Are games really art?

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starstutter 101 Nov 14, 2008 at 06:42

I’m sure all of you have heard Rodger Ebert’s statement a while back that “games are not, and can never be, art”. Needless to say this made a lot of people angry untill he clarified why he said it.

The argument is that a piece of art must be created in the origional artists vision. Movies, books, music, ect are considered art because they provide the experience that the origional artist intended. Games on the other hand are able to be tampered with and the experience is ultimatley unpredictable. Especially if you consider open world games where there really is no set presentation. In this way, he argues, the player becomes the artist.

Now, I don’t completley agree, but he does have a valid point that there is no sure fire way to communicate the emotions and experience that the creator or designer wanted. Gamers play in ways that the creators could have never seen coming and therefore the whole medium as a peice of art becomes very fragile and can ruin easily.

As a counter-argument, you could say that the uncertainly is part of the experience and adds to the sheer awesomeness when the game is played well.

So what’s your side?

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Sol_HSA 119 Nov 14, 2008 at 08:26

#define art

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vrnunes 102 Nov 14, 2008 at 08:57

@starstutter

he does have a valid point that there is no sure fire way to communicate the emotions and experience that the creator or designer wanted.

What??? I disagree completely. There is a lot of emotion|experience transmitted by games, and it comes not only from the graphics done by the illustrator, but from the way the programmer exposes it as well. Even the framerate will interfere in the feeling of a game.

Download some demos from www.scene.org to refresh your mind – ok, demos != games, but incredibly related.

My opinion is that both demos and games are a new form of art.

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fireside 141 Nov 14, 2008 at 09:01

I personally think art has to convey a message, so I guess I agree with Ebert. Games, at least most games, are more like a sandbox with toys in it. In reality, though, there is some art involved with games because artists made the models and artists wrote a lot of the dialog, etc. So really, the part that the player can’t manipulate is art, but it doesn’t make a cohesive work of art like a movie or a book. Also, the main focus of a game is game play, it has to be, and it’s really hard to call that art. It’s more like a sport.

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Sol_HSA 119 Nov 14, 2008 at 09:41

@fireside

Also, the main focus of a game is game play, it has to be, and it’s really hard to call that art. It’s more like a sport.

And why wouldn’t sport be art? Not a single football match, but if someone went and designed new sports all the time, why wouldn’t they be considered art?

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Wernaeh 101 Nov 14, 2008 at 10:18

Movies, books, music, ect are considered art because they provide the experience that the origional artist intended.

They do ? Now, if I watch a movie on some topic that’s completely unrelevant to me, I don’t get any experience at all - except maybe, from the experience of a completely boring movie - which is, most probably, not what the original artist intended.
On the other hand, who said games do not intend to provide the gamer with some unique experience ? If they didn’t, why are there that many games to begin with ?

Games on the other hand are able to be tampered with and the experience is ultimatley unpredictable. Especially if you consider open world games where there really is no set presentation. In this way, he argues, the player becomes the artist.

Still, the basic, distinct “feeling” of the game has already been created by someone else, and still is more important than anything the user may do inside the game world… Especially considering that there are very few games out there that allow for “artistic” interpretation by the player - second life maybe, but I’d hardly count that one as a game… On the other hand, I think it’s kinda hard to consider a HL2 player constantly toying with the grav gun as an “artist”…

So, I guess it essentially boils down to the usual “what is art ?” question in the end…

Cheers,
- Wernaeh

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Reedbeta 167 Nov 14, 2008 at 17:36

All forms of art - film, paintings, music, literature, etc. - involve the viewer/reader/listener. The audience member always brings something to the table that colors their own experience of the artwork. The bit you mentioned about the player being able to have a very different experience than what the designer intended is also very true for other forms of art.

So it seems to me that games exist on a spectrum with traditional forms of art. In traditional art perhaps the artist is more active and the audience more passive, while in games perhaps the designers/artists and players are on a more equal footing in terms who creates the player’s experience of the game.

