What is Art in Virtual Worlds?

Nobody asked me what I think about this, but I still want to have my say to share my thoughts. 

Question is not simple, because nobody knows what art is, and even less what virtual art is.

But, I wondered, why do you need to know? Just read Wikipedia, is that not enough? But look, also Wikipedia doesn’t know, in the first paragraph they say “This article is about the general concept of art. For the group of creative disciplines, see The arts”. Then The arts send you to other pages, and so on. An infinite loop.

What is art? It has been discussed for hundreds of years, but there is no shared definition.

As with many other invisible things, love for example, we can only see the effect of art, perceive its message, accept it or not, but not give a definition, because art is over language in any culture.

Personally I think that art is a living and invisible energy, like heat or wind, or love.

Some people called artists  capture it with special antennas, and transform this energy into a message that we understand. Not through the usual means of communication but through more subtle tools of perception that we have, the heart for example, intuition, instinct. An artist is primarily a translator. 

We have already ended up in a great and never-ending discussion, and we have not yet talked about art in virtual worlds, where things get more complicated (but also simplified, if desired). If we can, keep the focus on this association, art = living energy made understandable by a translator.

I help myself here with a quote from a study, Second Life Physics: Virtual, Real or Surreal?

“Science teaching detached itself from reality and became restricted to the classrooms and textbooks with their overreliance on standardized and repetitive exercises, while students keep their own alternative conceptions. 
Papert, displeased with this inefficient learning process as early as 1980, championed physics microworlds, where students could experience a variety of laws of motion, from Aristotle to Newton and Einstein or even “new” laws invented by the students themselves.
While often mistakenly seen as a game, Second Life (SL), the online 3-D virtual world hosted by Linden Lab, imposes essentially no rules on the residents beyond reasonable restrictions on improper behavior and the physical rules that guarantee its similitude to the real world. As a consequence, SL qualifies itself as an environment for personal discovery and exploration as proposed by constructivist theories. 
The physical laws are implemented through the well-known physics engine Havok, whose design aims to provide game-players a consistent, “realistic” environment.
The Havok User Guide (2008) explicitly encourages developers to use several tricks to cheat the simulator in order to make games funnier or easier to play. As it is shown in this study, SL physics is unexpectedly neither the Galilean/Newtonian “idealized” physics nor a real world physics virtualization, intentionally diverging from reality in such a way that it could be called hyper-real. As a matter of fact, if some of its features make objects behave “more realistically than real” ones, certain quantities like energy have a totally different meaning in SL as compared to physics”.. 

Surreal physics simulations and epistemologically rich talks.

Fascinating. However, in all this confusion, we can say one thing: to be realized, art needs technology and vice versa, and a space to come alive in.

For example, if no one had invented portable paint tubes that allowed painters to leave their workshops and work in the open space instead, the Impressionists would never have existed to represent their colorful and poetic vision of the world.

Whether this happens in a physical or digital world is not that important.

This connection has always existed, ever since man tried to get out of the constraints of formal language to express more refined and universal concepts. After all, what is a drawing if not the plastic representation of this desire? An attempt to overcome the physical constraints imposed by the world in which we live.

It doesn’t matter what tool you use to express this need for communication, but how you use it.

As in the traditional arts, so in the virtual arts you do not use art to support your personal beliefs or for your ego. Look ma, I am an artist! 

When any kind of art happens, it is a divine and magic manifestation, and it deserves the most complete respect. Of course, one must also be a tech expert in the chosen art, study, try, succeed and fail, no one is exempt from this growth process. 

Anything else if this magical act doesn’t happen is just your desperate ego’s fantasy wanting some attention. Why limit yourself to this when you can do so much better for yourself and the world by trying to express the message your antennas have picked up, if they did and if it is not a hallucination (audio or video, is the same)?

The tricks of the mind are many and deceptive. Some revel in the illusion of doing things that “are not possible in the real world”. What a great banality and naivety. 

Haven’t you noticed that you are in a world that has a different physics engine?

What could be heroic and innovative about this? Anyone can do it.

But this brings us to an important topic: your avatar is you, physically and mentally. 

If you are an artist, you will do great things using new tools, like what happened to the impressionists with tubes. If not, you will not be able to call your artifacts art, they may be artistic, but not art. Art happens by itself, you can’t decide it.

Then, I started to think: but is there a difference between art in “real world” or “virtual world”?

Art is universal, there is not a “intention” or a “interpretation”.

End of the first episode of this saga. Bye for now 🙂

Your Livio

A last thing, this is obviously my point of view. comments are open and discussion welcome.

About constructivism, read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_(philosophy_of_education)

Image: ‘Yellow – Red – Blue’ 1925, Wassily Kandisky.

Thank you to Renee Rebane for the careful editing.

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