Perception of Reality

When we play video games we are usually still aware of our reality. We still hunger, we see the edges of the screen in our peripheral, we feel the controller/keyboard with our hands. The good games are the ones that draw you in and make you forget about your reality, even hunger (at least for a while) and I can personally attest to that.

One of these games is the Dead Space series. A science fiction horror story that has you on the edge of your seat. The fun thing about Dead Space is that they include hallucinations. You, or the character, sees things that aren’t real. But lets think about that statement for a moment. A not real character seeing things that aren’t real? Well that’s any video game isn’t it, because they aren’t real. Yet we find ourselves needing to differentiate what is and isn’t real within something that we believe is not real. So perhaps games are real in a sense the same way a story can be. But back to Dead Space, these hallucinations are believed to be real by the character until proven otherwise. There is one cutscene where an enemy appears and tries to stab your character in the eye with a syringe. When you succeed in stopping them though they disappears and your character is the one holding syringe (pictures below).  Even though it was a hallucination and not real and was likely not believed by the character even, it still had real consequences and was real enough that it needed to be fought off.

ReligiousGamersCh. “Dead Space 2: All Hallucinations.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 May 2017.
ReligiousGamersCh. “Dead Space 2: All Hallucinations.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

In the first game you search for your lover, find her, and then attempt to escape with her. Nearing the end of the escape you learn she died before you even arrived. She was another hallucination the whole time. Yet she seemed so real that this reveal shocked even you the player who is disconnected from their world. Games like these can pull you in and the better they are the less disconnected you feel, and therefore the more real it feels.

 

The Meaning of Reality

In video games we generally enter a new world and experience it through a character that we control. It’s not real, just a game. We know that, but the characters that live in that world don’t. These characters are living their lives in this world without our knowledge that they and their world is not “real”. That their actions are often controlled by us. Does that truly make their world less real or does that just make us a god in their world unknown to them? A god certainly would view the world differently than those living in it. A god could choose to be merciful or cruel and they would curse their fate or bad luck. Each video game a new world with a possibly different god.

For all we know our world could be a game or simulation similar to the Matrix. If we knew, would that change anything? For some they would likely believe that life has lost all meaning but each person gets to choose what meaning is for themselves. The man talked about below believes that life has no inherent meaning and that this leaves us free to give it meaning in ways we choose whether or not others would agree.

How do you kill?

Imgur. “How do you kill?” Imgur. N.p., 11 Apr. 2017. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

 

An Interview with Jason Chu

 

A really lovely and deeply contemplative conversation with Jason Chu.

Here are a few “digital reproductions” or photographs taken from my iPhone of his artwork to prelude the recorded conversation.

Jason Chu. “Wanderings” Augustana, 2017. If you look closely, you will notice that the clouds/waves can either be clouds or waves, and that the telephone lines placed on top of them kind of look like people looking out into the vast, open unknown that lies beyond them. It’s just an un-used, empty portion of the canvas for us as viewers, but what does it look like for them?

 

Jason Chu, “Tranquility”, Ink on Black Paper. Augustana, 2017.  What’s also another fascinating aspect of this collection or theme of art, is that Jason is using white ink (when the traditional use of ink is black ink) on black paper (when we usually think of a blank canvas as one that is white). It’s not only a fusion of binary opposites, or a dismantling of common notions of what mediums to use. It’s turning the canvas inside out, in a way that is almost indescribable. But the use of white ink and a black canvas goes hand in hand with the subject matter itself: a whale floating past a mountain, above and beyond the water.

 

Jason Chu, “Stranded”, Ink on Black Paper. Augustana, 2017. 

 

Jason Chu, “Blackwood Reader”, Ink on Black Paper. Augustana, 2017.

To stand before the art and bask in its presence, is something else altogether, let me tell you. This reproduction of Jason’s art really doesn’t do it any justice. On a digital platform, it’s now a representation of a representation. Maybe it’s an inadequacy of my phone’s camera that cannot capture the minute detail, or perhaps it is the transference into the digital, where the original artwork’s detail is generalized into pixels, and therefore lost. But without crappy cameras or pixellated images, we wouldn’t be here, would we? There are pros and cons and compromise in everything.

But if you ever are allowed the opportunity to view Jason’s work — or anyone’s for that matter — and if you are able to stand inches away from the surface, see the brushstrokes, each individual line, smudge, or dot of paint, charcoal, or chalk, it really is an honour. Because to see at least a certain extent of the process of the art, is to see a little more into the artist – and that is such an unique experience.

It’s one thing to see and know an artist, but to view the artist through their art, is to see and know them differently, maybe even strangely. Possibly to see and know them more so.

Hopefully, these pictures of these pictures give you at least a small sense of the degree to which Jason views his world: one that is both normal and strange. He subtly yet poetically erases the line between conventional standards/definitions of strange and normal, bringing these two ostensibly binary opposite categories closer. His art comments on the fluidity of our definitions surrounding concepts such as normalcy and otherness, actually inviting us to consider that a thing doesn’t have to fit nicely into either category, but can in fact be BOTH strange AND normal, instead of either or, and instead of clear cut.

The lines created by the brush or the pencil or the charcoal are lines that are not definitive, but porous. This technique replicates in art form, the notion that categories do not have to have definitive lines, but that lines separating categories and definitions are quite permeable.

The most normal things in our world can appear to be the most strange, and the most strangest things in our world, are actually the most normal. Perhaps these two opposite categories are not two distinct and opposite things, but one in the same thing.

We had the privilege to both talk with Jason and view his art. But in a way, the two are no different from one another, but one in the same thing.

Thanks so much Jason!

