though." Simon Poulter - false mutiny and the collective amnesia 
of bad sunrises. on August 8, 2006. 
http://blog.game-play.org.uk/?q=node/34#comment-19

Part of what Simon suggests above is worth considering, especially in 
regard to 'analogue' baby boomers, which I am sure many who frequent 
this list are. When having a conversation about the same subject at the 
beginnings of conceptualising the exhibition, Corrado Morgana said that 
"many of the original gamers have simply just got older". We part of a 
generation of people out who want more out of games other than just 
playing them for its own sake. This opens up games culture to new 
audiences, as well contemporary artists and thinkers to explore what 
this now means for us all, on many different levels.

Not only has games culture now moved on, so have also many net artists 
and media artists, who have taken it upon themselves to incorporate it 
into becoming part of their own ongoing practices.

"I think the widespread idea of interactive art as a form of 
collaborative authorship, is vastly overrated
First of all, I think all art takes place in the viewer. Interactive art 
is no exception. Viewing art is always active, never passive. But that 
doesn't mean that the user actually makes the piece (even though we may 
sometimes make him feel like he is ;) ).


Second, authors of interactive pieces often use this myth of 
users-as-creators to excuse themselves from making any statements or 
adding any content. This is very convenient since in the context of 
contemporary art, expressing an opinion seems to be considered 
politically incorrect and in the context of videogames, making a 
statement is deemed uncommercial."
Michael Samyn on August 8, 2006. 
http://blog.game-play.org.uk/?q=node/34#comment-22

Of course, there are various degrees of interaction, and some artists 
and game makers when building such environments are actively dealing 
with these contemporary questions in their own work all of the time. 
Other than those who are in the current Zero Gamer exhibition. Auriea 
Harvey and Michael Samyn originally known as Entropy8Zuper!, now known 
as Tale of Tales (http://www.tale-of-tales.com/). "the duo aim to 
challenge the fundamentals of game play by creating a ‘plot free’ 
experience of exploration and contemplation. Jonah Brucker-Cohen, 
rhizome.org

For me personally, two books have effectively approached the ever 
continuing strong connection between media art and video-games culture, 
expansively. There are some other great writings and books out there, 
but for me these two have touched upon things that we at Furtherfield 
feel are relevant, we that each of thwm dealt with these contemporary 
issues in a fresh and genuine way. The first one, which is actually 
being launched this evening , in the UK this evening, which I am gong to 
is, Videogames and Art - edited by Andy Clarke and Grethe Mitchell. The 
other is At The Edge of Art by Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito.

In Videogames and Art, Axel Stockburger's From Appropriation to 
Approximation, writes an interetesting study of video-games and 
contemporary art. In the Keynote texts Axel says "While many games are 
criticised on the basis of an innovation in a weapon system or the 
realism of car behaviour on specific tracks, ZERO GAMER invites players, 
developers and critics who aim higher to stop playing for a bit, enter 
the discursive platform it provides, and reflect on the current 
situation. This break is necessary to be able to focus on those issues 
surrounding games that open novel perspectives on contemporary culture. 
These can only be addressed properly if one switches from mere 
instinctive reaction to thoughtful planned action." 
http://www.http.uk.net/zerogamer/keynote.shtml

What I liked about  At The Edge of Art, is not necessarily there 
approach to the subject currently being discussed but more how they have 
tried to re-engage with media art, beyond the process of using history 
to support their arguments and intentions. Even though, I take issue 
with their twist regarding connections, in science - I wholly appreciate 
their risk taking and passion to explore the varied subjects which to 
serve to open up different possibilities in engaging with media art and 
other connected practices.

So, getting back to games culture and media art. I feel that creative 
interjections which act to inform potentially, wholesome cross-overs, 
for curators, artists, game makers and audience can bring about a truly 
engaging dialogue for all who are interested. Not only to put forward a 
more insightful reasoning in understanding the culture itself, but also 
to share ideas and issues of human nature as part of the contemporary mix.

Marc

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