Anyway, I personally don’t think art is contingent on the experience of the audience. Most great artists have created primarily for themselves, anyway, not for others. A definition of art that I like is, to paraphrase Robert Pirsig, an interaction between a person and a material in which the person’s state of mind and the material evolve in tandem with each other until both come to rest with the person’s mind at peace. It puts the emphasis on the creative act rather than on the later consumption of the artwork as a product. This definition can also be extended to collaborative art.

With this definition, *some* games could qualify as high art, but many professionally produced games have little art in them and are more focused on commercial motives - appealing to a market, turning a profit. But then, the same is true of films, books, and music.

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alphadog 101 Nov 14, 2008 at 18:57

@starstutter

Movies, books, music, ect are considered art because they provide the experience that the origional artist intended.

What about art that is interactive in nature? What about movies where the audience can influence the plot? What about sculptures where the audience is invited to alter it? What about those wacky installations of lights and music, where waving your arm changes the song? Is that Art, art or not-art?

What if the emotion I want to engender is fear? I just started playing Fallout 3. Although the idea of nuclear holocaust isn’t as immediate as it was during the Cold War, not only did the vast wastelands in the game make me wonder about what it would be like to live in such a world (isolation, disgust, anger at mankind’s folly, etc.) but it also reminded me of a not so distant past when building a bomb shelter wasn’t as crazy an idea.

Methinks Ebert’s view of Art is very limited… He’s probably got that bumpkin-in-elitist-clothing mindset that thinks unless the portrait’s eyes follow you across the musuem, and unless it doesn’t sell at Sotheby’s for six-figures+, it’s not Art.

Art is about stimulating emotions, hopefully those you intended, but not necessarily. And, to disagree with Reedbeta and Mr. Pirsig, Art can be used to calm the mind, but that’s called “therapy”, not Art. Else, Art becomes solely a masturbatory effort. (Of course, judging from some of the stuff on DeviantArt, this is exactly what happens… ;) )

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starstutter 101 Nov 14, 2008 at 23:22

0_0 woah, lotta responses
I started the great debate lol.

I guess what the question ultimatley comes down to then is “what is art”?

To be honest though the true reason I asked this question is because I’ve been trying to concieve of ways that games could try to communicate emotions in a very powerful way. So far I think I have in mind two main methods:

  1. getting the player immersed in the world and part of it so that dramatic events relating to that world will have emotional effects.

  2. relating the drama to something personal in the players life (as mentioned with the cold war fallount scenario)

What I want to do is very hard to describe and ismost definitley a talent of the most skilled writers: having the main emotional impact be deliverred in such a way that it is never said directly. The logical story could be presented directly (as it needs to be to make sense), but the emotional story would be delivered in such a way that the player may never even realize it.

Like I said, maybe there is an existing source on this technique, but I’m doing a very bad job of describing it, so I’ll give my fingers a rest :P

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Sol_HSA 119 Nov 15, 2008 at 08:09

@starstutter

To be honest though the true reason I asked this question is because I’ve been trying to concieve of ways that games could try to communicate emotions in a very powerful way.

Music can cause emotions.
Pictures can cause emotions.
Story can cause emotions.

Games are (at best, IMO) beautiful moving images with strong music background and great story, in which you play a part. How on earth does this last bit make it less art?

I dare you to play Photopia by Adam Cadre; it can be found on his if page: http://adamcadre.ac/if.html
It’s a text adventure (or interactive fiction if you must), relatively short, “easy”, and simply brilliant. The story could have been written as a novel, but it’s much more effective when you play a part.

edit: direct windows download: http://adamcadre.ac/content/photo201.zip

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starstutter 101 Nov 15, 2008 at 17:14

Thanks for the link I’ll give it a shot :)

Unfortunatley though I don’t quite think you got my point, but I can’t blame you because I didn’t communicate it very well… can’t think of a way to. *\~*

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karligula 101 Nov 15, 2008 at 20:57

Why not do what mathematicians do when they encounter a problem they can’t solve… just redefine it?

In such spirit I propose a new medium: interactive art…

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dannthr 101 Nov 15, 2008 at 23:26

@starstutter

Now, I don’t completley agree, but he does have a valid point that there is no sure fire way to communicate the emotions and experience that the creator or designer wanted.