Post-Impressionist Art: Blurring the Lines Between the Different Versions of Reality

Roger Fry on the French Post-Impressionist artists: “Another charge that is frequently made against theses artists is that they allow what is merely capricious, or even what is extravagant or eccentric, in their work — that it is not serious, but an attempt to impose on the good-natured tolerance of the public. This charge of insincerity and extravagance is invariably made against any new manifestation of creative art. It does not of course follow that it is always wrong. The desire to impose on the art of the public may, and I think in this case it does, arise from a simple misunderstanding of what these artists set out to do. The difficult springs from a deep-rooted conviction, due to long-established custom, that the aim of painting is the descriptive imitation of natural forms. Now, these artists do not seek to give what can, after all, be but a pale reflex of actual appearance, but to arouse the conviction of a new and definite reality. They do not seek to imitate form, but to create form; not to imitate life, but to find an equivalent for life…” 

Fry, Roger. “The French Post-Impressionists” (1912). Visions and Design. London: Catto & Windus, 1920. p. 156-7.

What is the reality?

What is visible to the eye, is not always what is true. But what is truth if we cannot see it? How do we know what it “looks” like, if we cannot see it? How do we know it exists, if empirically we cannot provide evidence for it?

Are the trees buildings, or are the buildings the trees?

What do you think, Mike?

Gonsalves, Rob. “Arboreal Office » Rob Gonsalves » Marcus Ashley Gallery.” Marcus Ashley Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.

Also, note how the two sources of light are on polar opposites of the image: the light emitted from the fire on the bottom, and the light emitted from both the moon and the artificial lighting of the sky scrapers.

Does this apparent spectrum of light that the image presents show that some lights (the natural light of fire) make visible only a certain perspective, that is in this case, emits a glow that highlights the bottom halves of the trees.

Gonsalves, Rob. “Arboreal Office » Rob Gonsalves » Marcus Ashley Gallery.” Marcus Ashley Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.

While, the light on the upper portion of the image emits a warm blue glow coming from both the moon and the artificial lighting of the skyscrapers. This light on the upper portion of the image sheds light on what some one would say is the opposite of a forest of trees: a city of skyscrapers.

Gonsalves, Rob. “Arboreal Office » Rob Gonsalves » Marcus Ashley Gallery.” Marcus Ashley Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.

All three lights, being both different in nature, present a particular truth to us. Are the trees, in reality buildings, or are the buildings in reality, trees?

The Existence of Images in the Digital Sphere

Not only in our day in age is the almost revolutionary availability of images via platforms on the internet astounding – so much so that the implications of the saying “the personal is the universal” is actually quite scary – but the almost absurd vulnerability of images, and how easily subject they are to manipulation is something that alters the existence of images, of artwork, of photographs, of representations drastically.

Images can so easily be taken out of the contexts they initially and naturally exist in, and henceforth used to represent something totally other than what the images were conveying initially. Take for example, Felix KjellBerg, popularly known as Pewdiepie on Youtube. The latest controversy surrounding his image concerns the way “old media” (as he describes it: newspapers, as opposed to new media such as digital platforms like Youtube) cut and pasted certain images and used them under a different light, to in fact label Pewdiepie as a Nazi.

A single frame taken from one of Felix KjellBerg’s videos evidently portraying him as an anti-Semite. Photo Credit: vox.news

Here Pewdiepie is… hailing Hitler so it would seem.

We have this general image of what Nazism looks like, and this Nazi image has been cut and pasted onto the Pewdiepie, almost as purposely as someone gluing a fake black moustache onto a photo, then declaring him Hitler.

The subject is no longer what he was before, but has now been forced to undertake a new identity: what and how the image of Nazism is represented as. Consequently, Wall Street Journal reported that Disney severed ties with Pewdiepie (for the sake of its own image – and how its associations and how images associated with it, can affect its own image, which again hammers home the point of how vulnerable and manipulative images are) for displaying “representations” of Nazism and anti-Semitic “imagery”.

Images are used to attach meaning to concepts, in some cases to generalize or oversimplify concepts such as anti-Semitism. And then images are used to reduce individuals to labels or categories or definitive definitions. This image of Pewdiepie was obviously circulated, along with the widespread controversy associated with it, which frankly is too extensive to get into. But the mere fact that he was reduced to the images he was representing, the images he was portraying is quite absurd; and in using these “paused” images – the frames of a video – these images attempt to convey what they believe to be “true” about a person: that if they look like this, or portray themselves like that, they’re automatically and indefinitely a fascist.

Is this the truth, or is “the Truth” manipulated to be a certain thing; is it being looked at from a certain perspective to mean something inherently other, and stating that this other is what’s true, as opposed to other perspectives or angles? Is Pewdiepie a fascist or a nazi? That’s beside the point. How he’s conveyed in new media, how he’s portrayed in both new and old media. That’s what’s fascinating. That the image explains it all, that a mere snapshot of a person’s representation conveys the entire truth is a notion that is bewildering.

We tend to force people into boxes, lump them into labels, shove them into categories primarily based on what we are able to witness, to see with our eyes – as if it were truly that simple to know someone. Giving people a title, and tagging an image to represent that title in order to secure a specific reality regarding that person, dumbing them down to mere word and image in order to provide a truth about them, reinforcing not even lazy ways of thinking, but the inability to think at all: to question, to interrogate, to contemplate, to think for one’s self instead relying on the crowd.

This all goes to show that images, much like words, are powerful. But what are they exactly? Are they mere tools that would remain stagnant, lifeless entities, like old powered down robots, if it weren’t for human beings using them actively? Does their power come from us who give it to them? Or are they frames taken from the larger film of reality that present themselves to us, and what they are and what they mean to us is totally dependent on our perception, on our definitions, on our opinions?