Sunday, April 18, 2010

But is it Art?

When I received Adrian Shaughnessy's tweet ‘Can computer games be art?’ and the referenced arguments by Roger Edbert and Kellee Santiago, I happened to be also watching an episode of Top Gear (I like to multi-task) in which Clarkson and gang decide to stage an art exhibition of their own car-related artwork including a BMW on which they have hand painted the insides of the car (engine parts etc) on the outside of the car and a crash-test dummy positioned in the pose of Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’.

They ask an art critic to come an evaluate the work and when he tells them it has no artistic merit whatsoever Clarkson replies ‘thank you for your opinion but I am going to choose to ignore it.’

Clarkson is right. Anything can be called art. It just depends on what your definition of art is.

Personally I found the Top Gear exhibition rather amusing and I am ambivalent about computer games but I’m also relatively unmoved by many great examples of ‘High Art’ (Monet) and reduced to tears on the spot by others (Velasquez).

There are many wonderful conversations to be had about art (and computer games, pop music, opera, poetry etc) but arguing over the definition itself is a pointless exercise and one that is only undertaken by people who have a vested interest in elitism. They are protecting their own position relative to the elite either by keeping others out or by trying to get themselves in. Either way it's a waste of time.

Santiago has some wonderful things to say about the industry she works in but she says in this speech that having video games accepted as 'Art' will help justify her existence. This, of course is nonsense. All her arguments about the merits of and problems with video games are just as interesting and relevant whether they are accepted by people like Roger Edbert or not.

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