Actually, there’s no sure-fire way of communicating the emotions and experience that the creator of ANY artist wants. Period.

We have theories on what can create certain experiences, and good theorists can create pragmatic conclusions–but ultimately, there is no formula for manipulating the emotions of a viewer because it’s just not going to work on everyone.

Eberts problem is that games don’t work on him and as someone with limited academic insight into art, he really can’t wrap his brain around it.

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Sol_HSA 119 Nov 16, 2008 at 10:18

@karligula

Why not do what mathematicians do when they encounter a problem they can’t solve… just redefine it? In such spirit I propose a new medium: interactive art…

Okay, is dancing an art form, or sport? =)

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_oisyn 101 Nov 16, 2008 at 13:47

@vrnunes

Download some demos from www.scene.org to refresh your mind – ok, demos != games, but incredibly related.

No, they are not. Rodger Ebert’s whole point is based on the fact that games are interactive. So your comparison is completely moot, as demos are not interactive and therefore their experience is predictable, as Ebert puts it.

Not that I’m saying I necessarily agree with Ebert, I’m simply stating your argument isn’t a valid one in this discussion.

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dannthr 101 Nov 16, 2008 at 21:22

Ebert is uninformed about art. Period. I have attended many of his discussions as he regularly visits my campus for the Conference on World Affairs. He’s out of touch and “old fashioned” and proudly so. He’s ill-equipped to deal with interactive art.

What many here seem to forget is that while games are interactive, they are in actuallity precisely made and the designers, while allowing for an interactive element, have complete control over the players ability to explore and interact and so the design itself is in fact wholly controlled. The art is in how you design the interactivity. The fact that Ebert can’t see that means he doesn’t UNDERSTAND how games are made, which is fairly obvious.

Ebert is NOT an academic authority on art. He is a popular critic whose insights into the game industry are limited and misinformed and whose insights into film are hit-or-miss.

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Zoulz 101 Nov 17, 2008 at 10:55

To me, games are entertainment. I think you need to look at games from a players point of view. If you look at it like art, the game might end up really boring.

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Sol_HSA 119 Nov 17, 2008 at 11:59

@Zoulz

To me, games are entertainment. I think you need to look at games from a players point of view. If you look at it like art, the game might end up really boring.

And why wouldn’t art be entertaining, or entertainment be art?

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alphadog 101 Nov 17, 2008 at 13:51

The problem people are having is making art seem like so many things.

KISS.

Art is generally accepted as an action whereby a medium is used to create something that “wasn’t there before” and that conveys or evokes an emotional response. So, this means Art exists in any creative or design activity, there has to be an audience, and there has to be an “experience”.

Also, just because some thing or event said to be Art is also something else, like say gymnastics which is artful sport, doesn’t mean it isn’t Art.

Lots of people define Art from their (limited and exclusionary) experiences behind the red velvet rope at the museum.

The modernist expansion of the ability (and the mindset) to get the audience involved in art so as to better experience the art, is relatively new and many don’t make the leap, living in a traditional world. It’s not just games, – stories, dance and other art forms have become much more interactive.

As to how to make an “artful” game, if I knew a) I’d be more successful, and B) it’d probably be a way too lengthy forum post. :)

BTW, they used to say that film isn’t Art because it puts a wall between the audience and the actor. In theater plays, at the time considered more “artful”, the actor can adapt to the audience dynamically. It was said that film limited this and “reduced” the art to a mechanical tool.

Oh, the more things change, the more they stay the same… ;)

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dannthr 101 Nov 17, 2008 at 15:01

Exactly.

I define Art as “communicative expression.” What separates Art and Craft, in my opinion, is the deliberately expressive quality of Art. What separates Art and masturbation, of course, is the communicative quality.

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alphadog 101 Nov 17, 2008 at 15:52

Damn you, dannthr! I laughed so hard that I now shorted out a monitor with coffee spray… ;)

Craft is simply “something done with and requiring skill”. A woodworker could make Art by creating a wonderful armoire, and then exercise his/her craft by repeatedly making 100 of them for clients. The repeating requires skill, and thus is a craft, but there is no expression (creation).

