Time for a shitstorm: An article I just read

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  1. #1

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    Time for a shitstorm: An article I just read

    Have a read:

    Insomnia | Commentary | On the Genealogy of "Art Games"

    Hint: It's not just about video games.

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    There is no fucking way that I'm reading something formatted like this.

    Cliff notes?

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    Well, cliffnotes-ish: "Fun" is good, and so is "complex and difficult and fun." At least in music -- he talks mostly about visual arts and video games. It gets way more complicated than that, and I haven't read all of the works he references, but fuck it, it was good.

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    Holy crap I almost had a seizure trying to read that. I got about 2 words into it.

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    wall of text crits you for 114954

    you are dead

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris View Post
    There is no fucking way that I'm reading something formatted like this.

    Cliff notes?
    Quote Originally Posted by Seanbabs View Post
    Holy crap I almost had a seizure trying to read that. I got about 2 words into it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Vegetta View Post
    wall of text crits you for 114954

    you are dead
    is this better?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Article
    By Alex Kierkegaard / July 2, 2010

    Part I: The Absurd Circularity of the Pseudo-Art Game

    "Art games will always have a place here on the TIGSource front page, and I will never ever tell people to stop making them."

    Thus spoke Mr. Derek Yu of The Independent Gaming Source in response to increasingly hostile reactions against the newly created pseudo-category of pseudo-artistic trash games, and thereby obliterated every last trace of respect I had for him. Or, to be more precise, almost all respect, because one cannot fail to be impressed by the shamelessness with which he comes out and hurls his insults -- such brazen impudence will always command respect. To come out and trash the labor of entire generations of master game designers with the insidious implication that their work is not and has never been art, all the while keeping a straight face, and even with an air of self-righteousness and indignation about him -- that is no mean feat, even for an indie bum -- that is to say the meanest of the mean. One must have lost all sense of decency, one must have lost all self-respect, one must have nothing left to lose -- in addition to being a great actor, otherwise one cannot do, one cannot even dream of doing such things.

    But let us move straightaway to extract the moral from this business, for we have a great deal of ground ahead of us, and I am itching to cover it: When even the best of these people (and Yu is in many ways the best -- for example in the fact that his Spelunky is an actual game, and moreover one which makes no claims to hidden meanings, messages or other retardations) proves himself, and in such spectacular fashion no less, to be an unconscionable, impudent lout -- what could one say... about the rest? The videogame industry has indeed never before seen such dirty, such conceited, such venal fellows as these -- they make even journalists and marketers appear as paragons of integrity in comparison. Whoever finds all this too harsh does not have the faintest idea of what these people have been doing; once one has grasped it, no word, no turn of phrase, no gesture can seem too strong to express one's contempt and disdain for them.

    And what exactly, then, have they been doing? It seems I will not be spared the task of spelling it out to them, and, more importantly, to all the gullible morons they've managed to dupe with their deviously-spun web of slander and lies.

    Listen to me carefully now, you little abortions of fagots: "art games" has never been and never will be a valid category! It is preposterous to claim otherwise! Even worse: it is indecent! It means to spit in the face of all the grand masters of game design, those of the past as well as the present, when one proceeds to shove all their hard work under the table so as to praise to heaven one's own little abortions of mini-games and screensavers, and to reserve for them, and for them only, the highly coveted, and rightly coveted, appelation of "art". To say that Civilization, Grand Theft Auto III, Sangokushi Senki, Total Annihilation, Deus Ex, UFO: Enemy Unknown, Merchant Prince, Devil May Cry, Eternal Darkness, Spacewar, Planescape: Torment, Rogue, Battle Garegga, Wing Commander, Street Fighter II, Fallout, Quest for Glory, Bubble Bobble, Privateer, Counter-Strike, Metal Slug, Jet Set Radio, Halo, Dune, Master of Magic, OutRun 2, Dungeon Master, Quake, The Last Express, Virtua Fighter, Pirates, Tetris, Tekki, Syndicate, Alpha Centauri, Gekka no Kenshi, Nobunaga no Yabou, Metal Gear Solid, Age of Empires, The Secret of Monkey Island, Fire Emblem, Pikmin, Herzog Zwei, Max Payne, Elite, The Super Shinobi, Prince of Persia, Railroad Tycoon, Sim City, Samurai Spirits, Gun Valkyrie, Rainbow Islands, Daimakaimura, R-Type, Super Mario Kart, Ultima V, Ninja Gaiden, Zero Gunner 2, Super Metroid, and countless others -- to say that all these games, the very best games we possess -- the results of half a century of effort by innumerable extremely dedicated and talented individuals from across the world -- are not art -- to summarily dismiss the entire history of videogames -- to dump it in the trash -- and all their designers along with them, in order to raise high above them the piddling, the ludicrous, the contemptible little abortions of platformers and screensavers of a bunch of incorrigibly incompetent lazy bums -- is the most vicious, most insolent, most insulting gesture imaginable against our hobby and all those individuals who have poured their souls and lives into it.

    There's nothing for it: one must not give these shameless, venal wretches an inch -- one must not concede to them anything. No association with them is permissible -- no reconciliation possible. Whoever has experienced even a few hours of enjoyment with these games (-- not to speak of those of us whose entire lives have been enriched by them --); whoever harbors inside him even the tiniest shred of warmth for this truly wonderful, truly bizarre, this truly uncanny art -- should be appalled at the idea of these people's mere existence. Forget about soccer moms, politicians or priests. Nothing they say or do has ever or will ever matter. But just look at what the indie bums have done within a mere five or six years of scheming! It is the enemy from within that always poses the greatest danger! Coming in with no qualifications, no portfolios, no work experience whatever, zero talent, utterly ignorant of the history of the hobby, with the coding skills of high school students, uncooperative, indolent, obnoxious all of them, without any employment prospects whatever -- no self-respecting company would hire them, the masters would not so much as spit on them -- yet within less than a decade, through a relentless campaign of defamation and slander, have lied themselves up to being considered the only real artists working in the industry! the only real artists to have ever worked in the industry! all the while lowering the status of everyone else to that of "mere" craftsmen! Their lazy abortions of non-games have now become the "art games"! while those of everyone else will from on be known as merely "mainstream"! and the entire past is shrugged off as "immature" and "juvenile"!

