A Rebut To Mr. Ebert

 Ebert seems to want to decide what art is and isn't by way of taste, but that can't be. if what art "is" can be discerned through subjectivity, then nothing is art. nothing. my understanding of art is this: "a creation who's only purpose is itself and it's audience."
Cars, beautiful works of engineering and aesthetic, something people the world over are passionate about, are not quite art, but a Ferrari 458 Italia's staggering beauty could be construde as a work of art, even though the object itself has a purpose beyond it's audiences enjoyment: it gets you from A to B. there is valid arguement on both sides of the debate as to whether or not a sportscar can be considered a work of art.
this is one of the only reasoned arguements there can be had on where the lines of art blur, because at the end of the day, "art" is not great. it's not pretty or perfect or what you or i say it is.

Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo is a piece of art.

Baby by Justin Bieber is a piece of art.

Liesure Suit Larry: Box Office Smash is a piece of art.

these are for all intents and purposes utterly dreadful things. they suck. they're annoying, they are utter failures, but they are art.
i've never understood the instinct critics and artists alike, have for sanctifying the word "art" as something to be bestowed only upon the holiest of holy works. the debate that derives from this way of thinking is childish and arbitrary. it serves no purpose and it's unmoveable. if Art is what you, or i, or Roger Ebert, or anyone decides it is based on cultural and personal signifigance, then art doesn't exist, and all this stupid squabbling is for naught. nothing can be art under this doctrine, because it is vague and overpersonal.

it's time to stop putting art on a pedistal, time to stop using the term like an ordainment or an echelon. art is terrible, art is great, art is creation, even lazy, stupid creation. video games are art, the bad ones and the good ones. now shut the fuck up.

i'll leave you with a quote from a movie Ebert gave 4 out of 4 stars:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends.

20 Comments
21 Comments
Posted by pakx

 Ebert seems to want to decide what art is and isn't by way of taste, but that can't be. if what art "is" can be discerned through subjectivity, then nothing is art. nothing. my understanding of art is this: "a creation who's only purpose is itself and it's audience."
Cars, beautiful works of engineering and aesthetic, something people the world over are passionate about, are not quite art, but a Ferrari 458 Italia's staggering beauty could be construde as a work of art, even though the object itself has a purpose beyond it's audiences enjoyment: it gets you from A to B. there is valid arguement on both sides of the debate as to whether or not a sportscar can be considered a work of art.
this is one of the only reasoned arguements there can be had on where the lines of art blur, because at the end of the day, "art" is not great. it's not pretty or perfect or what you or i say it is.

Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo is a piece of art.

Baby by Justin Bieber is a piece of art.

Liesure Suit Larry: Box Office Smash is a piece of art.

these are for all intents and purposes utterly dreadful things. they suck. they're annoying, they are utter failures, but they are art.
i've never understood the instinct critics and artists alike, have for sanctifying the word "art" as something to be bestowed only upon the holiest of holy works. the debate that derives from this way of thinking is childish and arbitrary. it serves no purpose and it's unmoveable. if Art is what you, or i, or Roger Ebert, or anyone decides it is based on cultural and personal signifigance, then art doesn't exist, and all this stupid squabbling is for naught. nothing can be art under this doctrine, because it is vague and overpersonal.

it's time to stop putting art on a pedistal, time to stop using the term like an ordainment or an echelon. art is terrible, art is great, art is creation, even lazy, stupid creation. video games are art, the bad ones and the good ones. now shut the fuck up.

i'll leave you with a quote from a movie Ebert gave 4 out of 4 stars:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends.

Posted by Trace

Well said.
 
I think Penny Arcade wrapped up this little issue nicely today, as well. Throughout time, there have always been those who will look at art that is beyond them, or otherwise does not appeal to their tastes, and they will say, "This is not art." It happened with the canons that have existed through the history of art itself, with critics, and anyone who's ever looked at a painting, seen a movie, watched a television drama, read a poem, listened to music, or played a video game and uttered those four flawed words fall into the same fallacy.
 
This is not art.
 
You're right. It can't be true simply by definition, and more realistically by reality itself. There's a lot of crappy art out there, but it's art. It's all around us. It's what we dream and create.
 
I do hope Ebert realizes or eventually comes to realize that he's fallen into the same position that countless others in history have, trying to dispel a creative fragment of reality as art. Eventually, we'll all learn to ignore him and move on, as his position becomes increasingly irrelevant. He has his opinion, and he is not a part of the new he speaks of; rather, he's a legend of an aging, classic industry, full of lovely and horrendous creations. If he wasn't such a revered critic, we wouldn't give his thoughts a second glance.

