GameScenes: Art in the Age of Videogames
Editor: Matteo Bittanti, Domenico Quaranta
Publisher: Milan, Italy: Johan & Levi, 2006
Review Published: November 2007
It's quite difficult for me – as one of the editors of GameScenes -- to add some comments to this beautiful review, since I think that Claudia Costa Pederson completely got the point when she described our intention as an effort "to define the 'new aesthetic paradigm' of art in the age of videogames." What I can try to do is to clarify the "identity" of the book which could be quite ambiguous for those who don't know how it was put together.
First of all, GameScenes is not a catalogue, but a "visual essay." Its relationship with the GameScapes exhibition is not at all a relationship of dependence -- quite the contrary. The GameScapes show was a little show (with just four artists) which was organized in conjunction with the publication of the book as a launch event. From its very beginning, the GameScenes project was a book project.
By saying that it is a visual essay, I mean that the visual elements are -- for our purposes -- as important as the textual contribution, that they try to develop a discourse of their own, and that the possibility to fully understand a work of art from its printed reproduction was one of the main criteria we followed in order to make our choice. That was quite a crucial decision, because it would mean to omit some very interesting works of art -- works that sometimes played an important role in the history of game-related art. We included game mods (such as Jodi's JSWV) and game installations (such as Nullpointer's CCTEX) only when they were mainly visual-based, and could be fully understood from a picture or a screenshot printed on paper. And we completely left out machinimas, narrative works, and art games (which are all important contributions to the world of game art) just because they didn't fit in the purpose of the book.
In other worlds, GameScenes is not our "top ten selection" out of the Game Art scene -- and if you read the book as such, you may think it is an incomplete project. Indeed, it IS an incomplete project: and we have been thinking about a possible follow-up from the day we completed the proof reading on GameScenes. GameScenes 2.0 should be a multimedia project, featuring -- besides the essays -- a selection of machinimas, the video-documentation of interactive installations, and performances -- and a lot of software -- art games, game mods, and all kinds of stuff like this. Or, maybe, an exhibition ...
Another feature of the book that may seem problematic for some is the fact that it makes no distinction between digital and non-digital artworks. Personally, as a contemporary art critic and curator who focuses on the creative consequences of the digital media, I am fully convinced that this distinction is completely affected and out-of-date, and should be overcome as soon as possible. Brody Condon is not a new media artist when he modifies a game but a contemporary artist when he makes a sculpture: he is always an artist. And Miltos Manetas is not compelling and avant-garde when he makes a website, but a traditional artist trying to charm the art market when he paints: he is always doing the same compelling work in different media.
The distinction between New Media Art and contemporary art, nurtured by the development of two different "art worlds," is contradicted by the way artists move between media, by net artists making paintings, and painters making networked installations; and by the fact that the consequences of the digital revolution are more and more visible in traditional media, too. But it is in the field of game-related art that this practice to work on the borders between different fields of cultural production appears more often. The reasons of this shift could be found -- as Claudia writes -- in the influence that commercial games are exerting on pop culture and popular aesthetics, but also in the relationship between games and visual culture, between the game industry and the film industry, and in the ability of videogames and virtual worlds to build up simulated yet believable realities.
This contradiction becomes clear when coming to art made for virtual worlds, which is the subject of my critical work of the last few months (see http://www.domenicoquaranta.net/blog/). In virtual worlds such as Second Life, the rhetoric of New Media Art is definitely out of place. In a synthetic world, everything is new media, because everything is code, polygons, scripts. Artists are working with software, but everything they do can be reduced to a traditional art form: 3D modeling is sculpture, installation, or architecture; avatar design is body art; scripted actions are performance and theatre. Everything is interactive: no surprise if some artworks interact with the viewer ...
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