Archive for the 'musing' Category

Simple mysteries.

Dec 12 2012 Published by under musing

For all my talk about Bientôt l’été being my last work of art, it actually already contains the seed of how I want to proceed next. Which makes it both the piece that explored the furthest and the one that allowed me to discover a new, simpler approach to this medium.

Next to its intellectual complexity and emotional confusion, there is also an aspect of Bientôt l’été that is very easy to enjoy. And I wouldn’t call this aspect shallow. It deals with less ambiguous matters but it still connects to the mystery of our existence. And that is where I want to be with my work.

To touch the mystery. To connect with it. To get an intuitive understanding, or at least a sense of belonging. And maybe when that is established, we do not need to dig so deeply anymore. Or we can find it simply amusing to do so. Complexity can be very light, if we can appreciate how strange and funny the degree is to which some things baffle us.

The things that help us, the things that move us, are always simple. We are simple creatures. Very limited in intellectual capacity. But we have big hearts. And when we feel joy, we cry.

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Art for the innocent.

Dec 12 2012 Published by under musing

For all my love for Bientôt l’été, I’m not sure if it is the most effective approach. It is possible that I have overestimated the potential audience for my work. If so, this is a mistake I need to avoid making in the future.

Sometimes it feels like wit is in overall decline. And while I sense a strong tendency towards infantilisation in our societies at the moment, ever increasing sophistication is not the way to combat it.

With Bientôt l’été I have indulged myself in a deeply narcissistic exercise that I can share only with my soul mates. It can function as my very own Soul Mate Detector.

But that is not the task of art.

Yes, I believe art has a task. Art can be beneficial for a society. And since it can be, I feel I should contribute, as an artist (*). Art can show us beauty, point out what is beautiful in the world. And experiencing beauty connects us with an aspect of our being that is noble, that is worthy of salvation. We are not consumers, we are not markets. We are not collateral damage. A sense of self worth is the basis for the emancipation of the human race from the economic and political systems it created but then lost control of.

We are not all super smart. But we do all have the capacity for nobility. We need to find that part of ourselves that is good, and kind, and beautiful. Art can help us with that.

As an intellectual with a lot of exposure to and experience with art, I easily grow weary of what I perceive to be corny, sappy, simplistic. And so I look for ever increasing complexity and sophistication in art.

That’s fine for the spectator in me, the user, the person who experiences and enjoys art. But not for the creator in me. Not anymore.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to dive as deep as I have with Bientôt l’été. But now it is time to surface, to move on. And grow up. To take up my responsibility as a member of this community, and commit to my task as an artist.

(*) I don’t feel this needs to be the task of every artist. If only because I do often myself deeply enjoy the creations of artists who don’t give a damn and make very personal work. I just feel that given who I am now and what my concerns tend to be, I will be more satisfied committing myself to this task.

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Message in a body.

Dec 11 2012 Published by under musing

I have said it before. Bientôt l’été is the last work of art I made. On the one hand because I have more or less dealt with what I wanted to deal with. On the other because I don’t see the point any more.

When I chose videogames as a medium for my art ten years ago, it was because I considered it to be the most suitable medium to explore contemporary issues. I felt that the old media were failing to address the complexity of life in the 21st century and that people really needed art that dealt with that.

This means that I believed that deeply explorative and complex art could help people solve the problems of today’s society. I don’t think I believe that any more. Today I find society has deteriorated beyond any hope for relatively comfortable saving through art-provoked thoughts.

Humans have lost it. Their civilisations have become a parody of themselves. And while there are a lot of theatrics, there is very little substance. Nor desire to even survive as a species.

I still feel art can come to the rescue. If only to offer a reason why our civilisation and species should be saved from oblivion. But this art will need to be extremely simple.

It is understandable that sophistication and complexity is not appreciated by the masses. But now we have also lost the elite. It has become virtually criminal to consider oneself more intelligent or sensitive than others. And any signs of behaviour that doesn’t fit with what is acceptable by the masses provoke aggression and bloodlust.

I don’t think people have actually become stupid. But stupid is how one is supposed to behave now. Intelligent art will not work in such circumstances. People are simply not equipped to deal with it any more. And there are no people around to tell them that intelligent art is far superior to the pulp rubbish we are allowed and encouraged to enjoy. Try that in a public place and risk lynching!

So to be effective, art will need to mask as pulp, be simple, so it can be accepted by the unaccustomed masses. Even if your art is intended for an elite, it still needs to be able to pass for shallow because otherwise the people who enjoy it risk public scorn, or simply prevent scorn by ignoring the art.

