Why We Create Art

Greg just wrote about Why do we do what we do? and eloquently summed up the hard-to-define reason for why we at Intuition create art:

These are all things that fester inside me and I desperately want to expel them.  Not that they’re demons of any shape, but it’s this compulsion to create that drives me.

I really like how he put this because it can be difficult to put into words.  He makes it look easy.  The only other thing I can compare this to is something from Judeo-Christian culture – the psalm.  This compulsion is why I created MEHC.  It’s not the kind of game I like to play, but I just needed to make it somehow.

Alec Holowka was kind enough to respond to Greg’s post and suggested we check out his recent post Why Art?.  I was inspired enough by both of them that my comment to both of their posts turned into this.  Check them out if you haven’t yet.

In Response To “Why Art?”

I’m very comforted and honored to be amongst such final gentlemen who can present a rational argument.  Alec makes a good point that anger about discussing art often comes from fear or misunderstanding.  I especially like the video he posted – that says as much about his point as the words that follow it.  We’re just a part of the continuum, communicating something about humanity to each other through time.  And because we are unique, the message will be different for each person.  I like that attitude.

What I got from his argument about why games are art specifically seems to be that art gives him something about life to relate to, and because games also give him something to relate to, that makes them art.  I would go even further and say that art is created (it doesn’t just happen), communicates something human (a story/idea/emotion), and is otherwise “non-functional.”  By that, I mean that the thing in question has no function other than the act of communication itself (thus separating the word from design).  And because video games have these properties, they are art, too.

I was a little confused by the statement about art being subjective, though.  Did he mean that the experience of art is subjective?  Or the work of art itself is subjective?  There is a distinction to make here, and it partially forms the basis to my answer of “Why art?”.

I believe that art can be perceived in a subjective way.  But isn’t the work of art itself – the video game in this case – an object?  It is a collection of code and binary data running on a computer of some sort with input and output.  That makes it material, existing in reality, which is objective by definition.

Furthermore, because art “speaks to us,” that seems to make it objective, too.  Something is doing the speaking, and I think the thing that speaks doesn’t really change.  It is we who change and hear different things.

Therefore, I’d say that a more specific argument would state that the perception of art is subjective, based on each of our life experiences and unique brains, while the work itself is objective.  That can explain why we can look at a film several years later and see or learn something different.  The film itself remains unchanged, but our perception of it changes.  It communicates something about humanity in a different way than before, because we understand humanity in a different way than before.

I think this distinction is important because it suggests that a work of art is unchanging, yet communicates on a level higher than normal understanding.  The fact that we can return to an object and subjectively learn something new suggests that we can’t fully comprehend the work all at once.

To me, that gives art a magical quality (in the emotional sense).  That is one of the reasons why I think it’s important to call games art.

Saving the World

In the comments of Greg’s post, Alex and Greg were discussing saving the world with art.  The notion may seem impossible to some, but I’d argue that we are living proof that it can work.  Inspiring people through creation seems to be one of the simplest (though still very hard!) ways to change the world with art.  Saving it is just a few steps away.

By making something of incredible quality that communicates to people and inspires them in a lasting way, you can inspire them to either change or to create themselves.  And them creating will often lead to change later.  Here’s a quote from Eva Zeisel to illustrate my point:

It’s very difficult to know exactly whether to live for an ideology or even to live for doing good.  But there cannot be anything wrong in making a pot, I’ll tell you.  When making a pot you can’t bring any evil into the world.

Just think about the games we’ve played that have inspired us to make games ourselves.  Those games have done good things because they have inspired us to create, and those acts of creation have changed us.  Those games have changed the world.  Saving it is just a few steps away.

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