But, we start drifting away from starstutter’s question, I think…

BTW, what is your question? Is it just “Can a video game be an artistic medium?”, or something else?

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DracheHexe 101 Nov 17, 2008 at 18:07

Well, I won’t argue what is or isn’t art but in the original statement it said “The argument is that a piece of art must be created in the original artists vision.”

In the case of a game isn’t the original artists vision to create an interactive environment? So with that argument the game isn’t art unless it’s being played. The mere act of playing the game makes it art because only then the artists original vision is being fulfilled.

And I don’t think art has to evoke any sort of emotional response. I worked as security in an art museum and was able to appreciate and enjoy the talent of many artists where their pieces didn’t evoke an emotional response in me. Of course I appreciated and enjoyed the pieces that did evoke the emotional response moreso, but I would styill consider all of them art.

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starstutter 101 Nov 17, 2008 at 19:15

@alphadog

But, we start drifting away from starstutter’s question, I think…

Don’t worry, this is actually pretty interersting :D

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dannthr 101 Nov 17, 2008 at 20:05

The reason I say “communicative expression” is that is the very reason that the intention of art is not always to evoke an emotional response, though we often have one associated with the art.

As someone who studied post-modern literature at my university, I can say that there are a lot of works that are meant to express some kind of communication as we have multiple levels of artifice and auditors, but I can appreciate works that are also meant to communicate something highly superficial.

The problem that we have with the games industry is the word itself. Games, as most people understand, are meant to simply exist as a form of entertainment–the other problem with our nomenclature is the use of the word “industry,” since we automatically associate industry with craft.

This is the same problem that the comic book industry has with attempting to garner authoritative or academic respect for, what I would consider, largely legitimate artistic endeavors.

Comics and games have their labels working against them.

Our job is to either redefine those labels through our own artistic endeavors–to change the way that our industry is perceived–or relabel ourselves.

What confuses everything, however, is the merger between industry and art. Now we have methods of recording art, of packaging art, and selling art. So we sell 10,000 duplicates or prints of an artistic work, but does that belittle the artistic work itself? Must our art be unique?

I don’t think so.

We still consider Moby Dick to be a classic novel–yet is printed a million times over and sold world-wide.

Leaves of Grass is still an important leap in poetry, though you can buy it at your local Barnes & Noble.

So long as our duplications are meant to communicate an expression to someone, somewhere–that’s all that matters.

Will you see copies of Luxor 4 or Diner Dash in museums? Probably not, but you don’t see copies of Dorian Gray in museums either.

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alphadog 101 Nov 17, 2008 at 21:08

@DracheHexe

I worked as security in an art museum and was able to appreciate and enjoy the talent of many artists where their pieces didn’t evoke an emotional response in me.

IMO, “appreciation” is an emotional response, if not the full range and intensity the artist may have originally intended. You are being a little harsh on yourself.

Seems to me that Ebert bases his opinion mainly on:
a) a very limited collection of games, mainly the most popular and controversial, (classic case of “virgin-telling-us-sex-can’t-be-all-that-good” ;) Back at you, dannthr!)
:) with an inherent bias (“…video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic…”)
c) with an excuse that an art form that is at best two decades old, if it is Art, should have equivalents in civilization to art forms that are decades or centuries old.

Time will prove him wrong, as it did for those critical of film (vs plays), photography (vs. painting), rock music (vs. jazz, which also has its own “vs” in classical), etc.

Another thought: Mozart’s “high art” was considered pop music of the times…

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alphadog 101 Nov 17, 2008 at 21:16

@dannthr

The reason I say “communicative expression” is that is the very reason that the intention of art is not always to evoke an emotional response, though we often have one associated with the art.

I don’t quite follow. What is an example of a “communicative expression” that is Art, but is not intended to evoke any particular emotion or thought, or combination thereof?

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Reedbeta 167 Nov 17, 2008 at 21:43

Art can be designed to force the audience to confront/question an assumption, for instance, which is more of an intellectual activity and doesn’t necessarily involve an emotional response (although it might still be accompanied by an emotion such as discomfort in many people).

