Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Go with the Flow

Yea or nay, video games as art?

Game designer Kellee Santiago gave the talk, "Flow in Games and in Life," for the opening of UR's new exhibit, "Flow, Just Flow: Variations on a Theme."

It's not as unlikely as it sounds.

Kellee's non-competitive video game "Flow" is part of the show.

She's also one of the proponents of games as an art form, along with MoMA who've just added fourteen to their collection.

Who am I to disagree?

And while I've never played a video game before, I played "Flow" as part of this show.

I didn't wait for games to be considered art to play one, it just happened that way.

No, really.

Unlike the healthy contingent of young men in the audience tonight, most of Kellee's stories about game development went over my head.

The part that I did get was about flow itself, that feeling of being engaged in an activity, the feeling of focusing your energy, the enjoyment of the process.

Completely focused motivation.

Which, not surprisingly, most of the young men who asked questions of Kellee during the Q & A, seemed to have on the subject of game design.

But for me it was all about the 21 pieces of contemporary art awaiting us in the galleries in addition to the video game.

The concept of "flow" was expressed in myriad ways throughout the exhibit.

Humming engines and wires, on mulberry paper, with airplane flight patterns, on video and on burnt paper.

And as varied as the mediums were, always the essence of flow came through.

Near a mesmerizing kinetic sculpture hanging from the ceiling was an explanation of the principles behind it.

I read it twice without clearly understanding the concept and turned to the student standing next to me, telling her it was too scientific for me.

"Oh, good!" she said, sounding very relieved. "Me, too."

Call me simple.

One thing was very clear, though. In the context of contemporary art, a video game did not seem out of place.

In fact, it brought to mind the age-old argument about language.

I know people who believe language is a malleable thing, constantly shape-shifting to what the culture is speaking and writing, while others think that language provides guidelines that we adhere to.

Marcel Duchamp proved that the concept of art is every bit as open to interpretation and the proof was in the flat screen and controllers that greeted us in the Hartnett.

We live in a post-Pacman world. It was bound to happen.

The smart money's on enjoying the process.

Even for those of us who will never again play a video game.

One is my limit, even if it is considered art.

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