    Enough: This whole fagotry ends now. They'll get exactly what they are asking for -- by the time I am through with them they'll barely even seem human.

    To speed things up, and also to underscore the fact that all these are issues which have been effectively resolved for decades, we will be making extensive use of Pauline Kael's essay "Trash, Art, and the Movies". This was written in 1969, at about the time, that is to say, when movies were going through a phase comparable to that which videogames are beginning to enter now, and Kael, roughly speaking, was playing more or less an equivalent role to the one I am playing right now. Many of my initial points, indeed, can be made by copying passages from her work wholesale and simply replacing references to movies and movie-specific terms with games and game-specific ones -- and this is what we'll do. The point is that all this stuff has more or less already been explained, and the only reason everyone in the videogame industry is blissfully unaware of it is because they are ignorant, uneducated dingbats whose idea of education and literature are comics, animu and science fiction novels. So let us then turn to Kael and see what she has to say about this whole business.

    Kael: "We generally become interested in movies because we enjoy them and what we enjoy them for has little to do with what we think of as art. The movies we respond to, even in childhood, don't have the same values as the official culture supported at school and in the middle-class home. At the movies we get low life and high life, while David Susskind and the moralistic reviewers chastise us for not patronizing what they think we should, "realistic" movies that would be good for us -- like A Raisin in the Sun, where we could learn the lesson that a Negro family can be as dreary as a white family."
    This for us becomes:

    Kierkegaard: "We generally become interested in games because we enjoy them and what we enjoy them for has little to do with what we think of as art. The games we respond to, even in childhood, don't have the same values as the official culture supported at school and in the middle-class home. In videogames we get low life and high life, while Leigh Alexander and the moralistic reviewers chastise us for not patronizing what they think we should, "realistic" games that would be good for us -- like The Marriage, where we could learn the lesson that a marriage is about different people working together to balance their needs."
    Another passage:

    Kael: "Who at some point hasn't set out dutifully for that fine foreign film and then ducked into the nearest piece of American trash? We're not only educated people of taste, we're also common people with common feelings. And our common feelings are not all bad. You hoped for some aliveness in that trash that you were pretty sure you wouldn't get from the respected "art film". You had long since discovered that you wouldn't get it from certain kinds of American movies, either. The industry now is taking a neo-Victorian tone, priding itself on its (few) "good, clean" movies -- which are always its worst movies because almost nothing can break through the smug surfaces, and even performers' talents become cute and cloying. The lowest action trash is preferable to wholesome family entertainment. When you clean them up, when you make movies respectable, you kill them. The wellspring of their art, their greatness, is in not being respectable."
    This last part for us becomes:

    Kierkegaard: "The lowest action trash is preferable to wholesome family entertainment. When you clean them up, when you make videogames respectable, you kill them. The wellspring of their art, their greatness, is in not being respectable."
    Another passage, in which she exposes the pseudo-intellectuality of the New Movie Journalists of her time:

    Kael: "The Thomas Crown Affair is pretty good trash, but we shouldn't convert what we enjoy it for into false terms derived from our study of the other arts. That's being false to what we enjoy. If it was priggish for an older generation of reviewers to be ashamed of what they enjoyed and to feel they had to be contemptuous of popular entertainment, it's even more priggish for a new movie generation to be so proud of what they enjoy that they use their education to try to place trash within the acceptable academic tradition. What the Cambridge boy is doing is a more devious form of that elevating and falsifying of people who talk about Loren as a great actress instead of as a gorgeous, funny woman. Trash doesn't belong to the academic tradition, and that's part of the fun of trash -- that you know (or should know) that you don't have to take it seriously, that it was never meant to be anymore than frivolous and trifling and entertaining."
    Simply replace The Thomas Crown Affair with any popular pseudo-artistic game (Rez, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, etc.), and all mention of "movies" with "games", and you have something that is perfectly current and perfectly valid.

    Moving on, another arrow aimed straight at the pseudo-intellectuals -- of any artform:

    Kael: "It's a peculiar form of movie madness crossed with academicism, this lowbrowism masquerading as highbrowism, eating a candy bar and cleaning an "allegorical problem of human faith" out of your teeth."
    Another passage:

    Kael: "If there's a little art in good trash and sometimes even in poor trash, there may be more trash than is generally recognized in some of the most acclaimed "art" movies. Such movies as "Petulia" and "2001" may be no more than trash in the latest, up-to-the-minute guises, using "artistic techniques" to give trash the look of art. The serious art look may be the latest fashion in expensive trash. All that "art" may be what prevents pictures like these from being enjoyable trash; they're not honestly crummy, they're very fancy and they take their crummy ideas seriously."
    The equivalent of the above in the videogame world is, for example, the recent Heavy Rain. Kael's phrasing fits it perfectly: Heavy Rain is "the latest fashion in expensive trash" which "takes its crummy ideas seriously". In the case of the indie bums we simply replace the word "expensive" with "cheap" and get another zinger: Indie games are "the latest fashion in cheap trash" which "take their crummy ideas seriously".

