Friday, March 30, 2007

Virtual and Vicarious Open Thread

I'll be the first to admit that the advances in virtual reality technology always makes my paranoid mind jump forward to the point where humans prefer (or are forced) to live in some chosen virtual world more than than they do the real one (yes, I'm a geek...that's the plot of The Matrix, I know). But I always reassure myself that there's nothing to worry about because virutal reality and video games and the like are only really popular among younger people. As they age, folks will outgrow their interest in those alternate realities, eventually, and return to the physical world. And besides, it's only the guys who get really obsessed with such diversions...and they'll eventually give them up when, you know, Spring turns their thoughts to other pasttimes.

Then there was
this story in today's New York Times about how retirees are increasingly embracing video games and interactive (Wii) type technology:

PopCap Games in Seattle, the maker of the diversions so popular at St. Mary, says its games have been downloaded more than 200 million times since the company was founded in 2000. A spokesman said that the company was stunned by results of a customer survey last year: 71 percent of its players were older than 40, 47 percent were older than 50, and 76 percent of PopCap players were women.

It turns out that older users not only play video games more often than their younger counterparts but also spend more time playing per session. is a Web site that offers “casual” games, easy to play and generally less complicated than the war, sports and strategy games favored by hard-core gamers. According to Electronic Arts, the game publisher that runs the site, people 50 and older were 28 percent of the visitors in February but accounted for more than 40 percent of total time spent on the site. On average women spent 35 percent longer on the site each day than men.
So much for my theory about outgrowing the games and women saving us men from our addictive selves. But still, there are experiences that folks will still want to have in real life because the idea of virutal versions of them seem silly (and I don't mean just sex), no? I mean, if you know something's virutal, it won't have the same emotional impact as something real and potentially really dangerous (unlike only virtually dangerous). Right?

Then I came across this article by James Westcott on
Artreview: blog:

Body art without the body

A project called
Synthetic Performances by the new media pranksters (yes, I had to copy and paste that) recreates some classics of 1970s body art in the online mega-game Second Life: Vito Acconci's Seedbed [performance view above, from website], Valie Export's Tapp und Tastkino, and Chris Burden's Shoot.
Fortunately, before I got too wound up by the potential significance of this, I read Westcott's sane and calming analysis:

This is disembodied body art: verification, if we needed it, of how far we've come, or what we're left with, since the 70s. Physical presence and the notion of the present -- the pious twin tenets of performance art back then -- are totally satirized here (but there's a nostalgia too). You can't have them and comically don't get them online, neither the sense of endurance or pain. The strenuous authenticity that powered these original performances is irrelevant online. You do get the ephemarality and the pure spectacle though.
Consider this an open thread:

Labels: virtual art


Anonymous David said...

Wescott: The strenuous authenticity that powered these original performances is irrelevant online.

Is it any less "virtual" to experience a painting or sculpture exhibition through an article in a magazine or a newspaper?

3/30/2007 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Speaking of video games, during the photography thread, I had this idea. I'm going to do video game art. What video art does to Hollywood movies, I'll do to video games; that is, remove all entertainment, humor, purpose, and interest from them to make them into art objects. Then people will go to a gallery in Chelsea to "play" them.

All I need is twenty PCs.

3/30/2007 02:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pierre huyghe has already done that

but i wholeheartedly approve

3/30/2007 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger nathaniel said... great escape has been doing this for a while, and that sample image is almost identical - when is the mateas work from?

3/30/2007 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

What video art does to Hollywood movies, I'll do to video games; that is, remove all entertainment, humor, purpose, and interest from them...

You're going to teach a graduate course on video games?

3/30/2007 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Come on, graduate courses can be fun! There' Grad courses suck.

But a grad course in video art, that must suck squared.

3/30/2007 06:18:00 PM  

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