Monday, February 18, 2013


photo by Jessica
from suitcase and sippycups 
Reflections on MOMA's decision to include video games in their distinguished collection.

Is it the Museum of Modern Art or the Museum of Modern Product?

The Museum of Modern Art holds such power for me.  As a young girl (and budding artist) growing up in Park Slope I envied the distance it created for the viewer.  Its' walls seemed to chant this is greatness, this is a far off kingdom of riches as I slipped through the corridors.

After all it housed contemporary cutting edge creations.  The genesis of the art of the day initially created without dedicated corporate influence, without public relation meetings, and without statistical reports/ projections.  Sadly, we cannot say the same about video games.

Admittedly video games employ the creativity of many folks.  Artistic elements and design concerns are called upon in similar ways, but a great work of art is born first with singular inspiration. Van Gogh didn't compare the buying pattterns of various demographics to attract the right audience to his Starry Night, and Picasso did not let some kid pick the background colors for Demoiselles with the click of a mouse...
Pablo Picasso

How can we as a culture allow product to contaminate everything that is sacred?  Why are more people not outraged by the idea? Why do we live for the product?
I beg you not to buy into it..a true art form is not a pre-fabbed product.  There  may be an art form at play here.  One that seduces our will and weakens our intention.  It is the art of our industrial machine...we are drawn to look at visual stimuli manufactured to get us to dig deep into our it artistry, slight of hand? smoke and mirrors?   wizardry?

The studied professionals at MOMA know far more than I could ever dream of fitting into my world art view, but my opinion is drawn from an allegiance to the art maker in a world absolutely whirling with consumerism.

The Mona Lisa  has more reason to smirk at our tackiness and our ability to include everything. The cave paintings at Lascaux should be grateful for their dark position.   Outsider artists should run deeper into the hills...

Is product art?

Is product design?

What births product?

What births great art?

And if product is crowned as fine art of the modern age where will it end?  Twinkies are not served at the Corton...Coultraine didn't give listeners an option to double time or syncopate.

We receive art because we are intrinsicly drawn to moments of singular pointed inspiration...we are drawn to the drama of human greatness that lives ouside of marketing meetings and board is born in an elemental place that cares not about buying patterns

A video game can be great, maybe even moving, but a video game is not and will never be fine art! It lost that chance the moment it affixed a bar code to it's box.

The images in this blog have become icons and products over time, but they began without the intention of ever being mass produced...they began singularly. Video games are created to be mass produced and sold as a product first.

Would Mona Lisa moan for MOMA's faux paus?

I moan, but I will continue to visit the MoMA with a mixture of awe and inspiration churning in my belly because as in art and in life no one hits the mark every time...
and in missing the mark we sometimes get a wake up call.

Post by Jennifer Gillia Cutshall


  1. What about freeware? Do we exempt video games handcrafted by individuals and released for free on the internet from the "product" label? What if that freeware becomes so popular that the designer begins a larger, more complex project that requires marketing and production to see fruition? Even though that project comes from the same inspirational place as the freeware, is it now a "product" simply because the designer requires new sources of funding to see his vision through?

    Ironically, most (although NOT all) freeware is so rudimentary and simple that it probably wouldn't really qualify as art simply on an aesthetic level. Truly gorgeous video game design typically requires resources that are beyond the reach of a lone designer, no matter how talented.

    There are exceptions to this, however. Some designers use the limitations of the form to their advantage, by creating sparse, intriguing landscapes and backgrounds, or by using unusual storytelling techniques to make up for the lack of visual flair. These projects, these video games, deserve to be considered as art just as much as a short story or simple pencil drawing would.

    1. Thanks Ron for the thoughtful comment. You bring up a good point and there's been some interesting writing about this topic (much more poignant and of the day, then my humble blog opinion). Sometimes I feel like a leopard that has no spots in terms of technology... But I've always found a clear distinction between fine artists and designers (both valid and valuable), but coming from a completely different place. The aesthetic exists for designers and artists alike, but it is the intent behind the work that separates the two. Technology has blurred the lines between commercial art and fine art.
      I'm glad you commented...has us tossing the concerns around again. We might write something more after coffee...