    Even part of her magnificent opening paragraph can be easily adapted for our purposes:

    Kael: "Movies -- a tawdry corrupt art for a tawdry corrupt world -- fit the way we feel. The world doesn't work the way the schoolbooks said it did and we are different from what our parents and teachers expected us to be. Movies are our cheap and easy expression, the sullen art of displaced persons. Because we feel low we sink in the boredom, relax in the irresponsibility, and maybe grin for a minute when the gunman lines up three men and kills them with a single bullet, which is no more "real" to us than the nursery-school story of the brave little tailor."
    Kierkegaard: "Videogames -- a tawdry corrupt art for a tawdry corrupt world -- fit the way we feel. The world doesn't work the way the schoolbooks said it did and we are different from what our parents and teachers expected us to be. Videogames are our cheap and easy expression, the sullen art of displaced persons. Because we feel low we sink in the boredom, relax in the irresponsibility, and maybe grin for a minute when we line up three men and kill them with a single bullet, which is no more "real" to us than the nursery-school story of the brave little tailor."
    Another passage, and start paying close attention now for this is the point where we overtake Kael and begin moving a great deal further than she went -- than she was able to go or would ever have dared to:

    Kael: "A nutty Puritanism still flourishes in the arts, not just in the schoolteachers' approach of wanting art to be "worthwhile" but in the higher reaches of the academic life with those ideologues who denounce us for enjoying trash as if this enjoyment took us away from the really disturbing, angry new art of our time and somehow destroyed us. If we had to justify our trivial silly pleasures, we'd have a hard time. How could we possibly justify the fun of getting to know some people in movie after movie, like Joan Blondell, the brassy blonde with the heart of gold, or waiting for the virtuous, tiny, tiny-featured heroine to say her line so we could hear the riposte of her tough, wisecracking girlfriend (Iris Adrian was my favorite). Or, when the picture got too monotonous, there would be the song interlude, introduced "atmospherically" when the cops and crooks were both in the same never-neverland nightclub and everything stopped while a girl sang. Sometimes it would be the most charming thing in the movie, like Dolores Del Rio singing "You Make Me That Way" in "International Settlement"; sometimes it would drip with maudlin meaning, like "Oh Give Me Time for Tenderness" in "Dark Victory" with the dying Bette Davis singing along with the chanteuse. The pleasures of this kind of trash are not intellectually defensible. But why should pleasure need justification?"
    Pleasures "of this kind of trash" are indeed "intellectually defensible", dear Pauline: it's just that you, like all journalists and movie critics and people of this kind ever, are far too uneducated to figure out how -- and far too weak to dare to grasp the explanation even if someone laid it down, and all the theory it is based on, and all the books in which this theory is elucidated -- under your very nose. But all I am doing here is idly speculating, because the fact is she never got anywhere near these books and this theory, so there's not much point in trying to figure out how she would have reacted if she had. For this is how it is with theory, and with all the uneducated imbeciles who start dabbling in it without a thought for what others may have already achieved before they made their grand entrance on the scene: they condemn themselves to spend their lives struggling with already resolved issues; with old and tired issues; essentially with non-issues; condemn themselves to labor to reinvent the wheel while others are wizzing past them on superbikes and supercars. So the game journalists are still hopelessly frustrated by issues Kael had already overcome by the late '60s, whilst Kael herself was still struggling with issues that Nietzsche had been laughing at already nearly a century before. Neither Kael ever managed to reach the point at which Nietzsche finally dropped out of the race, in early 1889 (due to his health collapsing -- he by no means gave up), nor will the journalists ever reach where Kael was at in 1969. Which leaves just me and you, dear readers -- and I am determined to overtake not only the game journalists and Kael (both of whom, in fact, I have already overtaken in previous essays, and by a huge margin), but eventually even the great philosopher himself. The question left to ask then is: what about you?

    And while I leave you to ponder your answer to this question, I train my sights back onto our friend Pauline. She was pretty damn smart for a woman -- certainly smarter than Roger Ebert, who appears to have learned next to nothing from her, despite looking up to her for much of his early career. And this makes sense, since he is far more womanish than she was, and consequently to a far greater degree dominated by morality -- and therefore dumber: one has only to read his Fight Club review to see this (-- Fight Club is one of those movies that are guaranteed to reveal the mettle and worth of him who attempts to review it; Natural Born Killers, which Ebert also epically misinterpreted, is another). So we see her struggling to stay true to her instincts and desires, despite being incapable of "intellectually justifying" them. "But why should pleasure need justification?", she asks, but provides no answer. And how could she? How could anyone who still remains within good and evil -- who is still, that is to say, dominated by morality -- justify his desire for pleasure? Pleasure, after all --

    "the performance of pleasure -- is in essence perfectly immoral." (Baudrillard)
    Thus Kael's intellectual journey comes to an end here -- at a point, that is to say, an immense distance ahead of our modern pseudo-intellectual videogame artfags. For Kael, at least, had the courage for her instincts (which in every living thing are constantly screaming out for pleasure), despite not being able to dialectically justify them -- a courage which the artfags lack to such a degree that they've gone as far as to convince themselves that art does not need to be enjoyable -- that it does not have to be "fun". Worse: They are claiming something even more absurd: that art, and even more so great art, is not even supposed to be fun. What they would like with all their might to convince us of, what they expend all their energy, cunning and ingenuity to prove (which is why they have none left to pour into real problems), is that

    "we're getting art for our money when we haven't even had a good time". (Kael)
    For Kael here simply takes for granted that the purpose of art is to give pleasure. Pleasure, as far she is concerned, is a prerequisite, an absolute minimum requirement for her to consider anything art -- and she was far from alone in espousing this quaint notion. Didn't Stendhal, the 19th century's greatest connoisseur of art, describe beauty as "a promise of happiness"? Didn't he faint from pleasure at the sight of Florence's artistic treasures, in what later became known as history's first recorded case of Stendhal Syndrome? (One should not, by the way, confound the cause of Stendhal's fainting with that of the American exchange students -- relatives of the game journalists and pseudo-intellectuals, no doubt -- who every year descend on Florence by the thousands, stumbling drunkenly along and passing out in the city's deserted sidewalks every day between midnight and 6 am.)

  7. #7

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    Part 2:

    Quote Originally Posted by The Article
    The artfags, then, have somehow managed to convince themselves that art is not supposed to give pleasure -- or at least not necessarily so; that, at any rate, the question of whether art gives or does not give pleasure, or perhaps even gives displeasure, is an entirely subsidiary one -- perhaps even irrelevant. And our question now, as we attempt to psychoanalyze them and descend, as it were, into their souls is: how did they acquire this unfathomably absurd notion?