But your art also needs to penetrate the hearts and minds of the stupid, or at least of those who act stupid because it’s fashionable. No more deep exploration or honest investigation of complex issues! Deal with simple ideas, cliches even, but present them with charm –not irony! Be honest. Don’t even try to add hidden layers. Just trust your artistic soul that the meaning will be there, for others to find it, equally unconsciously.

Art as a secret communication between human souls through the vehicle of unpretentious entertainment made by bodies for bodies. For when the oppression is over, or when the system that pushes us towards this shadow of a life, finally collapses. If some of our bodies are still alive then, perhaps our souls will come out.

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Art and not art.

Dec 10 2012 Published by under musing

I’m very excited about the projects we will work on after Bientôt l’été. But they also make me realise how special this one is.

In at least one of our future projects, we will attempt to make something that people like. Something that players find nice, pleasant. This will be a major driving force behind the design. It has to be good, good in that way.

And I now understand that art is something different for me. Art is not necessarily good. It is honest first. That doesn’t mean that when creating art, I do not try my best to make the experience pleasant and well crafted. But this is not the primary driver for such work.

Maybe I see art creation a bit like scientific research, in the sense that whatever the outcome, the research doesn’t fail if done properly. Disappointing results do not invalidate the research.

Honest exploration motivates my art making. So if I set out to create something that pleases people, I can’t really call it art. That’s something else for me. Also valuable, but most certainly different.

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Ah, to be understood.

Dec 05 2012 Published by under musing

Imagine making art for people of equal intelligence as you, with similar interests and similar backgrounds! They would understand your references and your little jokes. They would appreciate your efforts to bring beauty into the world. And they would challenge you to go further, to dig deeper, to find more delight, discover more insights.

I guess this is how creators of popular games must feel. So many people to share their ideas with, so many people with similar tastes, similar interests. They never need to wonder about the point of their work and whether and how to address another audience. They can just spontaneously create. What a joy that must be!

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Liking everything.

Nov 25 2012 Published by under musing

This was written a month ago. But only now, thanks to this article do I have the courage to post it. There is something incredibly frightening and worrying about this internet trend of liking everything. I was actually afraid to post this before. Mobs scare me. Especially when they smile with thumbs up.

Maybe there is wisdom in what I perceive as the excessive appreciation of just about everything that many people seem to practice on the internet. Maybe people who suffer from this condition don’t really like everything (which is the same as liking nothing, or hating everything). Maybe they only talk about the things they like. And ignore the things they don’t. They just happen to like a lot of things that I don’t. But at the same time they don’t talk about a lot of things that I do. I presume because they don’t like them.

I think this attitude is partially fueled by fear. Fear of being wrong. Fear of the repercussions of hurting people. If you say you like something and the person who hears it doesn’t like the same thing, they will just shrug and walk away. If you express dislike, you risk being attacked.

But it’s also self-protection. The internet offers us access to many things. Most of those things are horrible. Obsessing over over the ugliness would drive one mad. So we cling to the things we like. As rafts. To prevent drowning.

I’m not used to this. I am used to living in a beautiful world, where most things are beautiful. Where there is room for silence and contemplation. Where there is art and beauty. And solid ground. Where one can feel strong. Where there is no need to judge (Like/Follow/Plus) all the time. Where things simply exist.

Or at least a world small enough to pretend that it is beautiful.

The internet is not beautiful. Because it is too big. But it is not bigger than the world. I should spend more time on the ground.

It does seem a bit pathological, this love for everything that some people seem to cultivate. You know the theory: smiling makes you happy. Even Marquis de Sade encouraged us to try to enjoy the taste of excrements. Bobbing your head to the rhythm of music you hate, to prevent it from hurting too much. It feels so desperate. I don’t live in a world so ugly that I need to like each and every thing in order to survive. I can just pick and choose and enjoy what I find. There’s plenty of beauty to be found here.

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A bit broken.

Nov 07 2012 Published by under musing

There is something to be said for imperfection. Things that are too well done, too finished, tend to close themselves.

It’s difficult not to sigh and complain about a program’s shortcomings and errors. But working around those allows me as a user to penetrate them, to become part of the process. And then I get a sense of ownership.

In fact, this is how most videogames function -as I observed a long time ago. They are often designed as perfect machines of which a part is then broken. And the player is tasked with performing the role of the missing part, in order to restore the perfection of the machine.

But even things with shortcomings that are not implemented by design, but are simply errors, omissions of their creator, function in this way. More so, probably, because the final state that is achieved through collaboration of user and object, is not perfection. And, as such is often highly unique, as unique as the user.

Imperfection is charming, it provokes empathy. It makes us feel at ease in its company. We, imperfect creatures ourselves. Always looking for someone who can work around our own imperfections.

So next time you see an error in a program, be glad. The error is an invitation. An invitation of the program (not its creator) to complement it, to come closer, to form a bond.