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dannthr 101 Nov 18, 2008 at 02:20

It doesn’t have to cause a reaction, it just has to say something. The auditor is a recipient of an expression, not the person making the expression–if their response is in itself an expression, that’s not good or bad, necessarily, but it might be the intention of the artist to evoke that (it might not).

The substance of that intention is always subjective which is why I prefer to evaluate art (which is a very controversial practice) by whether or not the intended effect/affect was successful or not.

Ebert misguidedly believes that game designers do not have control over that expression, that’s his argument, what he doesn’t understand is that we do–in fact it could be argued that our expression (as game developers) is more sophisticated because we have to more carefully be aware of the psychology of our auditors so we can tune our artistic expression more personally.

It might even be argued that a very good game (although more abstract games often offer this) can provide a more specific expression for each player. Something special each time they play.

But good and bad are totally subjective.

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alphadog 101 Nov 18, 2008 at 17:58

But, doesn’t art have to have an evocative purpose to be Art? Art is usually used in relation to entities that have an aesthetic property of some sort (where “aesthetic” is used in its philosophical sense, not just meaning “beautiful”).

If I understand dannthr and Reedbeta position correctly and, purposely, in a limited and unflattering way, Art does not have to evoke an effect, it just needs to broadcast “something”.

Therefore, a restroom sign is Art? I mean, sometimes, with me, it evokes the emotion of relief, but that’s usually only because I drank too much beer too fast… ;)

Or, a math/science textbook is Art since it forces you to question assumptions? (“The earth isn’t flat?”)

It may be semantics. When I say “art needs to evoke one or more emotions”, the reaction does not have to be an intense one. It could evoke a “quizzical look”, “mild comfort”, “happiness”, or “slight nausea and headache”. But, Art usually has intention, and the intention is not necessarily a rational product.

Although I am debating, I think we may be circling some agreement. Immanuel Kant called Art “…a kind of representation that is purposive in itself and, though without an end, nevertheless promotes the cultivation of the mental powers for sociable communication.” You can see the “cultivation of the mental powers” as the “makes you think” that maybe Reedbeta intends. The use of “purposive” implies that the artist has a goal in creating the Art; I just think that part of the “makes you think” must involve an emotional component. I can teach you math and “make you think”. Art does something else; it changes your subjective perception of the world and, as such, must involve an emotional component.

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dannthr 101 Nov 19, 2008 at 20:22

Well, that’s why installation art with urinals etc became popular–people needed to challenge the boundaries of art.

The math/science book is an example of an evokative display, so I’m not sure if that’s an example you’re using to challenge your own definition of art.

Artists are choice makers. They make deliberate choices to compose, form, sculpt, print, whatever in a specific way in order to produce a specific result.

I could get into semiotics but I think we should steer away from that for now. Our aesthetic theory is what allows us to say one thing represents another. It makes way for metaphor and allows us to expand our palette of communicative choices.

I don’t think that Immanuel’s version might is wholly objective (if objectivity is desired in a discussion about art)–is he talking about art in a qualitative way? It sounds like he might be describing his thoughts on “good” art rather than just art in general.

Those kinds of judgements, in my opinion, might be best avoided if it can be helped.

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3DModelerMan 101 Nov 20, 2008 at 23:23

What about the legend of zelda twilight princess?, or super mario galaxy?.
I would consider those the games that most fall into the “art” category.
I’m also a traditional artist, and I think that art, is just anything that really makes someone think “I wish I could create something like that”.

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ville_v 101 Nov 21, 2008 at 15:41

If games are art, who is the artist? Is it person who makes games, or person who plays them?

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alphadog 101 Nov 21, 2008 at 15:51

@ville-v

If games are art, who is the artist? Is it person who makes games, or person who plays them?

Depends, but generally and IMO, under my definition, the one who makes. The player is not attempting to purposely evoke an emotion – he/she is experiencing the creation.

The same can be said of a interactive sound installation: is the artist the one who created the installation, or the one who waves his hands in the lightbeams, giggling at the “coolness factor”?