    One has to always keep in mind the kind of people we are discussing. Kael is a genuine intellectual, the real deal -- every line she ever wrote betrays it -- her reviews and essays sizzle with perspicacity and wit: there's not a single pseudo-intellectual bone in her entire body. She simply refuses to allow anyone to tell her "what is good for her". If she's not enjoying herself she is not enjoying herself, and you can take your "art" and stick it up your ass. There's even a somewhat wicked streak in her, as can be seen, for example, in her comment about grinning when "the gunman lines up", etc. (-- wickedness being, of course, a prerequisite for any higher spirituality -- wickedness and the courage for this wickedness, i.e. not petty, concealed, subterranean wickedness -- not wickedness, that is to say, which doesn't even cross the threshold of consciousness).

    Compared to her, then, all game journalists, artfags and videogame-intellectuals ever have been children -- not even men-children, properly speaking: little fagots, little physically and mentally stunted child-fagots: this would be a more precise way of describing them. Now what do people like them know about art? What do they know about painting? or sculpture? or literature? or the theatre? or the pseudo-artistic films that Kael makes fun of in her essays -- let alone the real art films that she praises? -- Suffice it to say that they know absolutely nothing about any of that: all the art they've ever been exposed to on their own initiative -- that is to say willingly -- has been comics, action movies and, at best, science fiction novels -- all the while their parents, relatives and schoolteachers railed at them for throwing away their youth. And they kept hearing this for so long that, dutiful little children that they were, they ended up believing it. All the things that gave them pleasure came at length to be associated with the bad conscience, whereas the good conscience was reserved, and had to be reserved, for those things towards which they felt absolutely nothing whatever, which gave them no pleasure at all, which simply bored them to death. Like that time they were dragged to a gallery at the tender age of eleven and made to stare for hours on end at random paint splotches; or that other time in English class when they were forced to listen to readings of Blake or Byron while their eyes glazed over after the first couple of lines; or that other time when, on pain of forfeiting their next month's entire allowance, they were forced to suffer through a performance of King Lear, a downright physically painful ordeal which they only managed to endure by bringing along their Game Boys and plugging away at them in the dark -- I hope that by now the origin of their absurd notion that art is not supposed to give pleasure will have become glaringly obvious? perhaps even to themselves? How else would they have arrived at the tragically anti-natural idea that art is not supposed to be fun? That it is not supposed to be enjoyable? That it is even "farcically bad" to expect art to be fun? Listen, for example, to what Mr. Brendan Lee of insercredit.com has to say about this matter in yet another "Gaming's Citizen Kane" article, of the kind which it has by now become customary for pseudo-intellectual videogame sites to be filled with:

    "This has always been the deciding factor; if a game is fun, it's a good game. If it's not fun, it's bad. This, though, is an almost farcically bad way to judge art. To limit game design to what people find entertaining is to admit defeat before you code your first INCLUDE statement."
    Pitiable drivel like this is what passes for profundity among little nerdy child-fagots. They have been forever ruined by their parents and "society": one simply never gets over such traumatic childhood experiences as these people have lived through (except perhaps by means of the very latest psychiatric methods such as electroshock convulsion therapy -- they should perhaps look into those). But let us leave aside for now the poor tormented child-fagots, and indeed even Pauline Kael, and see what a real man and philosopher -- someone, that is to say, who stands a great deal above even a profoundly aesthetic man like Stendhal -- has to say about the phenomenon of art:

    Nietzsche: "Artists continually glorify -- they do nothing else -- all those states and things that are reputed to give man the opportunity to feel good for once, or great, or intoxicated, or cheerful, or well and wise. These select things and states, whose value for human happiness is considered safe and assured, are the artists' objects. Artists always lie in wait to discover such objects and draw them into the realm of art."
    And what about ugly, depressing, pessimistic art? Surely no one is supposed to enjoy, to take pleasure in art that depicts ugly and unpleasant situations and circumstances?

    Nietzsche: "What is essential in art remains its perfection of existence, its production of perfection and plenitude; art is essentially affirmation, blessing, deification of existence-- What does a pessimistic art signify? Is it not a contradictio?-- Yes.-- Schopenhauer is wrong when he says that certain works of art serve pessimism. Tragedy does not teach "resignation"-- To represent terrible and questionable things is in itself an instinct for power and magnificence in an artist: he does not fear them-- There is no such thing as pessimistic art-- Art affirms. Job affirms.-- But Zola? But the Goncourts?-- The things they display are ugly: but that they display them comes from pleasure in the ugly-- It's no good! If you think otherwise, you are deceiving yourselves."
    Affirmation of tragedy? Pleasure in the ugly? What perverse notions!

    Nietzsche: "What is tragic? On repeated occasions I have laid my finger on Aristotle's great misunderstanding in believing the tragic affects to be two depressive affects, terror and pity. If he were right, tragedy would be an art dangerous to life; one would have to warn against it as notorious and a public danger... One can refute his theory in the most cold-blooded way: namely, by measuring the effects of a tragic emotion with a dynamometer. And one would discover as a result what ultimately only the absolute mendaciousness of a systematizer could misunderstand -- that tragedy is a tonic."
    And the reason tragedy is a tonic is because human beings are by their very nature cruel:

