Thursday, September 22, 2011

All it takes to be an artist is to be able to swear? Can do. (Is This Art?)

So I had this great idea that would make me a jillionaire, because that's a real thing, and that idea that's going to make me a jillionaire will also make me the envy of all of you suckers because you aren't an artistic genius the way I am, and also, for perhaps the first time in my life, my idea to make me a jillionaire requires neither (a) my kids to become Disney stars nor (b) me to finally locate the hidden cave of treasure that my grandfather hinted about that one time at the Fourth of July barbecue, although to be fair he might really have been only talking about wanting a hot dog, and not talking in code the way I've always assumed he was.

Here is my great idea that'll make me a jillionaire and also the envy of the artistic community:

Smashed Art.

Not impressed yet? You will be. Here's my idea. I make a sculpture of something -- anything -- and then I sell it to you, but in selling it to you, I'm not just selling you the sculpture: I'm selling you the right to smash the sculpture, and, upon selling it to you, and you smashing it, you also then have the right to display the now-smashed art in whatever way you want in, let's say, the Guggenheim. (Is that an art museum? Close enough.)

So the art is expressed not just in my sculpture, but also in what sculpture you choose to buy, how you smash it, and how you display it: Will you just pile up the debris on a pedestal? Put it in a trash bag? Perhaps a small cardboard box?

And wait for this: In doing so, I will reveal the everyday person's attitude towards art by expressing the reverence they have for the regretful actions they took destroying what should have been a permanent work. My smashed art demonstrates the yin yang relationship people have to those things we create: we want them around, but we don't. It's the inherent dichotomy of...

... I see I've reached blogger's limit for mumbo jumbo. You get the picture, and you know darn well I could sell that and get an NEA grant if (a) I knew how to do that and (b) hadn't ticked off Eric Cantor.

Anyway, I'm thinking about art today because I recently read about something that I think might be art, but, unlike every other post here on The Best Of Everything, when it comes to art I don't automatically assume that my opinion is righter than yours (hence, the questioning nature of this category), and so I'll put it to you: Is This Art? This being:

A videogame about visiting an artist.

That's the concept behind "The Artist Is Present" a new videogame that sounds, if anything, worse than those "Math Blaster" games your aunt used to get you for Christmas ("I know you like video games, and I know you like math...")

The videogame was created about Marina Abramovic, the self-described "grandmother of performance art." Abramovic's first performance piece ever is described by Wikipedia this way:

In her first performance Abramović explored elements of ritual and gesture. Making use of twenty knives and two tape recorders, the artist played the Russian game in which rhythmic knife jabs are aimed between the splayed fingers of her hand. Each time she cut herself, she would pick up a new knife from the row of twenty she had set up, and record the operation.

After cutting herself twenty times, she replayed the tape, listened to the sounds, and tried to repeat the same movements, attempting to replicate the mistakes, merging together past and present.

She set out to explore the physical and mental limitations of the body – the pain and the sounds of the stabbing, the double sounds from the history and from the replication. With this piece, Abramović began to consider the state of consciousness of the performer. “Once you enter into the performance state you can push your body to do things you absolutely could never normally do.
You could read all that, or you could watch this:

Or you could just remember Bishop doing the same thing,

but presumably Marina didn't copy it from him, since absent help from Time Traveling Elvis, that's not possible.

Anyway, back in March to May 2010, Marina did a piece... sure, call it that ... in which she sat at the Museum of Modern Art, and people would have to pay $25 to get in and then wend their way through nude people to sit at a table across from her, sitting for as long as they felt like sitting. Also, other artists recreated other things that Marina had done, and you watched them as they waited.

That's not the thing that may be art, though, although it would be fair to ask that question, even though I think the idea of watching other artists recreate an artist's work while you wait to speak to the artist actually sounds pretty artsy (not as artsy as Smashed Art, but we can't all be jillionaires/geniuses, so sorry, Marina).

The thing that might be art is, as I said, the videogame based on that exhibition:

This HuffPo article gives you the basics, but I also already gave you the basics: you boot up and you go into the museum and pay money and then... you wait in line.

And you wait.

And you wait.

And maybe, eventually, you get to meet the artist.

Best of all, you can play the game yourself, for free. I've started a game just now -- at 3:44 p.m. today -- and this is how far I got:

So far.

But I'm really good at waiting. This might be the first video game ever that is particularly suited to my skills. If I have a criticism, it's that (a) the ticket lady made me go through the left side even though nobody was in line, and (b) there's no way to have 8-bit me use his cell phone to kill the time.

Also, no way to do two-player, as I'd like to compete against Sweetie.

HuffPo has already claimed that this game is art -- they said just that, but the actual creator, Pippin Barr, isn't so sure, saying this on his blog:

I happened to read bits and pieces of Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun today. It’s actually a pretty alright book, despite having a general aesthetic that didn’t work for me in the slightest – some really nice observations in there, and well put. There’s a chapter toward the end, after building through descriptions of what games are, about “Where Games Should Go”. Which I found to be an enticing project, since Koster makes it clear he’s not into games going where they always go (with a gun).

Unfortunately, while the rhetoric in the final chapter is essentially laudable, there wasn’t much in the way of concrete examples to help us out. ... it wasn’t quite enough. I imagine these mystical platonic “ludemes” (as Koster calls them) floating around, still out of reach. Somebody just tell me what they are already.

Me too. I'm not sure I understood any of that. I may not be ready for this art thing after all. (But I'm pretty sure I'm ready to be a jillionaire). Barr adds:

Critically, these alternate games seem like they’re not going to be fun. And it’s all very well to talk about how games don’t have to be fun, they can be “interesting” or “challenging” or “disturbing” and so on.

This is true, but it’s also true that basically nobody’s going to play those games except the brave vanguard. The question then becomes whether the vanguard can convince anyone else to play them too.

Unlike a lot of other media, games have kind of “grown up” too fast – not in a maturity way, more in a giant meat-headed ogre kind of way. This meat-heat, often bellowing “fun” at the top of its lungs, is kind of hard to dislodge from its hulking position in the mainstream. In a lot of ways there simply wasn’t time to establish alternate streams of “what games can be” before the juggernaut sat its ass down.

That's more like it. I can say ass, so art, you're back on the table, career-wise.

I'm going to see how close I can get to Marina today. Supposedly, you actually can get to the front of the line. We'll see.

Try the game here, and also: Is this art?

UPDATE: 4:10 p.m.: There's a guy behind me. Eat it, buddy. I was here first.


Rogue Mutt said...

To be a successful video game the object should be to kill everyone in line and then destroy all the paintings.

Stephen Hayes said...

Yours is an interesting idea, but it might be hard to convert it into a jillion bucks. I remember another great idea, a seventeen hour film by Andy Warhol that, if memory serves, was called "The Fly." In the film, the fly lands on the forehead of a nude woman lying on her back. We watch for hours as the fly inches over her body, which becomes a gigantic landscape through the fly's perspective. The problem with this and many POP Art ideas is that the idea is more interesting than the result. But keep the ideas coming. I have faith that your jillion dollar idea is right around the corner. By the way, I walked out of the theater showing the Warhol film after only two hours.