OTOH, take an RPG, MMO or otherwise. Can someone who really works hard at creating an online character (not just stat-building, but evolving a personality for the character) be considered an artist? I’d say yes. So, that’s why I said “generally” in my first sentence.

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alphadog 101 Nov 21, 2008 at 15:59

@dannthr

The math/science book is an example of an evokative display, so I’m not sure if that’s an example you’re using to challenge your own definition of art.

Actually, to solidify it. I think the great majority of people would not call a science textbook Art, fundamentally because it evokes no emotional component.
@dannthr

Artists are choice makers. They make deliberate choices to compose, form, sculpt, print, whatever in a specific way in order to produce a specific result.

That’s too broad. Anything is art. Art is when you do something to something to produce something. :)
@dannthr

I could get into semiotics but I think we should steer away from that for now.

Yikes, “semiotics” huh? While I have seen the word, I had to look it up to make sure I had it right… Yeah, let’s steer away from it… Hard right. :)

I guess my fundamental difference from you is you define Art as anything that communicates, that is a sign (in a semiotic sense). Whereas I further narrow it to anything that is a sign that is intended to evoke an emotion. Would that be a good way to delimit things?

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dannthr 101 Nov 22, 2008 at 01:15

Possibly, but is anything that evokes an emotion art? Is a sunset “God’s” art? Or are the viewers artists because their brains assemble the sunset into something that evokes emotion?

If I stab a man, and he feels pain, is it art?

If I stab my girlfriend, and she feels anger, is it art?

If I carve a design into a man’s chest with a knife, is it art?

If I paint a picture and my girlfriend and her new boyfriend merely acknowledge its existence but are not subject to an emotion, is it art?

If I cut someone off in traffic, and they are upset and honk their horn, is it art? If it’s not initially, when does it become art?

I just don’t see “emotion” as the defining feature of art–rather I see the deliberate use of communicative expression as the defining feature, and that’s why I stand there.

If you require the subjective evokation of emotion to be the defining feature of art then art is something completely out of our control to define as every person will have an individual perception of whether or not something is art.

This makes, in my opinion, the discussion of art and the theory and criticisms of art completely useless. Which is fine, but you have to realize that you’re throwing out about a millenium of writings and dialogs on the subject.

Even though I’m a post-modernist at heart, I’m not really prepared to do that.

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ville_v 101 Nov 24, 2008 at 12:43

Art is defined by the audience, so it has to be published. Artist is the person who has to be jacked by emotions.

If I stab person on stage, in front of audience, it is art.

If a huge pile of snow that is standing in front of local museum of modern art has been created by impressions of artist, it is art. Had it been created by a person who has been hired to create huge piles of snow, would it be not.

If I express my emotions into a picture and hide it, it is not art, before somebody else finds it and decides that it is.

If my job is to paint walls white, those white walls are not art, no matter if they are in a public place.

If I am feeling strong emotions when painting my own walls and calling those walls art, they might be, depending if any audience is thinking them as art.

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Sol_HSA 119 Nov 24, 2008 at 13:06

@ville-v

Art is defined by the audience, so it has to be published.

This is getting all philosophical.

A famous artist dies. His relatives find several paintings he had never published anywhere. Are they art?

Seriously, this is getting silly. Everything is art, by some definition.

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dannthr 101 Nov 24, 2008 at 13:39

@ville-v

Art is defined by the audience, so it has to be published. Artist is the person who has to be jacked by emotions.

If I stab person on stage, in front of audience, it is art.

If a huge pile of snow that is standing in front of local museum of modern art has been created by impressions of artist, it is art. Had it been created by a person who has been hired to create huge piles of snow, would it be not.

If I express my emotions into a picture and hide it, it is not art, before somebody else finds it and decides that it is.

If my job is to paint walls white, those white walls are not art, no matter if they are in a public place.

If I am feeling strong emotions when painting my own walls and calling those walls art, they might be, depending if any audience is thinking them as art.

If that’s true, then no one has claim to call themselves an artist. I create music soundtracks for money, since I am hired, it is not art. Right?