    Nietzsche: "In late ages which may be proud of their humaneness there remains so much fear, so much superstitious fear of the "savage cruel beast", to have mastered which constitues the very pride of those more humane ages, that even palpable truths as if by general agreement, remain unspoken for centuries, because they seem as though they might help to bring back to life that savage beast which has been finally laid to rest. Perhaps I am risking something when I let one of these truths escape: let others capture it again and give it sufficient of the "milk of pious thoughts" for it to lie still and forgotten in its old corner. -- One should open one's eyes and take a new look at cruelty; one should at last grow impatient, so that the kind of immodest fat errors which have, for example, been fostered about tragedy by ancient and modern philosophers should no longer go stalking virtuously and confidently about. Almost everything we call "higher culture" is based on the spiritualization and intensification of cruelty -- this is my proposition; the "wild beast" has not been laid to rest at all, it lives, it flourishes, it has merely become -- deified. That which constitutes the painful voluptuousness of tragedy is cruelty; that which produces a pleasing effect in so-called tragic pity, indeed fundamentally in everything sublime up to the highest and most refined thrills of metaphysics, derives its sweetness solely from the ingredient of cruelty mixed in with it. What the Roman in the arena, the Christian in the ecstasies of the Cross, the Spaniard watching burnings or bullfights, the Japanese today crowding in to the tragedy, the Parisian suburban workman who has a nostalgia for bloody revolutions, the Wagnerienne who, with will suspended, "experiences" Tristan und Isolde -- what all of these enjoy and look with secret ardour to imbibe is the spicy potion of the great Circe "cruelty". Here, to be sure, we must put aside the thick-witted psychology of former times which had to teach of cruelty only that it had its origin in the sight of the suffering of others: there is also an abundant, over-abundant enjoyment of one's own suffering, of making oneself suffer -- and wherever man allows himself to be persuaded to self-denial in the religious sense, or to self-mutilation, as among Phoenicians and ascetics, or in general to desensualization, decarnalization, contrition, to Puritanical spasms of repentance, to conscience-vivisection and to a Pascalian sacrifizio dell'intelletto, he is secretly lured and urged onward by his cruelty, by the dangerous thrills of cruelty directed against himself. Consider, finally, how even the man of knowledge, when he compels his spirit to knowledge which is counter to the inclination of his spirit and frequently also to the desires of his heart -- by saying No, that is, when he would like to affirm, love, worship -- disposes as an artist in and transfigurer of cruelty; in all taking things seriously and thoroughly, indeed, there is already a violation, a desire to hurt the fundamental will of the spirit, which ceaselessly strives for appearance and the superficial -- in all desire to know there is already a drop of cruelty."
    Which by the way neatly accounts for the fact that I, who desire to know more than anyone else, am also the most cruel. -- But let me explain here the one thing Nietzsche never explained. He said that art is affirmation. He said it again and again. But he never got around to explaining exactly why. Why, for example, could art not be negation? Or indifference? Or complete and utter randomness and arbitrariness? Here then is the answer: Art is creation. But to create (-- more precisely, to transform something into something else, for the concept "creation" is strictly speaking meaningless, since nothing can be created out of nothing; what actually always occurs is transformation of one or more things into something else, for example of paint and canvas into a painting --) one needs first to select -- creation presupposes selection; indifference and arbitrariness are therefore out of the question in the artistic act, for one never selects arbitrarily -- "arbitrary selection" is a contradictio in adjecto; that the selection process might be carried on to a great extent unconsciously (as it often is in great art) is no objection to this proposition. Either way, whether selection occurs consciously or unconsciously, criteria and value judgements are, as I have already explained, continuously at play, and in the last resort even the highest consciousness contains in it -- is based upon -- a certain degree of unconsciousness. Therefore, since art entails selection, and since selection is a form of affirmation -- art is affirmation and cannot be conceived of otherwise (-- let alone as negation, which finds expression in destruction, as the exact opposite, that is to say, of the necessarily creative artistic act).

    Once this has been grasped much follows -- above all, the question once again arises, and this time with redoubled urgency, by what exact mechanism does even tragedy, the most extreme seemingly pessimistic artform, give pleasure?

    Nietzsche: "The tragic artist. -- It is a question of strength (of an individual or of a people), whether and where the judgement "beautiful" is applied. The feeling of plenitude, of dammed-up strength (which permits one to meet with courage and good-humor much that makes the weakling shudder) -- the feeling of power applies the judgement "beautiful" even to things and conditions that the instinct of impotence could only find hateful and "ugly". The nose for what we could still barely deal with if it confronted us in the flesh -- as danger, problem, temptation -- this determines even our aesthetic Yes. ("That is beautiful" is an affirmation.)

    From this it appears that, broadly speaking, a preference for questionable and terrifying things is a symptom of strength; while a taste for the pretty and dainty belongs to the weak and delicate. Pleasure in tragedy characterizes strong ages and natures: their non plus ultra is perhaps the divina commedia. It is the heroic spirits who say Yes to themselves in tragic cruelty: they are hard enough to experience suffering as a pleasure.

    Supposing, on the other hand, that the weak desire to enjoy an art that is not meant for them; what would they do to make tragedy palatable for themselves? They would interpret their own value feelings into it; e.g., the "triumph of the moral world-order" or the doctrine of the "worthlessness of existence" or the invitation to "resignation" (-- or half-medicinal, half-moral discharges of affects à la Aristotle). Finally: the art of the terrifying, in so far as it excites the nerves, can be esteemed by the weak and exhausted as a stimulus: that, for example, is the reason Wagnerian art is esteemed today. It is a sign of one's feeling of power and well-being how far one can acknowledge the terrifying and questionable character of things; and whether one needs some sort of "solution" at the end.

    This type of artist's pessimism is precisely the opposite of that religio-moral pessimism that suffers from the "corruption" of man and the riddle of existence -- and by all means craves a solution, or at least a hope for a solution. The suffering, the desperate, self-mistrustful, in a word the sick, have at all times had need of entrancing visions to endure life (this is the origin of the concept "blessedness"). A related case: the artists of decadence, who fundamentally have a nihilistic attitude toward life, take refuge in the beauty of form -- in those select things in which nature has become perfect, in which she is indifferently great and beautiful -- (-- "Love of beauty" can therefore be something other than the ability to see the beautiful, create the beautiful; it can be an expression of the very inability to do so.)

    Those imposing artists who let a harmony sound forth from every conflict are those who bestow upon things their own power and self-redemption: they express their innermost experience in the symbolism of every work of art they produce -- their creativity is gratitude for their existence.

