Archive for March, 2010

Story Without Narrative

The two mediums that appear to have the most trouble convincing the general public of their artistic merit are probably videogames and ironically Fine Art. Show most people The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living and they’re more likely to say “A shark in formaldehyde is not Art” than applaud the artist’s creative vision. So I want to write a few posts exploring some links between the two mediums. Not because I’m fighting some sort of “Games are ert” culture war but because I just think it’s an interesting thought experiment. This means I really don’t want to read comments along the lines of “Games are not/are Art” or “A shark in formaldehyde is/ is not Art”. Okay cool we’ve all put our bull horns and pitchforks down and replaced them with thinking caps? Right let’s begin.

A picture says a thousand words and often they tell a story.

In a beautiful essay titled Knifers Elatia Harris describes the above painting like so

Margaret wants to chase a butterfly, Mary wants to restrain her — beguiled as she is by the butterfly herself. It is nothing if not big-sisterly to think how to keep someone barely younger than you safe — even from butterflies. Margaret is young enough to desire and reach in one moment, Mary old enough to desire and pull back.

That perfectly describes how the painting tells a small, simple and definitely poinagnt story. But consider for a moment that the painting does not tell us the story in the way we normally expect. It is basically a story without narrative.  We the people who think too much about games often talk about how they lack authorial control because as players we control how we interact with the game. Yet we forget that this is nothing new. Does it matter if when you look at this painting you look at Margaret or Mary first? Do you notice the butterfly before you notice the girls holding hands? Do you take note of the trees behind them? Do you get an inch from the canvas and really stare at the brush work? Everyone’s experience of this painting will be different so how does it manage to convey the author’s intent?



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