Moderator
Posted by jakob187

I think that Ebert is absolutely correct, and I think that people are not looking at his argument in the way he is presenting it.  Instead, they are looking at it the way they want to in order to support their arguments against him. 

Edited by Kyreo

I believe that is Art is simply a form of expressionism meant to gratify the creator and the creator only.  

Edited by FengShuiGod

Ebert failed to give a specific definition of art, and then said that video games weren't art because they didn't suit his taste. I didn't really agree with his subjectivist opinion.
 
Moreover, it seemed he totally missed the point about video games. He expected them to look like a Turner painting, have drama like an academy award winning film, have musical scores that rival Beethoven's best work, have stories and characters like timeless novels, but he didn't mention the game play. I don't even think he played any of the games he criticized. Games are about game play. They are an interactive experience, and that is where the art is. 
 
Obviously there is potential for video games to be artful in other ways than simply game play, but interactive game play is the fundamental aspect of video games. It makes it different from other forms of entertainment. It makes games what they are.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Let me just quote myself from another blog:
 
I previously said:

Speaking about him using those circles to invalidate games as art, didn't most Italian Renaissance artists use parts of that process to sell their art? You know, the guys who pretty much defined art? Art back then was viewed mainly as a business, so why does the same on video games automatically make them not art? 

 
Also, I previously said:

 It gets worse than the 19th century; back in Shakespeare's day, he had to do his theater stuff just outside town because everybody thought that theater/drama was immoral and not art. Oh, speaking of Shakespeare, this is funny: he followed the same Renaissance model that people like da Vinci and Michelangelo did. That means his art was a business, too. I think I'm systematically disproving Ebert's point.


There. Done and done. Ebert's a moron.
Posted by RichardLOlson

Ebert is a man that I highly respect and thoroughly enjoyed his reviews and discussions on many things.  This is slightly one of them, although this would have to range in the 50/50 section of my decision.  The 2 questions that pop into my mind when I read his article:  What is Art? and Is Video Games Art?.......1.  Art is something that a person makes to express there emotions, there ideas, or there just doing it cause it feels good.  2. No, video games are not art, and I know some of you are thinking I'm crazy.  But in this world of statues and paintings, that's all we know and what we perceive .

Posted by TwoOneFive

i'd like Ebert to explain to me what makes Movies art. 

Edited by bonbolapti
@Video_Game_King said:

" Let me just quote myself from another blog:
 
I previously said:

Speaking about him using those circles to invalidate games as art, didn't most Italian Renaissance artists use parts of that process to sell their art? You know, the guys who pretty much defined art? Art back then was viewed mainly as a business, so why does the same on video games automatically make them not art? 

 
Also, I previously said:

 It gets worse than the 19th century; back in Shakespeare's day, he had to do his theater stuff just outside town because everybody thought that theater/drama was immoral and not art. Oh, speaking of Shakespeare, this is funny: he followed the same Renaissance model that people like da Vinci and Michelangelo did. That means his art was a business, too. I think I'm systematically disproving Ebert's point.

There. Done and done. Ebert's a moron. "
art is already art. regardless though, at the end of the day, games still have a completely different purpose then a painting or a film, no matter how much art you put into it.
Edited by Korne
@RichardLOlson said:

" Ebert is a man that I highly respect and thoroughly enjoyed his reviews and discussions on many things.  This is slightly one of them, although this would have to range in the 50/50 section of my decision.  The 2 questions that pop into my mind when I read his article:  What is Art? and Is Video Games Art?.......1.  Art is something that a person makes to express there emotions, there ideas, or there just doing it cause it feels good.  2. No, video games are not art, and I know some of you are thinking I'm crazy.  But in this world of statues and paintings, that's all we know and what we perceive . "

If you define art as something that is something that a person makes to express emotions, then film wouldn't necessarily be art either... but I would modify that definition a bit. 
 