    The profundity of the tragic artist lies in this, that his aesthetic instinct surveys the more remote consequences, that he does not halt shortsightedly at what is closest at hand, that he affirms the large-scale economy which justifies the terrifying, the evil, the questionable -- and more than merely justifies them."
    In summa: The purpose of art is to give pleasure, full stop -- and this applies even to the tragedy, the most extreme seemingly "pessimistic" artform. Tragedy gives pleasure, first: to strong and fearless natures (including the tragic artist himself) by challenging them to imagine themselves in situations they could barely deal with (in which all of their "dammed-up strength", as it were, i.e. all of their energy, could be discharged -- energy discharge being quite simply the essence of pleasure). Then, it gives pleasure to the lower species, to the weak, the sick and the suffering by giving them an opportunity to invent for themselves a noble interpretation of their condition, thereby offering them a measure of relief in the form of an invitation to "resignation" (to their fate, as it were, in the manner of the doomed characters in the tragic play). And finally, to the physiologically and/or spiritually exhausted it provides a much-needed stimulus for their frayed and diseased nerves -- an artificial path to psychological excitation, to rare and elevated feelings, which, being exhausted, they could not have achieved by natural (i.e. non-artistic) means. -- Conclusion: There is, therefore, not the slightest doubt that the purpose of art is to give pleasure, and indeed a videogame can even be defined in such terms as "a machine for giving pleasure" (a definition that should be kept in mind, for we shall be returning to it). Consequently the claims of the artfags and the pseudo-intellectuals that as regards their "artistic games" the issue of pleasure is irrelevant, are naive, idiotic and preposterous -- a game that fails to give pleasure is quite simply a bad game.

    That takes care of one enormous psychological false-coinage perpetrated by the pseuds -- but there are many others. So let us continue with our ruthlessly cruel (I hope that my readers will by now be able to see this as an approbation?) examination of the so-called "artistic" movement in videogames. Let us hold back our disgust at the gross insipidity and intellectual uncleanliness with which the pseuds have spun their mind-bewildering web of absurdities and lies, so as to be able to plunge even further into the perversely twisted workings of their minds.

