Art-as-Experience

Some food for thought today:

Have you ever considered that what we truly, reflexively, think of as “art” may not be something that hangs on a museum wall but is, in actuality, something quite different? Throughout the course of my career, I have come to understand and navigate the concept of art, not as a thing but as an experience. More specifically, I would argue that the idea of “art-as-object” is not the actual concept of “art” that comes to mind when bringing the idea to the forefront of our mind—regardless of how counterintuitive that may read. Rather, the objects that we often refer to as “art” may be more aptly described as devices bearing the instructions for it.

Consider the idea of “artist-as-programmer.” The artist authors a program in the instruction set of a particular neural machine. The viewer encounters the stimulus, responds with a neural “running” of the program that the object bears, and a particular experience for the viewer is created.

Think of a video game. The device (disc, cartridge, card, drive, server, etc.) bearing the software is not what we might think of first when thinking of a canonical video game. Instead, such devices are simply a form of information storage used to deliver specific “instructions” to a system that then functions to create something more aptly described as the “game.” Yet, we have long colloquially treated such delivery devices as the game itself, in various contexts, with great regularity and utility. For example, “I’ve placed the game (game-as-disc) back in the case.” or “I’ve downloaded the game (game-as-server-file) from the website.” Again, I am not stating that these later usages are incorrect in a colloquial or utilitarian context, but I would argue that they are indeed far less “canonical” regarding the root concept of “video game.”

Now, this argument is in no way, shape, or form an attempt to diminish the value or utility of the delivery device—on the contrary—the instructions for the system are absolutely invaluable for the game (or art) to exist in a particular form, and as such, is often assigned an appropriate value relative to the many factors of the end-user experience.

So the question to my point becomes—if there were no gaming systems left to receive/read and follow the instructions provided by a delivery device—how long do you think we would continue to refer to remaining delivery devices as “games?”’

Similarly, if no human was around to run the art “program” delivered by that paper or canvas—would it still be considered art? And if not—was the object ever truly the aptest recipient of the “art” moniker in the first place?

You’ll have to excuse me—I think I just heard a tree fall outside. :wink:

1 Like