just some notes.

Notes on making games and artistic research

September 20, 2020

I am still in the research phase of working on a video game. Ideas have been piling up, eating each other, morphing into new ones, or lost (potentially) forever to amnesia. It’s a sad, yet fertile process. The context I’m creating together with my friend is one that is bound to bring forward a product that has some type of layeredness.

So even though I want to move forward, we’re not pushing too hard.

A part of it might be that this almost ‘artistic’ research is quite new to me. So it’s all the more interesting that my girlfriend who has just started her Fine Arts Master is a great source of enlightenment on this topic.

I have perused some of her readings to get a bit of a feel for the craft. Here’s a few notes I gathered from them.

“Poetry has to do with a satisfaction with limited things, a paring down. It is the acceptance of a certain form of poverty. It is not endless construction.”

The above is a quote by Chinese poet Mo Fei, and is referenced to by Maggie Nelson in her short essay Writing With, From, and For Others. In this essay she laments over the tension between leaning heavily on other’s work to create (and showcasing these references) and the idea of self-reliance. She illustrates the latter by quoting Emerson who said: “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know”.

My girlfriend rightly argued that we always create in context, and removing context from an idea, object or person has potentially destructive effects.

Preserving context

As I pondered this some more and thought about my own research for the video game me and my friend are working on, I started thinking about how to preserve context in the reality of dealing with this “form of poverty” that is a creative product. At some point we have to make editorial decisions about what to include and what to leave behind.

I guess the most important point is to keep the integrity of the ideas that are presented. How to go about this is something we will explore as we go.

It leads me to another of my girlfriend’s readings. In the first chapter of The Pleasure of Research, Henk Slager deals with reforms in higher education in Europe and how they affect art studies. He mentions that the “introverted, romantic, pre-democartic and non-dialogic master-pupil model of masterclass education” has come to an end in favor of a course-based modular program that involves novel components such as critical studies, contextual studies, collaborative projects and interdisciplinary projects.

A development that signifies a paradigm shift; a shift where art has the freedom to “deploy a range of contexts such as architecture, design, film, history, biology, sciences, technology, and philosophy”, and given range to the concept of “artistic research”.

Slager rightfully mentions that the idea of artistic research in itself raises many questions. For example, what kind of research could the domain of visual arts produce? Does it contain novel practices, does it exclude or marginalize certain practices?

While I won’t attempt to answer any of these questions, mostly because I am not in the position or have the knowledge to answer them, they do give me a lot to think about in relation to my own research, and how to go about it.

Finally, Slager also talks about the Temporary Autonomous Zone in arts education, a concept that I hopefully don’t misquote as a “constructed sanctuary that allows for critical research and artistic thinking, while leaving space to reject any type of forced instrumentalization”. At least that is how I understand it for now.

This again I relate to my own practice, where I’m right now in the middle of creating my own space to work on my artistic project. I found that setting up the right environment is instrumental for my craft, as I’m positive that is true for cultivating these Temporary Autonomous Zone in arts education.