  8. #8

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    Part 3

    Quote Originally Posted by the article
    Having forbidden themselves discussing and evaluating their "art games" in terms of pleasure, they therefore need another criterion in order to be able to discuss them at all. It is vitally important that these "art games" not be judged according to the criterion of pleasure, since this would immediately expose their complete and utter worthlessness: after all, five minutes of OutRun 2 or Crysis are more fun than all their shitty games put together -- and they know it. They must therefore find another criterion according to which some of their "art games" can be considered more "artful" than others. And this is where the meanings (and especially the hidden, all-too-hidden meanings...) and the messages come in. It's already an old and tired story (not that the artfags, being uneducated, would be in any way aware of it...): what occurred previously in painting with the gradual shift toward Abstraction, in poetry with the abandonment of rhythmic structure, in the plastic arts with the introduction of the ready-mades, and so on and so forth in every single artform -- the same exact process is currently unfolding itself in the world of videogames before our very eyes. To begin with what occurred in painting, the turning point comes with the appearance of Impressionism. This style, though clearly vastly inferior to previous schools of painting (a fact of course which art critics of the time did not fail to point out, deriding Impressionist works as "sloppy, lazy, unfinished sketches"), was at least still focused on giving the viewer pleasure. So while Impressionism, on the one hand, clearly represented a vulgarization of painting, a relaxing of the bow of the artform (-- every highly evolved artform is a tensed bow), an enormous lowering of the barriers to entry for new painters, far lower than what was required to paint, e.g., in the Romantic, Neoclassic, Rococo, or Baroque styles, and indeed in any previously existing style barring perhaps some very primitive ones such as the Merovingian, Carolingian, Romanesque, etc. -- i.e. pre-Renaissance painting -- nevertheless, an aspiring Impressionist still had to know how to wield the brush. The barriers to entry might have been lowered, but certainly not so much that any bungler could come in and be on an equal footing with the masters. And, at the same time, this development was directly reflected in the amount of aesthetic enjoyment these new paintings produced in those who viewed them: so that, while a Monet or a Renoir could ultimately never give as much pleasure as a Rubens or a Rembrandt, at least they weren't exactly bad to look at. Nevertheless the decisive step, the step back -- to a previous, much lower, standard of complexity -- had been taken, but since it wasn't exactly a step back, i.e. not exactly back to a previously existing style, but back and sideways, as it were, diagonally back, i.e. to a style which, though less complex than contemporary standards, at least came in a different, altogether new form -- it appeared to the ignorant and the feebleminded as if Impressionism had suddenly opened up a new path forward. The path was indeed new, but it was leading backward not forward -- more clearly downward. Now, if the fate of this new style had been up to the art critics and the art lovers among the nobility whose patronage had sustained painting (and hence painters) throughought the many centuries it had taken to reach the heights of Baroque and Rococo, things would have certainly turned out differently -- but unfortunately it wasn't. For the appearance and spread of Impressionism coincided with (indeed was made possible by) the appearance in France and other Western European nations of a burgeoning middle class, from whose ranks painting would henceforth increasingly draw, not only its artists, but also its critics and viewers. For painting previously, i.e. before the French Revolution, was, like the rest of the arts, the exclusive province of the nobility; no one else had the time or the money to concern himself with them. Given, then, such a highly restricted, and therefore highly discerning and demanding public, expectations and standards remained extremely high throughout centuries, ensuring that only the most competent artists were selected and promoted. The result was a vertiginous rise of the art of painting, to such heights indeed from which the masterpieces of the Renaissance finally came to seem like stilted, awkward sketches next to what artists were achieving three centuries later. -- All this suddenly disappears once the masses have been unleashed on the art of painting, and any bungler can make a name for himself by playing the virtuoso in front of uneducated half-peasants who were born yesterday and don't know any better. Impressionism therefore was not, as is often said, the cause of the decline of painting but its consequence -- the cause was the opening up of the artform to the masses. The decisive moment, therefore, was not, strictly speaking, the appearance of Impressionism, as I said earlier, but the French Revolution which eventually led to the creation and rise of the middle class -- the temporal disparity between the two events being merely the time it took for the ripples of the political catastrophe to arrive and make themselves felt in the domain of painting (as they would eventually be felt in every one of the various areas of culture). -- What followed after Impressionism is, of course, history, and indeed such abysmally wretched history that I cannot even be bothered to seriously study it, much less relate it in any detail. Briefly then, with the appearance of the ludicrous, childish, and even grotesque visual abortions, first of the Expressionists and then of the Cubists (the former of which were merely further degenerate Impressionistic works, i.e. made by artists who were not even competent enough to paint in the Impressionist style, while the latter finally regressing to the level of children's and cavemen's stick-figure doodles), the floodgates were at last thrown open, and the random paint splotches of the so-called "Abstract" style which followed shortly after (a style without any rules whatsoever, that is to say a non-style, a free-for-all pseudo-style invented specifically for the benefit of the most lazy, the most talentless, the most incorrigibly incompetent pseudo-artists), signalled the death of painting. Finally some random dude like William Burroughs could come in, with no prior training in painting whatsoever, indeed with a downright contempt and disdain for the artform, place some cans of spray paint in front of blank canvasses and blow them up with a fucking shotgun for christake, then go on to exhibit in galleries the resulting splattered canvasses as "High Art", indeed as on a par with the glories of a Raphael or a Titian -- without anyone spontaneously erupting in side-splitting laughter, then taking the idiot's "paintings" off the wall and smashing them in his face. -- So much for painting then. In the realm of music the story is fundamentally the same, differing only in the details. Setting aside classical music (which, rooted in a largely ecclesiastical-liturgical tradition stretching all the way back to the ninth century, finally reached during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the highest stage of richness and complexity of music ever achieved by man), the peasant/folk traditions from which jazz, blues, country, soul, funk, etc. were descended, finally gave rise to rock and roll, and thence to heavy metal -- a style of music which, though nowhere near as complex as classical music, was still a relatively demanding art, especially in its "epic" and "power" varieties. But then along came punk rock, a far simpler, far easier (both on the ears and the musicians) form of rock, in short a degenerate form -- though still of course to an extent enjoyable (in short, the "Impressionism" of rock and roll music), basically the kind of music perfectly suited for the masses of "rebelling" middle-class baby-boomers who were coming of age at the time, and who, being young and ignorant and stupid, lacked the necessary adequately refined taste faculty to demand more from their musicians. Punk rock would consequently further degenerate to various even simpler sub-genres (grunge, etc.), at which point any slightly-stoned unshaved dude in a flannel shirt could pass himself off as a master musician by simply strumming a couple of power chords while jumping up and down and yelling incoherently (and finally committing suicide -- this being the distinguishing mark of the successful musician, the cherry on the top of his performance, as it were, the coup de grâce of the virtuoso, with music as clown- and freak-show) -- all this being a process which, to make a long story short, occurred also in a similar manner (which is to say in form, not in the details) in every other genre, all these trends finally leading down to and coalescing into various forms of so-called "experimental music" which, once again, had abandoned all pretense at style, thus signalling the final dissolution of music. Once you get to smelly rastafarian dudes standing on their heads and banging pots and pans (it's called "environmental music", a style of "music" which had basically regressed to the stage of half-naked savages with chunks of bone stuck in their hair sitting on trees and banging snake-skin drums), you might as well go home because the whole farce is over. -- And again with poetry. The various strict metric styles, invented and laboriously refined in the various traditions over centuries, were eventually abandoned in the first half of the twentieth century as too "restrictive" (in plain terms: too difficult to adhere to), leading to an utterly random, utterly formless and unrestrained "style" (-- more accurately, then, once more, a non-style --), the so-called "free verse" (which is basically a euphemism for "prose", for poetry is exactly that style of writing which is not free for christsake, which adheres to certain metrical constraints), of which Robert Frost once remarked that it was "like playing tennis without a net". What remained then was to take the final step in this direction -- final because it brought the entire ludicrous process full circle -- and this was achieved by the so-called "prose poetry", which is simply a contradictio in adjecto, i.e. nonsense, since prose and poetry are defined as the opposite ends of a spectrum for christsake! -- And that was the fate of Homer's art: to degenerate into a contradictio in adjecto. -- And finally, to wrap up this mind-bewildering litany of wretchedness and perversion, in the plastic arts there is no longer anyone who has the skill (or who can be bothered to attempt to acquire it --) to painstakingly carve out of blocks of pure marble anything even remotely resembling the statues of the Greeks, the Romans, or the masters of the Renaissance; consequently, what passes itself off as "plastic art" today are the descendants of Picasso's metal monstrosities, Duchamp's urinals and Manzoni's crocks of shit -- meaning whatever piece of junk modern "artists" might care to randomly slap together. -- In short, while older artists throughout entire millennia created, elevated and refined the arts, giving pleasure to innumerable human beings, indeed practically inventing entire new worlds of pleasure -- modern ones seem hell-bent on remaining entangled in a debased, pretentious, hypocritical pseudo-artistic process of "creation" which culminates with

    "the non-exhibition of non-works in non-galleries -- the apotheosis of art as a non-event. As a corollary, the consumer circulates in all this in order to experience his non-enjoyment of the works." (Baudrillard)
    In conclusion: As each art deteriorates and degenerates due to the gradual abandonment of laboriously invented and refined conventions (which, contrary to popular belief, do not restrict an art but on the contrary create, refine, and help it flourish -- the reason bunglers find conventions "restrictive" is because they lack the training and discipline required to adhere to them and the talent and creativity to add to (i.e. further complexify) and/or modify them), we find in every field the same movement: a regression to previous, in many cases even primitive critical standards. Moreover, at the same time as standards collapse the number of aspiring artists increases (indeed, as we have seen, it is this very increase that leads to the collapse, the two movements unfolding simultaneously once the masses have been "emancipated" and the means of artistic creation become widely available), whilst the resulting artworks come to increasingly resemble a repulsive junk- and rubbish-soup that no one in their right mind would want to have anything to do with. "In this sense, therefore," says Baudrillard, in his essay "Transaesthetics" (from The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena),

    "inasmuch as we have access to neither the beautiful nor the ugly, and are incapable of judging, we are condemned to indifference."
    But Baudrillard's love of hyperbole and his aversion to rigorously structured writing (for he thought quite rigorously -- he just did not write that way) cause him to commit an error here -- in fact two of them. Because our problem is not, as he says, that we "lack access" to the beautiful and the ugly (for the works of the masters obviously haven't gone anywhere: we still "have access" to them) -- our problem is solely with the new stuff that's being made, all of which has at last become so abysmally ugly that no one can any longer be bothered to sit down with a microscope and try to figure out which repulsive aesthetic monstrosity is less repulsive than the others. Therefore, we are not "condemned to indifference" because we are "incapable of judging" -- we are condemned to indifference because we can't be bothered to judge, because we quite simply do not want to.

