June 6, 2005

aarseth on art, joyce on collaboration

by Mary Flanagan · , 4:20 am

At the ICT summer school in Stockholm, Espen Aarseth noted in his talk “How to Analyze Games: A Metamodel” (Sunday 5 June) that there are as many ways to study games as there are reasons to study them, and that, for example, game players would want very different things from game analysis than, for example, an academic studying games; thus, methods must take these vast differences into account.

Aarseth offered tentative, broad approaches to creating methods which could be used to study games, spending a good deal of time asking overarching questions about art (are games art?); he emphasized that art is modelled on a “king of the hill” style competition where an artist’s job is to claim the superior position. Several artists in the audience disagreed with Aarseth.

Aarseth also noted that communities (from academic fields to online groups) are formed by exclusion. Overall, the tone of competition proffered in games themselves seems to have infused the discussion. of the field.

Michael Joyce began his talk at the ICT summer school in Stockholm by distinguishing his talk “Red Shelves and texts held in confidence: Networked Collaboration as Medium and Artefact” from yesterday’s talk by Espen Aarseth.

A distinctly different approach was offered by Joyce, who noted that artwork is modelled on intramediation. Artists work to reference conventions produced by a body of artefacts andreferences, and in particular, collaboration; all of these aspects, to Joyce, reflect our relevance to each other.

Joyce discussed his work with Alexandra Grant and the kinetic sculpture, including the work “Nimbus.” Grant weaves large structures from the writing, creating word objects and connections with wire and draws as well as presenting the objects (some of which are kinetic) The reading, now, having become quite ‘else’, is to Joyce offering the ability to see oneself outside language and moving language into space and time; he conveyed his surprise in seeing Grant’s work, taking language as something akin to the breath, not the page, filled with words.
Discussing the work “The Ladder Quartet”, we see Joyce in collaboration with Grant in large scale drawings and paintings. He also discussed Cixous’ notion of exile and displacement in relation to his new collaboration with Linda Marie Walker. The theme which emerged from Joyce’s description of this collaboration was the idea of ‘presence from a distance.’
Networked art captures closeness and distance, surface and interior, capturing everyday, banal things on both sides of a dichotomy: disrepair, repair…

Here are some impressions of collaboration Joyce presents which I find inspirational:
collaboration is:
Work which comes together (each person in their own voice), not work which works together…collaborations are thus two (or more) mismatched voices in conversation…disharmony and corruption… drifting away and together… surface to surface.
Uncertain collaborations, remote control, disollution and resolution…celebration of loss….it is all that we have.

11 Responses to “aarseth on art, joyce on collaboration”

  1. Espen Says:

    Thanks, Mary, for the writeup of my talk; just for the record, I was actually attempting the joke that, instead of looking at computer games as a form of art (and thus appropriating them, starting with text adventures in the 80s) we might see art as an advanced type of game, and, if so, what type of game might it be? Joyce may well object, but King of the Hill can be played as a team sport as well as solo.

    There is enough competition (and prize-winning) among artists to make me stand by my joke, in poor taste though it may have appeared to be. Too bad none of the dissenting artists voiced their opinions when I was still there, as it would have made for an interesting debate, or, dare I say it, contest…

    As for the idea that community building is as much based on exclusion as it is on inclusion, this insight is not an Aarseth original, alas, but, as I mentioned in the talk, belongs to Stuart Hall.

  2. noah Says:

    So, is there something that makes being a professional artist (which sounds like what’s meant in this case, rather than “art” as a creation process or way of viewing the world) more like a game than being a professional astronomer, accountant, or agronomist?

  3. Espen Aarseth Says:

    Do you know any prize-winning accountants?

  4. d.c. howe Says:

    (Cindy) Kwong Kar Yee:

    Winner of both the CPA Australia Prize for Accounting
    & the Institute of Chartered Accountants Prize for Accounting


  5. scott Says:

    I hope they have other intramurals at this summer camp too. King of the Hill always seemed so brutal. I wonder if the artists would beat the theorists in, say, softball.

  6. Espen Says:

    Winner of both the CPA Australia Prize for Accounting
    & the Institute of Chartered Accountants Prize for Accounting

    Heh, nice try, but the winner is a 1st year student. You seem to have deleted the rather telling “Year 1” from both titles. And we all know about the sinister uses of King of the Hill in schools.

  7. Adam Russell Says:

    Noah: “is there something that makes being a professional artist more like a game than being a professional astronomer, accountant, or agronomist?”

    Perhaps drawing a connection with Michel de Certeau’s work on everyday life would help? His thought might be turned to describing the professionals as employing strategies to define their own places and their own position of authority, whereas the today’s artist is more like the everyday man, employing tactics to turn places owned by others to their own ends, as artists have no place of their own? Much of de Certeau’s writing likens this use of tactics by the weak to ‘play’ at least, if not ‘game’.

    Having said all that, the playfulness of tactics is far removed from the game jokingly suggested for art. Perhaps the artists in Espen’s audience objected to his King of the Hill joke because it sounds more like a strategy than a tactic?

  8. noah Says:

    I was reading Espen pretty literally, and just trying to imagine playing a game based on attempts to advance in the artworld (which could include presenting your work to gallery owners, applying for grants, etc) versus attempting to advance as an astronomer (sorting through data, looking for the clues to that phenomenon that will forever bear your name in the night sky) versus being an accountant (which, after Enron, I think we can all agree has the most potential for an action-packed game of intrigue with mainstream appeal) and so on…

  9. ErikC Says:

    A prize winning accountant?
    Yes Espen, in 1984, http://www.britannica.com/nobel/table/econ.html
    Noah you could build a game around Danto’s Institutional theory of art, the Blaxxun-renaissance VRML project was sort of a game where you had to learn Renaissance manners in order for your character to advance..

    Accountants change the world..remember MCI WorldCom, IMF and the World Bank..etc etc

    On a side note, alien societies in modern sci fi often seem based on a swarming model of forced social inclusion not exclusion -inclusion..

    Is art a game? Producing a masterpiece that is promising new and comprehensive rules that yet can never fully categorise the artefact or experience that created them? (very Nietzschean). Perhaps the attempt to challenge and break the labels of art critics while being praised by them at the same time..

  10. scott Says:

    I’m not very good at softball, but I’m planning on attending the next DAC, and I’m siding with the artists. I think it’s time to throw down the gauntlet. I’ll play second base. Fuck theory, Noah, you’re pitching.

  11. Jim Says:

    To marry the economist with the gamer there is the work of Peter Zachriasson who writes spreadsheet analysis of game play and the only hills are on the graph….

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