Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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Iris Rants: Pushing for Better Virtual Art is Great, But Don't Mistake Art You Don't Like for Bad Art in General

Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

SL artist and machinimator Botgirl Questi recently wrote a somewhat controversial post on her blog, criticisizing the abundance of trite, cliché personal avatar photography that often appears on Flickr and in response to artistic prompts from Single Frame Stories, a popular weekly SL photography challenge. her post has provoked some discussion on Plurk, and not all of it has been positive.

It's easy enough to see why some people might see her post as a bit of a personal insult, but even if the post itself rubs you the wrong way Botgirl has some great advice that virtual artists (both aspiring and established) should pay attention to... And so do I.

Botgirl's argument is pretty simple: Press beyond the very first idea that springs to mind when you're engaging with a challenge theme, so you can get something more out of it and engage on a deeper level. Clichés become clichés because they're easily accessible. They're concepts that for one reason or another are floating around on the top of your mind. You don't have to reach deep for them, but they're not unique to you either. The ideas that distinguish your mind and your style are usually past the surface, and they can be a little harder to access -- maybe you have to brainstorm or flow chart or even just sleep on it to get to them, but they're there.

My knee-jerk reaction to Botgirl's post wasn't exactly positive, either, even though I largely agree with what she's saying and what she's pushing for. I'm judgemental about my work, and the work of others... But just because I don't like your art doesn't mean it's bad art. My mom loves playing with SL snapshots in Photoshop, and her work sometimes wavers along the lines of a gothic Thomas Kincaid. Definitely not my tastes, but she likes what she's creating, and it makes her happy. It's just not for me, and that's okay.

When it comes to Single Frame Stories, pushing people to reach deeper for their inspiration is a great idea because it will produce much more diverse and unique entries. It will encourage people to really show off what makes their ideas special, rather than rehashing ideas drawn from a shared cultural pool over and over again. However it's still important to remember that when you're creating something for fun, your first concern should always be creating what you yourself enjoy, even if no one else does. When you're only creating for others and ignoring your own tastes, you're probably creating for all the wrong reasons.

(Image credit: Botgirl Questi)

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Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.


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Botgirl Questi

I didn't intend the post to come off as critical or controversial. I was mostly thinking out loud about all of the photostreams I noticed on Flicker that were mostly full of years of selfies. I don't judge the avatar selfie phenomenon as good or bad. For instance, I wrote,"there's clearly a great psychological appeal to that kind of image . . . maybe this phenomenon is a reflection of a yearning for an unrealized inner Muse . . . perhaps it's a reflection of our unhealthy obsession with media's unrealistic idealized nubile female archetype."

I totally support whatever creative expression anyone wants to pursue. The invitation to go beyond one's first thought on a topic was spawned by my own self-reflection about my first take on the "wall" prompt. And for me, it's less about the work that's created than the insights that the process can stimulate.

Tracy Redangel

I suppose it all depends on one's outlook of what Second Life is. For some women, a LOT of women it IS like playing with a virtual Barbie doll, so they thoroughly enjoy taking pics of themselves getting dressed up in pretty clothes. For me personally, I like to play dress up in SL because it relaxes me. I'm not creating high art, or socially relevant images I'm just trying to decompress from work.
I understand the point Botgirl is trying to make, but I can understand why some were a little taken aback and insulted by what she wrote.


Personally I wouldn't invest in making art shots in a platform where most of the content is proprietary material belonging to a number of people. Just as I wouldn't create artsy shots of World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2.

I think everyone here is mixing up art and tourist shots. The selfies everyone is up in arms about are simply tourist pics of places visited and outfits worn. It isn't meant to be art. I certainly don't think my pics are artistic. I'm not trying to convince people they are artistic and neither are the majority of SL pic takers in Flickr claiming the title of art.

But here is the irony, all those selfies garner a lot of publicity for Second Life.

Botgirl should just stay away from Flickr. Or just stick to Escher like ripoffs.

Arcadia Codesmith

Having been whirled around several performing and visual arts for most of my life, I still have no idea where the clear dividing line lies between art and not-art. But I have gained an understanding that those who claim to be able to see that line are full of hot air.

You can make new art out of other's people's art. Artists do it all the time. If you take an iconic photograph of the Lincoln Memorial, the photo is your artistic statement, not the sculptor's. If you take a screenshot in Second Life, the artistry of the screenshot is all yours regardless of how many texture artists' work you incidentally capture.

Work that spends too much time thinking outside the box risks being totally incomprehensible to people who live inside the box. Not that there's anything wrong with that; sometimes just you want to speak to the few who will "get it". But if you're looking for a broad audience, there has to be some element of universality for them to latch onto.

And there are great works of art that were thought of by their creators (and often by the critics of their time period) as disposable junk; "snapshots", if you will. Sometimes you don't know what will speak to an audience until it speaks, and it can take you by surprise.


Almost like a social experiment. We see how minds work together and who influences who. You could manually go though and make all those fancy charts of who seems connected to whome and all that, look at the words they use and all that stuff and ponder. Without full details on each person it is hard to figure much out, but still interesting and acts more of a muse...similar to watching the guinipigs play. Doesn't mean they are not being experimenting on them, just means you don't notice so much if you are passing through. Of course, if you worked in the lab you might know otherwise and see signs of things. Even if you where just a janitor or working in another department. It can be sad at times, experiences can ruin many things for us.

CronoCloud Creeggan

The tagline of the late lamented Linden Lifestyles fashion blog that both Iris and I were once a part of was: "Our Wardrobe is Better than Barbie's"

While my SL pictures are mostly not-art, my expression of style is a manifestation of my own taste in style as an art. And I think my avatar is rather decorative.

But yes, one of the things SL is for me is doll play. Nothing wrong with that.

I also appreciate those who DO art in SL, and I can understand if they see a lot of trite themes and overuse of various concepts. It happens.

Connie Arida

Art criticism is in the eye of the beholder.
Robert Hughes, whom I would venture has greater credentials to be an art critic than anyone in SL, thought Warhol was the most stupid man he ever met and yet Warhol is lionised in general. Those who like his art would argue that he turned the banal and cliched into "Art".
I am not a fan of Damian Hirst, yet people will pay millions for what I feel is cliched and boring. This goes to the age old argument, "What is Art?".
Perhaps it's time for those self appointed art critics in SL to get over it and let people do what they do. It doesn't take long for the game of mutual backslapping to turn into one of mutual backstabbing.
And speaking of shots of "proprietary material". I would venture to say that most shots of real life city scapes, for example, do not include the name of the architect of every building within the view.

Pussycat Catnap

Some folks make an abundance of trite, cliché personal avatar photography just because they love their avatars.

Nothing wrong with that.

That's what things like flickr are for: vanity art.
You don't go there to become the next Ansel Adams - but to be the Japanese Tourist in LA taking pictures of yourself by EVERYTHING.

Nexii Malthus

If people only made art for themselves then they wouldn't share it.

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