artist holding canvas that says IF

Concept Behind "IF Art"/IF Art Show

Exploring the Interactivity (Art) in Interactive-Fiction

The rules of the IF (Interactive Fiction) Art Show are specifically designed to try to exclude traditional "game elements" from entries/exhibits. They also try to lift any narrative frame (plot) as much as possible.

What is left? Art. Experience for experience's sake. Interactivity for interactivity's sake. Non-goal (basically) directed interactivity.

Games are very much about solving puzzles, racking up points and winning. Many also focus heavily on plot, relying on the F part of IF to be interesting.

So the rules restrict puzzles and plot, to try to remove the game point of IF.

What, then, is the point of IF Art? The question might as well be... What is the point of any art? Or... What is Art?

This is not really difficult to answer. Unless one is attempting to define "Great Art" or create a definition that excludes "bad" art. Art is one (or several) person's expression of their perception (of something). A goalless, pointless expression.

Essentially all art is pointless this way. It is there for pure enjoyment. For others to view, to experience , to interact with. To bring themselves to and discover if they resonate with it, emotionally/historically/whatever.

By exploring this "interface" between art and the experiencer, hopefully IF Art and the IF Art Show can show us ALL what is interactive. Because interactivity hasn't been explored enough on it's own (as much as the I can be separated from the F). Which begs the question... Within the IF realm (maybe the whole Internet) what do we, personally, and possibly collectively, find pleasingly interactive?

Each and every piece of art (visual/tactile/auditory/etc.) asks and answers this question by its very nature. "I don't know Art, but I know what I like." It does this by automatically exploring technique and the resultant audience dis/satisfaction.

So following standard "artistic" practice, the rules also deliberately limit the focus, to encourage depth in exploration of technique and experience.

In addition to helping find/define what is interactive, IF Art and the IF Art Show may also help some of us learn how to write puzzles better. Trying to stop short of making something a puzzle, trying NOT to create puzzles at all, may teach us where they are appropriate in an IF piece and/or how to them more "transparent." (At least I am finding that to be true for myself, anyway.)

Other questions may be answered as well, such as is puzzleless IF an oxymoron?

But, mainly, as with all art, first and foremost, IF Art is simply THERE .

Emulating A Visual Art Exercise (The One Thing Rule)

When an artist (visual) is starting to learn his/her craft, they don't start with landscapes. They don't start with painting. They don't start with painting a landscape or a portrait.

They start with drawing. They walk before running. They start at the bottom before working their way up. They learn to draw before learning to paint. They start with one object. They learn perspective with that one object before they try perspective with more.

The teacher in an drawing class may tell his students to go outside and find an object, any object. This is the "found object" exercise. It has numerous variations and, because it is so valuable, it is done in art classes of all types with all age and skill levels.

Say you are such a student. You find a pine cone and bring it back to the class room. The teacher tells you to draw it. You prop up the pine cone and do a very nice pencil sketch of it in a straight-on perspective. The teacher says, "Good, now try it from another perspective."

You turn the pine cone over, point it's interesting spiraled bottom toward you and sketch it again. The teacher nods, "Okay, now do a field and ground study." This essentially means concentrate on the light and dark of the object and its background. Your previous sketch had very nice shading, with lots of grey cross-hatching. This time you use just lines and dark areas, heavily shaded in, to show the highlights and shadows on the pinecone and the table it is sitting on.

The teacher comes by and says, "Fine. Now draw it the way a cubist would draw it, the way Picasso might have." You think hard then do an abstract, emphasizing its sharp points and spiral.

(Note, usually this idea is only pursued through 5-6 steps at the most.)

What have you, as the student, learned? Pine coneness. The different ways you can view it. Perspective. The different ways you can draw it (some, anyway). Technique. You have exercised and increased your drawing ability. You have explored (or started to) the limits of the pine cone and the limits of your skill to render it effectively.

Each of your drawings can also "stand alone". They are Art, in and of themselves. Later you will probably move on to landscapes (or portraits) and painting (or sculpture). Or you may continue focusing on one thing, trying for greater and greater refinement.

A life drawing class works the same. One figure is drawn (often the same model, so he/she can be fully explored) over and over. Sometimes students also move around the class room to get different perspectives. Also trying out various styles.

That is the art exercise embedded in the IF Art Show. Isolate something. Focus closely on that "one" thing and explore how you can "see" it and present it. Experiment.

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Artist Graphic by Gilles Duchesne (LoneCleric).
Corel clipart is used. Copyright © 2009 by Gilles Duchesne and Corel and its licensors. All rights reserved.
Copy and redistribution is prohibited.