I would say art is something that evokes emotions in the audience (also how Kellee Santiago defined it in the initial conversation on the matter). By this definition, video games have the greatest ability to become art, since it involves the audience more than other mediums. While most emotions in current games have been easier ones to evoke (joy, horror), some games have found ways to make new emotions show up (Dragon Age/Uncertainty, SotC/Guilt, Metroid/Seclusion). Also, games have one emotion that is almost 100% exclusive to the medium: satisfaction... which is probably the reason why video games have blossomed into such a successful industry. 
Posted by emkeighcameron
@TwoOneFive said:
" i'd like Ebert to explain to me what makes Movies art.  "
Ditto
Posted by jakob187

Art is a form of catharsis, plain and simple.  Not all movies are art, and even Ebert acknowledged that in his blog.  The main thing that gives art a definition is also simple:  it must remain passive.  Essentially, interactivity like what is presented in video games do not constitute art.  Art is meant to be taken in through passive means, where the creator knows the purpose but the viewer must find their own purpose in it.  If you find your own purpose in a game, great...but I doubt that what you find in it is any different than what someone else will find in it. 
 
Either way, I agree with Ebert - games cannot be art, at least not in their current state.  If you believe that it is art, then cool.  Ebert is simply saying he does not agree with that sentiment.

Posted by Korne
@jakob187 said:
" Art is a form of catharsis, plain and simple.  Not all movies are art, and even Ebert acknowledged that in his blog.  The main thing that gives art a definition is also simple:  it must remain passive.  Essentially, interactivity like what is presented in video games do not constitute art.  Art is meant to be taken in through passive means, where the creator knows the purpose but the viewer must find their own purpose in it.  If you find your own purpose in a game, great...but I doubt that what you find in it is any different than what someone else will find in it.  Either way, I agree with Ebert - games cannot be art, at least not in their current state.  If you believe that it is art, then cool.  Ebert is simply saying he does not agree with that sentiment. "
I understand that art can be passive... but why does it have to be? Music makes you want to dance, tap your toes, clap your hands, pat your thigh... isn't that some form of interactivity. The fact that the music gives you an emotional response is what makes it art.  
 
In actuality, anything can be art. As a Civil Engineer, an incredible structure like the Mackinac Bridge will move me, and can then be considered art to me. Remember, art is in the eye of the beholder.
Edited by ryanwho
@emkeighcameron said:

" @TwoOneFive said:

" i'd like Ebert to explain to me what makes Movies art.  "
Ditto "
Its in the article. Read the article. Its not in the title. Read more than the title. Same for the OP. No shit its subjective, he makes every effort to articulate that in his blog. You can't reiterate something Ebert stressed himself in the blog and act like its a trump card to his whole argument. 
Posted by ProfessorEss
@Korne said:
Remember, art is in the eye of the beholder. "
That's the beginning and the end of the argument as far as I'm concerned.
Ebert's not wrong, but he's not right either.
Posted by pakx
@ryanwho: what the hell are you talking about? my point is that art is NOT subjective.
Posted by emkeighcameron

I think the biggest slap-in-the-face I can actually come up with against Ebert is that I don't even know or care who the fuck he is

Posted by odintal
@emkeighcameron said:
" I think the biggest slap-in-the-face I can actually come up with against Ebert is that I don't even know or care who the fuck he is "
I have a bigger one.
How are we supposed to appreciate the opinions on what constitutes as art from a guy that was writing soft core porn at one point in his career?
Posted by sopranosfan

Trying to say what is art is probably one of the most discussed and argued about things in the world.  I think Jackson Pollock's art looks like something my daughter drew when she was 2 but people pay a lot of money for it.  For this same reason I doubt there will ever be a consensus on the argument.  Opinions of course can change but to ever get a unanimous decision will probably never happen.  In all honesty 20 years ago when I started playing this wouldn't have even been discussed but now with better graphics and better story telling it is at least worth discussing.

Posted by emkeighcameron
@odintal said:
" @emkeighcameron said:
" I think the biggest slap-in-the-face I can actually come up with against Ebert is that I don't even know or care who the fuck he is "
I have a bigger one. How are we supposed to appreciate the opinions on what constitutes as art from a guy that was writing soft core porn at one point in his career? "
HOOK ME UP
Posted by TwoOneFive
@emkeighcameron said:
" @TwoOneFive said:
" i'd like Ebert to explain to me what makes Movies art.  "
Ditto "
seriously though, you'd have just as difficult a time explaining that as you would games. Clearly Ebert is behind the times, never actually played a modern game, and has NO FUCKING CLUE AS TO WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT. We need to start ignoring his old ass when it comes to things that are not movies. So, pretty much don't listen to anything he says unless he is talking about movies okay guys.