I don’t buy it.

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ville_v 101 Nov 24, 2008 at 14:21

@Sol_HSA

His relatives find several paintings he had never published anywhere. Are they art?

If his relatives do ever publish them, they are. Or maybe it is enough if they are found and his relatives say: “These were painted by him. They are art.”

If that’s true, then no one has claim to call themselves an artist. I create music soundtracks for money, since I am hired, it is not art.

If person who pays you considers you artist, then it is art.

If I am feeling strong emotions while painting walls white as my work, my boss might not consider it art. If he really does, that makes me artist.
@dannthr

Who has the right to label someone an artist and who does not?

Anybody, everybody or majority. Depends how you understand it.

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dannthr 101 Nov 24, 2008 at 14:30

But the problem inherent in that defining methodology is that authority becomes completely inconsistent.

Who has the right to label someone an artist and who does not?

I feel like your theory is very problematic.

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Mihail121 102 Nov 24, 2008 at 16:40

Used to be, but not any more.

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alphadog 101 Nov 24, 2008 at 18:48

@Sol_HSA

This is getting all philosophical.

Dude, the question was: “Are games art?” It started out philosophical, and is only getting worse!! :)
@dannthr

is anything that evokes an emotion art? … If you require the subjective evokation of emotion to be the defining feature of art then art is something completely out of our control to define as every person will have an individual perception of whether or not something is art.

No. I guess I wasn’t specific enough in explaining my understanding of Art. In my defense, IANAP (I am not a philosopher).  Just a guy trying poke a stick at the topic…

To be more specific: Any tangible, representational thing created by Man in order to purposely, specifically and directly evoke emotion(s) in others is Art. The actual quality or quantity of “evocation” at the recipient end is irrelevant.

If natural phenomenon evokes an emotion, it is not Art, although it may be said to be “artful” or “artsy”. God may or may not be behind it, and even if we were assured of His/Her existence, it is certainly beyond me to presume any actual intent. God may be the ultimate artist, but until He/She tangibly signs His/Her work, I will exclude it from my consideration and keep my definition more earthly in scope. :)

As for cutting someone off in traffic, there is no representational object, no “thing”, created… except the occasional car accident, but then we get to intention. :) There is usually no primary intent to evoke emotion(s). The intent is usually something like “to get home early for the next Family Guy episode, because my life is otherwise empty” or “because my wife will kill me”. Now, we can obviously contrive to create a fringe scenario, an edge case, that destroys this generalization, but we can do so with many murkier words in our language.

Murder likewise has no tangible quality. Murder is usually all action.

The natural tendency is to think, well, dance is one or more actions, yet is still considered Art, right? So, WTF, alphadog? :) But, the Art in a dance piece is not an instance of physical exertion, but the composition of the work. Dance also has various notational systems that can give tangibility to the artwork created by the choreographer, as strict as ballet or as loose as modern dance. The instance, the execution (pun intended), the performance of the dance is not Art, it is Performance. Performance is more akin to Sport than Art. For example, just “performing” in a dance club is not Art.

A better choice to confound me would be executions, whether by serial killers or states. Usually “designed”. Intended to create fear. Take the snuff film as another example. Film is Art, right? Well, I would actually call this Art. The problem here is the limited appeal.

I am sure I am not explaining myself 100% clearly… 

IOW, to borrow terminology from our industry, Art is the “design deliverable” that then evokes emotion. How well it is delivered or received, or its subject matter, is irrelevant to saying “is it Art or not”, but does obviously contribute to “is it *good* Art ot not”.

The problem with defining Art as “deliberate use of communicative expression” is that it is too broad to be of any use whatsoever. This makes a math book, a restroom sign, or even a vapid conversation equivalent to an Art object. I would rather have a more constrained definition that has a handful of grayish exceptions, rather than one too broad as to be useful.

But, I do shy away from the other extreme, where “Art is in the eye of the beholder”, since it that is simple not true. Art is not in the eye of the beholder; *appreciation* of any given Art object is. That removes the “authority problem” in defining Art.