[-empyre-] Art and Change?
Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Mon Mar 18 11:54:43 EST 2013
Joseph takes me to task for commenting on his romanticism, and I stand corrected, and am sorry for being playfully ironic with my response to the long biographical narrative (unlike John Sharp's biographical narrative, it did not seem to be about professional achievements as much as about cathartic reversals, and an eschatological progression towards the suggestion that games saved him to become an activist). And Paolo's suggestion (March 03) was actually also provocatively disconcerting ("To me it is not too crucial to find out whether or not you can control people through game-like systems. What's more intriguing is that the fantasy is out there, strong and loud. Governments and corporations are investing lots of money in this idea. Feasible or not, this is the object of desire of contemporary capitalism and as such it's worth investigating" -- sure enough), as it seemed to speak to a fantasy of salvation that took me really by surprise, coming from game design.
My comments were actually rephrasings of what I thought I had read in this discussion, namely that "that art doesn't change reality too much," and so I wondered aloud how you make claims for games changing political and social realities.
[James Morgan schreibt]
>>Games cultivate motivation and teach, but they teach best how to play the game.>>
this is more sensible to me, and how to play games ( and how you may teach to hack into games and make machinima) is of course a critical question (is it? after all?) , but I hardly would have thought that you assume the "multibillion dollar industry" (John Sharp) is providing easy access to salvation. I would have thought the opposite. (John writes: "Games hold so many conflicting roles in culture, among them: the silver bullet for education (c.f. Quest 2 Learn, Games for Change, military training); the secret weapon for marketing; a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry; a pariah to blame for violence, apathy and disintegration. How did games get to the point that they can be so many things for so many in so short a time? Or has it always been this way?).
yes, games possibly are many things for so many. And I am not sure what to make of Joseph's comment that we are "complicit" if we make art that does not not change the world? If you cite as an example the work of Mierle Laderman Ukele, with the New York Department of Sanitation, it has nothing to do with art, and surely less with games, I would suggest, but with activism and social work [fair enough, Suzanne Lacy, back in 1995, might have included such work under the Beuys notion of social sculpture [romantic at best] and her "Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art", Seattle: Bay Press), and I am convinced there are many here who have done social work, but wouldn't relate it to game engines or emotion engines (what is a play over?) or machinima. So how to change the overdeterminations, Joseph, when, unlike your army recruiter who convinced you not to go to the army, you face the recruiters in my country after the war, or in Greece or Israel or other places, where you get conscripted and you won't have a choice, and my nephew currently serves in Afghanistan (and did not have a choice) and nearly got his head blown off? The "games" we had to play in the military were horrendous. This of course has nothing to do with the dance work I create now, and whether you might think its aesthetics is complicitous (with what?), I don't worry, I know it probably simply cannot claim to change reality. Here is what my colleague Alan Sondheim just wrote on Netbehavior:
We are defined by our slaughters. We are hopeless, driven to the deaths
of others; the death drive literally drives species, herds, hordes, before
it; the death drive results in total annihilation.
What is to be done? I am always surprised how few artists are concerned
about the environment - other than creating networks and new forms of
nodes and dwellings within it. How few media artists even bother with PETA
for example, or conservation. How many artists, driven by teleology, are
always already on the hunt for new forms of mappings, new modes of data
analytics. How we abjure responsibility, disconnect radically. How we
favor the human over other species.
Certainly the digital, even augmented reality or Google Glass, creates
distance between ourselves and the world around us; what's added are bits.
This distancing, which is both clever and fast-forward technology-driven,
may be more part of the problem than the solution. I think of 'Internet
hunting' for example, tv/video programs like Survivor or The Great Race
(both of which can only damage pristine environments), etc.; on the other
hand, bird-, nest- and waterhole-watches might well serve to awaken
I sometimes share his pessimism, and sometimes i try not to and continue to make work, just as he does all the time (including creating disconcertingly odd characters in Second Life)
so Joseph asks:
It is of course arguable that computer games (whether one considers them art or not) have changed our world - no less so than film or television have over the past century.
Are there examples of artist made games or interventions in games that have changed the world? Did "September 12th" actually change anything? Did "Darfur is Dying" actually make any difference? Did "dead-in-iraq" actually prevent anyone from joining the military? These are difficult if not impossible to quantify. Yet I would argue that such works at minimum work to change perceptions or provide a kind of alternative consideration of political and social contexts. Does this eventually lead to change? >>
It would interest me how you define the medium (games) in McLuhan's terms as having a profound effect on perception and consciousness and culture ( If McLuhan is right, then games as a medium [regardless of this or that intention of message] of course affect everything, and will have; and McLuhan assumed, in "The Medium is the Message," that the 'message' of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human society."
Now James did mention the concerns about games, that they have been blamed for violence, apathy and disintegration, and social autism one might add, which they have introduced, and I have not seen this addressed here yet, nor the consumption issue that was raised in the first week.
[Joseph deLappe schreibt]
my first post did not include "fiction elements". My intention in relaying such a prolonged narrative of my path to artist/activist was primarily to describe through personal experience some aspect of the power of art and ideas to transform one life.
It follows that I cannot abide by your statement, "And i think we all agree that art doesn't change reality too much." Perhaps I am wrong but I see such sentiments as a self-imposed, regressive limitation of the role of artists in the world. This kind of sentiment lets artists off the hook, allowing us to hide away in our studios. If one considers the "Art World" - as described in Sarah Thorton's "Seven Days in the Art World", I might entirely agree with your statement.
Yet there is an alternative "art world" that is working in a very different direction from the "Art World", where artists are concerned with real-world issues, raising awareness and actively seeking to create change. I think of "The Yes Men", who so creatively "game" the system through actions that are at once political protest, performance art and brilliant media spectacle. Or Fritz Haeg's "Edible Estates" project (http://www.fritzhaeg.com/garden/initiatives/edibleestates/main.html) from the website: "Edible Estates is an ongoing initiative to create a series of regional prototype gardens that replace domestic front lawns, and other unused spaces in front of homes, with places for families to grow their own food." Or Mierle Laderman Ukeles decades of work to both build awareness and change our relationship to our garbage in her role as the long term Artist in Residence at the New York Department of Sanitation, creating such works as "Touch Sanitation". There are of course many other examples of artists working in such a way to define themselves in large part in opposition to the dominant strains of artistic practice.
It is of course arguable that computer games (whether one considers them art or not) have changed our world - no less so than film or television have over the past century. Are there examples of artist made games or interventions in games that have changed the world? Did "September 12th" actually change anything? Did "Darfur is Dying" actually make any difference? Did "dead-in-iraq" actually prevent anyone from joining the military? These are difficult if not impossible to quantify. Yet I would argue that such works at minimum work to change perceptions or provide a kind of alternative consideration of political and social contexts. Does this eventually lead to change? Perhaps I am making Johannes argument for him here but I cannot resign myself to believe that as artists we are helpless or incapable of actively working towards changing the world. Whether it is through our creative practice or in our classrooms, we can offer some modicum of resistance or efforts towar
ds creating change. At least I hope so.
Perhaps I am a hopeless romantic or willfully blind to the reality of our negligible position as artists in our contemporary time and place. Yet it would seem if we resign ourselves to such a devalued status in relation to the world, we become complicit.
Best, Joseph DeLappe
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