I’m not sure where I saw this, but The Video Game Art Museum totally makes me flip my shit. I worked in picture framing for nearly two decades, so I’ve spent a good parcel of the my life thinking about how and why people display art. I’m not a visual artist, and I have no academic or other formal training in the arts – short of some trade-based stuff about conservation practices and the like – so I’m not talking about how and why we create art, but the more unromantic issue of what we decide to hang on the walls in our homes. So the concept of displayed art within an art medium itself is bananas – a simulacra within a simulacra – but then taking it a step further and decontectualizing the recursive art from the simulated display environment…that’s pretty much a recipe for me to start breathing into a bag.
To quote the Manifesto-ish blog that goes along with the VGAM:
Over the course of this residency I will be creating The Video Game Art Museum (VGAM). VGAM is constructed with art objects appropriated from the backgrounds of video games. In their original context, these “works” function as proxies, or simulations, of art. By recontextualizing these simulations into a virtual gallery, VGAM will playfully refocus attention onto the works themselves, explore the intersection of art and simulation, and satirize recent institutional forays into the subject of video games and art (see the Smithsonian’s The Art of Video Games and Google Art Project).
My interest in this subject extends from the proxy, a simulation to be replaced by the object it mimics. I am interested both in the theatricality of these forms, which communicate function while often obscuring or containing meaningless content, and the irony/humor that arises in cases where the simulation and the simulated begin to converge, and the distinction between the two becomes muddied.
A colleague once pointed out to me that people have to love the things they are framing; it wouldn’t be worth it otherwise, given the cost of custom framing. Before getting into fine art, I’ll just observe that people tend to frame whole bunches of things that aren’t fine art at all: family portraits, diplomas, awards, letters, programs, personal effects like jewelry, lace, embroidery, ticket stubs, rugs, or even in one memorable case, a taxidermied turkey’s tail fan. (Yuck.) All of these items have meaning for the person framing them, a reason for displaying it. Often they are reminders of events, but cultural expressiveness can factor (as is the case with a lot of textile items like antique christening dresses or Grandma’s handmade lace), as well as memorializing the dead.
Much of the sort of low-level fine art is framed for these same reasons. Posters are often commemorative and commercial, printed on very low quality paper and intended, as the name implies, to post. Posters are often well designed or have fine art embedded within them – like I could not even tell you how many of the the posters for the Monet exhibit that went through Chicago I framed – but they are still ephemeral. The display of “I was there” is as important as the art when framing band flyers, marathon posters and tourist art.
I have an abiding love for tourist art. People often tell these wistful, reverential stories about their acquisition of a piece of art that is close to mass produced, but with this tiny touch of the personal imprinted on it. While I don’t particularly like Pop Art aesthetically – with some exceptions – I really love the play and the thought behind it, and tourist art is often in this weird pop tradition. It’s not unusual to see tourist art – like the sketches of buildings – that are hand-colored xeroxes of an image, but with little flourishes to disguise the xerox template. Mass production disguised as artisanal for the purposes of interpellation. It’s Warholian, except unlike Warhol it’ll totally work in the breakfast nook.
From the blog again:
The first set of images in the archive (posted 1/4/14 and 1/5/14) are pulled from Final Fantasy VI. The game cannibalizes it own graphics to create the images used as art within its universe. For instance, the exact arrangement of pixels which comprise a chair also comprise a painting of a chair. The art precisely simulates the environment it exists in. It is virtual realism.
Fine art is institutional, and I mean that in all of its lazy entendre. Much fine art is created for and hung by institutions, either aesthetic wallpaper for the corporate environment or displayed by the museum for community edification. The average person may hang a copy of this institutional display in their home, but she does it for personal reasons. The Video Game Art Museum is so funny to me, this kinky, comic observation of the recursive artistic display. Whoa.