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Wednesday, May 04, 2011


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AldoManutio Abruzzo


I can understand why you might suggest that artists, and I quote, "figure out ways to convey their 3D art entirely in machinima, which is mass market" except that that really misses the point of using "games" (sigh, how long must we endure THAT characterization?! Why can't we just say "virtual environments" and be done with it?) for art.

For one thing, such an approach denies that the art might exist solely and exclusively within the virtual environment. The work of folks such as DanCoyote Antonelli immediately spring to mind in this regard. Those of us who have experienced the intensively immersive qualities of his performance works can immediately vouch that a machinima of one of these is but a pale shadow of the "real" thing. While his interactive installations can certainly be fairly effectively translated into a machinima documentation, they are still a simulacrum of their originals. The same goes for any performative works; the use of machinima can convey much, but it is still limited to being a "slice in time" of a given instantiation of a work. This is definitely the case for such artistic endeavors as the Gallery of Musical Sculptures (http://auraltone.com/newsletter/). For more on that, check out some of the work here:


(FULL DISCLOSURE: Yes, one of those is a paper by me...but then I've been discussing this and related issues for the past four years)

Secondly, machinima is an art form in and of itself. Of that, there is little question, but to utilize machinima to convey a sense of non-machinima art requires not thinking about the art of machinima and more about the "documentary" qualities that it can display. To date, there has been very little (if any?) serious documentary or ethnographic machinima produced and to achieve what you suggests requires a shift in the thinking of most folks making machinima. Part of the reason for that is that most of the discussion about machinima has been about the "creative" possibilities it offers to film-makers and videographers. And there is nothing wrong with that except that such an approach is rarely effective in conveying the art of the subject matter.

I applaud the efforts of the NEA (always have), but I will be watching this closely...it carries a high "train wreck" potential.


I really like the installation "clock Island" which disappeared a couple of years ago. As I was a newbie and didnt have time to look at everything in detail - I would like to visit that again, but see a machinima is not the same at all. I think if there is some way to show a "visitable" virtual world environment in real time online its much better than any documentary - just like in rl. We are already in vw, you want to push it further into a machinima of vw to replace the vw experience? That would be an awful day!

Hamlet Au

"such an approach denies that the art might exist solely and exclusively within the virtual environment. The work of folks such as DanCoyote Antonelli immediately spring to mind in this regard."

Also, I agree DanCoyote's stuff is really interesting, but the fact remains that if it's limited only to people who can go into SL, it'll only be seen by a few hundred or thousand people. A machinima of DanCoyote's stuff, however, can be seen by hundreds of thousands, even millions.

AldoManutio Abruzzo

Sorry, Wagner, but I think that attitude totally misses the point. If Dan decides to do a machinima, sure...but is NEA going to fund the production of documentary machinima as the final art form? The answer there is "maybe". They will "... support the development, production, and national distribution of innovative media projects about the arts (e.g., visual arts, music, dance, literature, design, theater, musical theater, opera, folk & traditional arts, and media arts including film, audio, animation, and digital art) and media projects that can be considered works of art."

And my point is that we're just not seeing machinima that qualify under that first definition; most of what we see is of the second.

And finally, sounds to me like the NEA can accept that the impact upon a "few hundred or thousand" may be of as great a significance as a YouTube video reaching hundreds of thousands, etc., since one of the specifics mentioned in the NEA website was ON THE PLATFORM OF CREATION, i.e., the "game" environment. So I suppose the answer there is to create pieces inside of WoW, since they have more users than SL ...

@swannjie makes a great point: do you REALLY want to substitute a machinima of the virtual experience for the virtual experience itself?

AldoManutio Abruzzo

And to follow up ... the actual guidelines of what will NOT be funded is quite revealing (since it explicitly forbids individuals):

"We Do Not Fund

Under these guidelines, funding is not available for:

Direct grants to individuals.
Projects that are intended primarily for local distribution.
Media that is produced primarily for instructional purposes or primarily to accompany an exhibition.
Media that is primarily print (e.g., books, magazines).
Script development for dramatic narrative works.
Documentation or simple recording of performances or events primarily for archival purposes.
Expenditures that are related to compensation to foreign nationals and artists traveling to or from foreign countries when those expenditures are not in compliance with regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control. For further information, see http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/ or contact the Arts Endowment's Grants & Contracts Office at [email protected].
Organizations seeking funding for media projects that are not eligible under these guidelines may want to review the Arts Endowment’s Grants for Arts Projects guidelines."

Hamlet Au

"So I suppose the answer there is to create pieces inside of WoW, since they have more users than SL"

Actually I'd say WoW art has even less chance of getting a large audience, because while they have 12 million users, they're all segregated on hundreds of severs. The largest current game platform by far is Flash, with iOS and Nintendo DS way behind but still quite large. But you're right that the NEA might have different perspectives for judging, just offering my own view here.

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