Monday, July 7, 2008



In the morning I took the SkyTrain into downtown and walked into Stanley Park, a large park adjacent to downtown. It's bigger than Central Park in New York, and really well maintained. The park is almost an island, surrounded mostly by water, but connected to downtown. There are walking/running lanes around the outside of the park along the water, and inside that, a pair of biking/rollerskating paths.

Walking around downtown, it was a pretty cool place. I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery, which was a very contemporary museum. There was a large, two-floor series dedicated to comics, cartoons, and video games. Another exhibit was showed the work of a Chinese performance artist who worked with forms of the body. There are pictures of him and others, generally naked, doing unusual things. It, along with some of the other exhibits were not exactly my thing. There was a large exhibit of paintings by female Canadian artists that contained some more conventional forms, some of which I really liked. I also enjoyed the work of an indiginous artists, which included some instillations and an exhibit about a project where she took a giant megaphone she took around the country, having people talk to the land.

The video game section was curated by Will Wright who created SimCity and The Sims. It featured eight video games that were important to the field. What upset me about this exhibit was that two of the video games were The Sims and Spore, a game Will Wright is currently making. What role exactly he had in choosing the games and coming up with the copy I don't know, but in more than one places it described Spores as highly anticipated and predicted it would change the industry forever. Additionally, The Sims is described as being important because it took as it's subject every day life. I would surely agree that The Sims is an important game, and maybe for the reasons he talked about, but I have some real issues with the exhibit. First and most important, the text on Spores and the images of the coming game looked a lot like an advertisement. These days video games permere to first weekend grosses comperable to big budget movies, so for a promotion for one of them to come in the form of art exhibit feels like what is sometimes refered to as corporate creep, the sense that private corporations are making their way into all aspects of our culture. Naomi Klein talks about this in No Logo in the section No Space.

Another issue I had with the exhibit is that I have never seen the video game read as a form of art. As a recent student of the liberal arts, I don't reject the possibility, but there should certainly be some sort of standard for evaluating each work. What consitutes the game? The game art? The standard play of the game? Secret levels? Cheat codes? What about modifications (mods)? One of the games featured was Quake, in part for the numerous mods made for it. What about MMORPG or other linkable games. Is the online interaction part of the form? When you play Super Smash Brothers Brawl, it warns you that content is not rated by the ESRB. What about Second Life, which may not be a game at all, but rather a platform. Video games are a form of performace art performed not by the artist but by the viewer. It has the potential for a very interesting dialogue about the nature of art, but none of this was discussed. Rather, there were eight short reviews, two of which featured the work of the curator, one of which he will soon be trying to sell to all those people who came through the museum.

Still, I enjoyed the exhibit, and walking around downtown Vancouver, and definitely had a good day.

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