On the Notions of Strangeness and Familiarity present in Video Games and Digital Art. For the above image: Artist Unknown, Woman at a Window. circa 1510-1530. Italy. www.thenationalgallery.org.uk.
Category: Digital/Virtual Imagery and Art
A look at the digital sphere of art and images. Art being defined as an image purposely identifying as art, while imagery refers to a thing’s presence in the digital sphere, such as a person or an event, that isn’t necessarily labelled as art.
Digital referring to art and images existing in the technology of computers, and virtual more specifically relating to the appearance of the art/images in the form of pixels and numbers, instead of physically existing.
A glitch is a significant alteration to the reality the video games represents. It is a disruption of the network, and its effects are very much present.
CRB [Youtube user] “10 Insane Glitches that Actually Make Video Games Better”. Jan 31, 2017. 07:00. Youtube. Web. May 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8bCcTjcGP0>
Then there are the glitches that occur in real life:
I don’t know about any of you, but where I’m from, there are thousands upon thousands of Ford Escapes EVERYWHERE. Take a five minute drive to the grocery, and you’re bound to see about twenty of them. Glitch in the matrix?
What about when glitches are done on purpose. Does that make them art?
This image of a glitch below sort of resembles one of Jackson Pollock’s paintings!
Glitches only speak to the malleability of reality, or at least the malleability of the reality represented in images and alternate, digital worlds. Are they still representing reality in a truthful manner, these images that are erroneous? Or was that ever their goal?
“The rules on what is possible and impossible in
the arts were made by people who had not tested
the bounds of the possible by going beyond them.”
– Neil Gaiman
Gaiman, Neil. “Make Good Art.” 17 May. 2012, University of the Arts, Philadelphia. Keynote Speech. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYksel> Uploaded by Peter Shev [Youtube user] on May 23, 2012. Web. Mar 2017.
“Analyzing the Bible as an artifact concerning gender is an activity whose impetus lies almost entirely with the reader and is a reflection of the reader’s culture, beliefs, and worldviews”
Lawrence, Beatrice. “Gender Analysis: Gender and Method in Biblical Study.” Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Honour of David L. Peterson, edited by Joel M. LeMon and Kent Harold Richards. Society of Biblical Literature, 2001, pp. 333-346.
And David J.A. Clines says that “It is not the Bible that sets the agenda but the culture in which its interpreters find themselves”.
Quoted from: Lawrence, Beatrice. “Gender Analysis: Gender and Method in Biblical Study.” Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Honour of David L. Peterson, edited by Joel M. LeMon and Kent Harold Richards. Society of Biblical Literature, 2001, pp. 333-346.
Why am I mentioning the Hebrew Bible of all things, on a blog concerning itself with strangeness? Well, there is this notion called the death of the author, where as soon as a creator releases something — a piece of art, a book, a poem, a song — into the public sphere of the viewers, readers, and listeners, the creator’s initial meaning for their creation, in a sense, dies. It no longer matters what the original author or creator intended for the work to mean, what messages or feelings they intended it to convey; the creation is strictly in the hands of those who are now subject to it. This notion of there are as many books as there are readers is an almost universal one: it can be applied to almost anything in existence. We as humans, one could say, see through the lens of our heart’s deepest desire, we see through the lens our personal experience shapes. To bring metaphors into the mix in order to explain this notion, one could say that we all wear glasses. These glasses are not normal glasses, they are shaped and formed uniquely to us, they are our personal glasses, and we very rarely take them off, not to mention try on others’s glasses. These glasses are an appendage of our bodies that are hard to remove, but also they are malleable, and they adapt to us personally: our experiences, our opinions, our beliefs, our desires, our selves shape and mould these glasses, so that we see the world in “our” way, and we see the same world differently than others, for each individual person has their own individual pair of glasses that we see through.
Since this metaphorical glass is personally malleable, that would mean that we all see things differently, but wouldn’t it also mean that we are in a sense blinded by ourselves? If we’re looking through glasses, and not seeing things with the naked eye, how do we know that what we are viewing through the glasses is true to its nature, do the glasses allow things to be true to their nature, or is the glass slanted, bent, dirty, discoloured, distorted so that the things we think we are looking at are distorted too? How would we know the difference between a thing’s true nature or a mere single representation of it if we are constantly wearing the glasses and are unable to take them off?
If everyone is wearing metaphorical glasses over our eyes, never seeing things with the naked eye, the objective eye one could call it, or the unbiased,
Of course, no one metaphor will ever do anything justice. Like a poet, we have to perpetually be coming up with metaphors for we, like poets are in love with the world, and like a crush, want to keep the world here, keep increasingly coming up with new things to say about it.
Is, then, anything strange, if human beings are the one witnessing their own existence? How can anything be strange if it is seen through human eyes?
Yoko Ono, Cut Piece. 1965. Posted on Youtube by vbethany [Youtube user] on February, 28 2013. 08:00. Web. Mar 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYJ3dPwa2tl>
This is Yoko Ono’s performance art piece, “Cut Piece”
Essentially, the art is the hands of the viewer and the viewer (For their viewing pleasure) can and does whatever they wish to. Cut Piece is in the viewer’s hands, literally: what the art is, what the art means, what the art is saying is controlled by the viewer. The subject matter herself is totally dominated by the viewer.
In this case, the artist here presents herself on a stage with a pair of scissors. The audience members are then allowed to interact with her. They are given the opportunity to take the pair of scissors and cut a piece of Yoko Ono’s clothing. This really is experimental performance art: the artist acts as the art itself and allows the viewer to do whatever they may choose to with the artist. And she, like a good model, will sit their unmoving as the viewer “views” her.
Of course this is a work of art which criticizes the portrayal of women through art history. Yet what makes Cut Piece unique from other portraits of woman throughout art’s history, is that she, the subject matter, is in the flesh. The viewer is interacting with her explicitly and directly.
There is no line of demarcation between the viewer and the subject matter, they share the same space; while in painting, the canvas or frame acts as the threshold between the two realities: the world of the art itself which lies behind the surface, and the world of the viewer, who lies at the foot of this threshold and peers in through it like a window. What’s interesting about art is that there are two parties involved – the viewer and the subject matter/artist (perhaps the artist could be considered a distinct third party, but I like to imagine that art itself is the voice of the artist, and therefore the two are one in the same thing — at least in most cases). This relationship between art and its viewers is not exactly what one would call a fair, two way street.
The viewer is afforded the opportunity to view the artwork and make of it what they please. The viewer is not at all governed by the art, nothing about the viewer’s experience is controlled or dictated; they have the liberty to think, feel, and say whatever they like void of consequence. See the viewer hides behind the screen of the canvas, the threshold between the two acts as a looking glass for the viewer, and on the other side, a mirror for the subject matter to gaze at herself, while the viewer gazes at her.
The viewer is invisible as the threshold separating these two worlds is one-way glass. The art is perhaps not aware of their objectification, sexualization, demeaned, oppressed, defined inaccurately, or misidentified altogether: their identity is ambiguous, and therefore the viewer is given the agency to project whatever identity they see fit onto an unaware subject, denying and quelling whatever freedom the art and its artist had.
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 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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?