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