    This, however, should not be taken to mean that we no longer care about art -- only about what passes for modern art. It goes without saying that we still care about classical art, whether that be the statues of antiquity, the frescoes of the Renaissance, the plays of the seventeenth century or the symphonies of the eighteenth. And, at the same time, we care about the popular art which contemporary "artists" and "critics" (i.e. pseudo-artists and pseudo-critics) see as beneath them: we care about photography, the cinema and comic books, as well as the works of modern illustrators (who are the true, if inferior, descendants of the painters...), and all genres of genuinely nuanced contemporary music. Some of us even care about stuff like resin statues of movie or comic book heroes, which -- say of them what you will -- are a great deal closer to the sculptures of antiquity than the randomly slapped-together garbage that desperately tries to pass itself off today as "plastic art". In short, any form of contemporary popular art, inasmuch as it gives pleasure to anyone, to anyone at all, stands on an immeasurably higher level than "modern art" -- which gives pleasure to no one, not even, as we shall soon be seeing, to those who pretend to enjoy it.

    This double movement, then, which consists partly in rediscovering antique art, and partly in embracing contemporary popular artforms, is how healthy people react to the phenomenon of "modern art" (i.e. to the complete and utter dissolution of artistic convention in every sphere and the reduction of everything to a garbage soup). But not everyone reacts like this -- not everyone, that is to say, is healthy. More specifically, two species of subhuman, the hipster (in my terminology, the "artfag") and the absurdly rich, react in a very different manner, a manner which is worth investigating. Briefly, then, the hipsters are ready to worship as art any object whatsoever, however ugly and worthless, provided it belongs neither to antique art (which they regard as outmoded) nor to popular art (which is, well, popular), whilst the rich make no such distinctions: they'll simply buy the most expensive artworks they can afford, meaning either antique ones or modern (i.e. excluding contemporary popular works which, due to their being produced in great numbers, never manage to reach the astronomical prices that are required to get the rich interested in them -- prices which only the unique, unreproducible artworks can ever hope to achieve). So even though an illustration by someone like, say, a Brom or a Terada may require immeasurably more skill to create and be immensely more beautiful (in a word, more "artful") than some abstract painting abortion that's "worth" millions, the hipsters will stay away from it because it's popular and the rich because it's cheap. In short, so-called "modern art" is sustained exclusively by the interest of the hipsters and the absurdly rich, while no one else really gives a fuck about it. -- And now comes the million-dollar question: What do these people get out of this absurd behavior? For they can't be going to all this trouble for nothing -- there's got to be something in it for them. And what's in it for them is social status -- they find in this so-called "modern art" a means for advancement in what I call "the slave game" -- the game for social distinction. To take each case separately, the hipsters -- being generally stupid, lazy, utterly talentless, with no skills whatsoever, usually even extremely ugly -- need some sort of trick, some sort of cunning, subterranean stratagem in order to compete with the strong, the intelligent, the beautiful and the talented, and they find this in affecting an air of "higher intellectuality" -- in attempting, that is to say, to appear as if they stood on a higher plane compared to everyone else at least in one respect: in the intellectual-artistic sphere -- a sphere in which they have observed that uneducated people (i.e. those who lack a solid philosophical background) are extremely easy to dupe. The rich, on the other hand, have the exact opposite problem: they are already sitting at or very near the heights of social status, and are therefore in need of some way of surpassing their peers, of distinguishing themselves even further -- some new set of rules, to put it in our language, which will allow them to continue playing the game between them. Their fundamental problem is that, since bank account balances cannot be exhibited, they lack a high-score board to compare their progress between them. Up to a certain point non-artistic acquisitions such as mansions, jets and private islands will do the job -- but only up to a point, because the exchange-values (i.e. the price-tags) of all these things is intimately connected with their use-values, and hence are not free to skyrocket out of all proportion. What they therefore need is utterly repulsive, useless knick-knacks that no one could possibly want (i.e. with zero use-value, so that there's no chance of them ever becoming popular), and which they can therefore arbitrarily invest with whatever exchange-value they want as an excuse to throw entire fortunes at them -- and to be seen doing so. -- In both cases, then, art no longer serves to give pleasure in itself, but is instead used as a chip in the slaves' game of social distinction, as a means to an increase of social status -- and it is this increase which provides the pleasure, and for the sake of which the artfags and the rich will stop at nothing to appear to be worshipping little preposterous, repulsive, useless knick-knacks. So we see that even in this case, the most extreme case of ugliness in art (for in the entire history of art nothing has ever been created even remotely as ugly as modern art -- Baudrillard: "thus painting currently cultivates, if not ugliness exactly... then the uglier-than-ugly (the "bad", the "worse", "kitsch"), an ugliness raised to the second power") -- even in this case the artworks (i.e. the knick-knacks) still manage to give pleasure, but indirectly -- not through the effect they have on their owner, but due to their effect on everyone else -- on everyone but the owner! A fact which explains why these "artworks" no longer need to be beautiful -- quite the opposite in fact, they must necessarily be ugly, otherwise they'd end up becoming popular and would no longer be suitable to serve as the ultimate chips in the slave game. -- What is most remarkable about this whole business, and can be discerned only now, once it has been properly analyzed, is how the artfags, who reside at the bottom of the slave game, and the absurdly rich, who stand at the top, end up turning to the same means in their struggle to raise themselves higher, and in a sense collaborate, with the artfags creating repulsive trinkets and the rich buying them up, thus meeting each other at the point of inversion -- where the game comes full circle, and reveals itself for what it is.

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