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Note to self: it’s not about our comfort.

Nov 06 2012 Published by under musing

I can feel horrified by commercial media. Not only by the quality of the work and the implicit assumptions in popular entertainment about their audience. But also by the presentation of these media in press and stores.

I cannot picture the display of my work in that context. I find it demeaning to have to present our sincere art in a context where everything is trash on purpose. Throwaway entertainment, ironic fun, self-mocking ugliness, made-for-profit junk.

When I feel this way, I suddenly understand those artists who, despite of working with computers, flee to the safe confines of the museums and the galleries, where their work can be presented with some dignity.

But that is not where the people are. And when one works in a medium that has the potential to reach a wide audience, as an artist, I feel one has the obligation to use it as such. To put one’s work out there, to show it to people, next to doing one’s best to make the work intellectually and emotionally accessible.

So that is why we have to clench our teeth when looking at the context of our work. In our mind, we picture our work next to that of artists we admire, and hope to find a place in their shadows. But in reality it is presented next to popular junk that we have no respect for, that was not made to be respected, that is just consumer products made without emotional sensitivity or intellectual concern.

It’s so tempting to run away from it all! To walk the moral high ground and not participate in the military-industrial-entertainment complex. We don’t have to do this. We don’t need the money. We don’t need the fame. We don’t get any proper critical response anyway. But if we were to retire to the ivory tower/concrete bunker of high art, we would actively take away the choice that people have. And then all is lost.

We need to continuously remind ourselves: It’s not about our comfort. We are doing this for other people. That means that our work should be presented in places where those people can find it. We shouldn’t expect respect from those places, or to feel comfortable in them. That is irrelevant. What matters is that people have at least a chance to find our work. So that they can choose to make their life better. To make life better.

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Making art.

Nov 05 2012 Published by under musing

When I talk about art I mean something very specific. I reject the modernist tendency to simply broaden the concept of art to include just about everything. I also reject a lot of modernist art as being just jokes, or the works of charlatans.

I enjoy art, and I find it important that art is made. But I don’t need it to be the only thing in the world. I like to be entertained as well. And I don’t think entertainment needs to be considered art to be respected. It deserves respect in its own way. Art is something else.

When I am making art, I feel like a scientist. I am exploring. Exploring a subject. And the terrain where I do my explorations is my soul. Not because I think my person is important in the art work. But because my body is the thing I have at my disposal to explore the cosmos, being, existence.

My body is not a neutral tool, like a telescope or a microscope. In fact, the way in which my body responds to stimuli is the most important source of data that informs my work. Of course, “the way my body responds to stimuli” is everything. It is the only thing that exists. Or that we know that exists. Things that we do not perceive do not exist.

The exploration that the creation of art is, then, involves minute probing for unusual, or otherwise remarkable perceptions. Asking the question How do I respond to this? And then asking the question again No, how do I really respond to this?. Until a phenomenon is discovered that reveals something. Or that has the potential to reveal something.

Art is a way to deeper understand reality. A way not encumbered by the rules that slow down science. An artist can explore much further and much deeper, much faster, following intuition. And the results of the research don’t need to be finished, or even analyzed, because the viewer always continues the exploration when interacting with the work.

Art is also hard work. And a lot of it is just getting things done, technical things, craft things. Only a part of the work involves the deep exploration described above. It’s an essential part, and one that sets art apart from everything else for me. But it would not be bearable to do this for extended periods of time. Much like the experience of artistic beauty, does it need to happen in small doses. Too much and I faint.

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Art and entertainment.

Nov 05 2012 Published by under musing

Following the logic from the previous post, I need to conclude that artistic games will always be slow and contain very minimal (inter)activity. Which is not entirely dissimilar to the situation in other media in which both entertainment and art are created. Rock and roll tends to be active and exciting. Classical music calm and complex. Action movies are fast and clear. Art films are slow and confusing. Adventure books and comic strips are spectacular and engaging. Literature and poetry are often modest and a bit alienating.

Obviously we can all enjoy both. In fact, art, since it requires such an effort, is often the least attractive option to pass some leisure time. As a result, we might actually spend more time with entertainment. Yet it is the art that matters most and makes the deepest impressions and makes us who we are. If this applies to most, then it follows that we need a lot more entertainment than art.

But I do feel that the entertainment needs the art in any medium. If only to explore and thus rejuvenate and expand. Even if nobody in the public would see the art directly, they would witness its indirect effects in entertainment. Unless even the creators of such entertainment reject the art. Then the medium atrophies.

Luckily sensible people make room in their lives for both. I can’t imagine living on this planet without experiencing art once in a while. That seems like a waste of a life time.

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