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April 18, 2010


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Roger Ebert's a cranky old man. I was going to post a long comment here, but I decided to make my own blog post about it.


malachy walsh

If you can make money establishing something as being "art" as opposed to just "useful", then you might really want to make the point. Critics and curators, for instance, have to insist that it's an important question to answer because divining the difference is what they get paid for (generally).

Fortunately, in the process, the conversation brings up a lot of interesting points worthy of consideration, but ultimately, I personally, don't care whether someone finds a play/drawing/movie/game/novel/sandcastle that I love to be art or not. At least, not anymore.

malachy walsh

I should've added on other thing in relation to "the conversation brings up a lot of interesting points worthy of consideration." It's Kellee's inclusion of financial success in the definition of art. Ebert brings it up, but doesn't discuss it at length. I do find it an odd part of the conversation and one that's signifies something quite important about the time we live in now. One could take it that something is not art unless it makes a profit.

Just another reason to hate "Art."


Crystal Skull is underrated. Just sayin'.


Geek time.

I think Ebert has a prejudice here. Most people consider novels art, right? Well, do you consider genre books art? I think a lot of people do. A lot of people would consider even shitty books/plays/movies art just by virtue of being books/plays/movies.

I would consider, say, Elder Scrolls richer, deeper and beautiful and engaging than most fantasy novels, to go back to the genre fiction example.

Why then is a shitty novel art? Because it's a book? Why is a brilliant video game not art? Just because its a video game?


To me, art is free communication--that is, a means of expressing an idea to an audience (perhaps of only one). So long as that idea is free--i.e., not an irrefutable fact, or an opinion presented as such (something that we would in fact call "artless")--then it is art.

An unconscious spasm is art only in the sense that a snowflake is (nature's) art. But if one directs that spasm, voila: dance, a rigid thing that is yet loose.


so if i draw a picture it's art, but if i scan it and animate it in a game it ceases to be art?


@andy, if you allow someone ELSE to play with it, then it is not art. Which bodes poorly for performance artists like Marina Abramovic.


So...under that formulation, art is only a one-way communication. Once someone else gets "involved," it ceases to be art? Including, let's say, improv. Or those "you pick the ending" mystery plays.

Is that really how narrowly we want to define art?


I guess what seems the weirdest part to me about Ebert's argument-- which Josh brings up-- is that he argues that he's confusing medium and content. He's arguing that a specific medium (the video game) is incapable of producing art. And what Josh points out is that most people think anything created in certain media is automatically art. That seems to me (to echo mon frere 99 above) to define art both too broadly and too narrowly at the same time.

Part of what has gone on recently is a decoupling of art from medium. I mean, we call meals at El Bulli works of art now, and we don't mean that figuratively. We mean they are actually a time-based piece of art that you literally consume.


While we're on the topic, I wonder what Ebert would make of this:


malachy walsh

Advertising has this problem, too.


Maybe, but there's no question that these advertisements are art:



Roger Ebert has absolutely no business decreeing what is art and what is not.

And I second freeman's comment.

malachy walsh

I love those ads from W+K in Portland.... though I'd say this was closer to Art - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPuji7QyIUE&feature=related

But then you realize it's for beer and you think, well, any definition of Art is useless, and Brian, you realize, Ebert is actually IN business to decree what is art and what is not. Like I said before....


Then he's in a ridiculous, self-obsessed business.

What I should have said is that he's not a king. He can't make decrees about art like he's Creon decreeing that certain bodies shouldn't be buried.

Ebert's fighting a losing battle to regain his long passed relevance.

malachy walsh

I definitely agree that he's in a ridiculous, self-obsessed business.

Pete Miller

Why should a critic be defining what is and isn't art? Art is an enormous tent within which the role of the critic is to draw to broader public attention that art she or he thinks most worthy of notice and thought. That sometimes includes slagging off particular artistic endeavors because within the literary art form of critique, abuse and scorn are favored brush strokes.

Prince Lucio Rimânez

Clearly none of these people have ever played the old Infocom "Interactive Fiction" games, which were genuinely art, no matter what the Pulitzer-prize-winning author of "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" might have to say about the genre.


Thank you for the article. No fan boy crap. Just an honest look. That article you linked to was also very good. It had a balanced view, unlike Ebert.

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yeah,it is certainly much much better on every level, including acting and writing.

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I consider video games as art because the designers and developers of those games really did their best to make their projects very worth playing for. The dedication they gave for them cannot be measured by money or anything especially when they love their work.

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