Walter Benjamin // Games as Art
|February 15, 2011||Posted by Cayden under I Wrote This|
Today I lectured on The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. I usually don’t lecture in my courses, but I wasn’t sure how to cover the breadth and depth of this essay for my students in the dialogic mode that we normally use, with students teaching each other material and asking questions of one another. I have some fragments of maybe the start of some larger project here, which of course needs some further research, but I’m going to post these fragments in fits and starts because at least they’re interesting and maybe shed some light on the theoretical work that I’ve been entertaining lately. I don’t plan on editing these much at the moment, but maybe in the future I will. This first chunk is a little boring compared to the others — it’s about regarding games as art.
In defense of games as an art form, Benjamin concisely makes the point that, in the case of these 19th century innovations in the technology of art, critics and commentators were very ready to jump down the throats of film and photography in order to prove that they aren’t art. This argument, of course, logically extends to video games. Benjamin points out that, throughout the history of technological innovation and its integration with contemporary art, there have been thinkers on both sides of the divide over whether or not these new technological forms produce something which may be considered art.
I think there will be a time where we will look at this debate as “devious and confused.” Benjamin suggests that the debate between photography and painting ignores the fact that it is a symptom of a historical transformation that meant the cult value of art is eliminated, and the work of art ceases to be autonomous. The work of art must now be related to something outside of art. He also suggests that the realization of the problem of applying traditional aesthetics to new technological processes is something that takes time. Early theories of film, like early theories of video games, are “insensitive and forced.” Instead of placing the stakes in arguing from a backward-facing aesthetic and social theory, Benjamin suggests that we must look at the past and present, and orient our aesthetic theory toward the future. This seems really obvious when it’s put like this, but, as you may have seen already this semester, these things aren’t exactly self-evident.