[-empyre-] games as art or art as game

Julian Oliver julian at selectparks.net
Sun Mar 23 06:39:27 EST 2008

..on or around Sat, Mar 22, 2008 at 07:55:38PM +0200, Daphne Dragona said:
> i went into a music record store today , looking for a cd
> i have not been in one for a long long time
> as the i-tunes invasion made this habit fade out
> i found my cd quickly but  i finally stayed in for an hour or so...
> walking around browsing cds, checking offers,
> getting excited with cds i did not expect to find...
> of course i finally left the store having bought more than i should...
> but this is not the issue.
> wandering around in a music record store...
> does it sound simplistic? Maybe?
> but when i was there our discussion came back to my mind
> what do you prefer i said to my self?
> the i-tunes search engine which fulfils your wishes  in a minute?
> or spending time looking at the shelves of a music store,  full of
> people on a saturday morning?
> i answered the second...but... truth is
> i ll go back to my i-tunes cos it s most convenient and faster.

hehe. i can relate, though this makes me feel glad i never bought an MP3
player. a smart and strange guy called Odo Marquard called this effect
'Acceleration Conformism'. a good expression i reckon.

> So i can not say we dont need archives
> Of course they are precious for any research work, there is no doubt about it.
> But I believe that there is something being lost here.
> My answer to julian's question on curating, is predictable.
> I spend hours and hours reading blogs and websites on new media and games,
> going through books and catalogues and checking exhibitions to do my work.
> And an archive is of course of a great help to my work.
> But yes i do believe at the same time that while working a lot on the
> direction of classifying and archiving game projects.., play becomes
> institutionalised. It does gain certain values of an academic or
> research interest.... but its character is being lost.

classifications and other academic abstractions over artistic game
development practices both hurt and enrich the field i think, in
different times and in different ways. 

you and i once talked about the great many game theorists that confess,
sometimes defensively, to never having played the videogames they are
writing about - or videogames at all. instead, they need only an
invented taxonomy with which to interface ideas from other disciplines,
building discussion in absense of play and experience.

at the other end, many people like me get asked to give talks and
exhibitions on specific topics within the field, whether that be
'alternate reality games', 'augmented reality games', 'modding' etc.
this market of terms has been vital to the growth of the field - and my
own movement in it - if only as a basic vocabularly for thinking about
it and distributing the results of that thought. with any new field
taxonomies are fed until they become boring or destructive, at which
point they are either abandoned or preserved for purpose of
fruitful antagonism. 

the life-cycle of a taxonomy in the arts seems to be: artists raise and
support taxonomies within their emerging field, providing a basis for
distributing and talking about their work. things are given names such
that they can be differentiated from previous disciplines and all is
well. then, curators and academics come along and assert those terms
in an attempt to 'make sense' of the field, organising its outcomes.

artists then feel ownership of the taxonomy is threatened, contend that a
process of institutionalisation is taking place and then they abandon
the taxonomy and perhaps even the practice itself, naming it no-longer

then the whole thing begins again with something else. 

the very fact we're having this discussion is evidence 'game art' is
already partially institutionalised. the show GameWorld you curated at
the Laboral was full of continuing conversations amongst artists about
how they want to get out of the scene for precisely this reason. some of
us are being contacted by art dealers to sell our work.. it's well

it's my feeling that Play isn't threatened by this i think, so much as
the temporary forms it lives in. play doesn't need names but it does use
them from time to time.

> The idea of an archive and the idea of wandering can not really meet,
> in my opinion.
> An non- structured archive is not an archive anymore. It s something
> else. Would we be interested in such a form? That would follow
> playfulness, unexpected outcomes and wanderings?

this would be a great goal for sure.. toward something that can
accommodate such plastic interaction.

i'd contend however that an archive and wandering cannot meet.  an
example is a library, as an archive of books and the stuff they contain,
hierachically indexed (the DEWEY decimal system). 

it's my feeling that the problem isn't with archives themselves but the
interfaces we use to engage them. browsers of course don't at all help:
people typically move through digital archives in a pointillistic
fashion - "from one thing to the next" - as opposed to movements in a
library, for instance, which always position us in a many dimensional
relationship with the contents of that archive (covers, spines, titles,
sections, authors, neighbour topics). 

libraries contain space for contingency and intuition in a way a digital
archive typically does not. the interface the library provides is not
the DEWEY decimal system but rather a rich tensile structure
encompassing many kinds of movement. i'm guessing it's a little bit like
your experience in the record store.

when i move through a library i'm writing 'tags' to memory, as
associative pointers, continuously; picking out keywords and following
instincts one moment while satisfying an exacted query the next.

as you said, any archive necessarily contains structured data. it needs
to be sorted and structured to be put in and later retrieved.
abstracting an interface over that structure that prioritises wandering,
as you put it, is possible i think (or at least hope) with a digital
archive. it's my feeling this can be done with user ascribed tags, whose
very invention was to move away from governed data in the first place.
it may not have all the associative luxuries that physical movement in
an archive affords (reality is very high-bandwidth) of course but it's a

"Tags are a nice orthogeny to a fixed heirarchy" to quote a friend Nick

> I fear that in the frenetic times we are living in we feel we are not
> allowed to say yes.
> It is a little paradox of our "community". Working for play and
> against play at the same time.
> At least, this is how i often critisize my self

yep, this is a paradox i can personally relate to very much.


julian oliver
messages containing HTML will not be read.

More information about the empyre mailing list