Who’s Afraid of Modern Art: Vandalism, Video Games, and Fascism

Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue was
a painting by abstract painter Barnett Newman. It’s eight feet tall, and eighteen feet
wide. It doesn’t really exist anymore. There are actually 4 paintings named “Who’s
Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue.” This is number 3. Each one is distinctive, but they
share some key similarities. Namely, The title is a reference to Edward Albee’s
play, [Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf]. In Albee’s play, 4 characters turn their
lives inside out over the course of 3 hours and 68,000 words. Newman’s painting are…well they’re three
colors. Really, they’re one color with some accents. But despite the simplicity, “Who’s Afraid
of Red, Yellow, and Blue 3” hung in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam for several
years. Then, one day, it was murdered. One day in 1986, a dude walked into the Stedelijk,
right up to the painting, and just went to goddamn town. He gashed about 50 feet out
of the fabric with a box cutter. Fifty feet. That’s like if he had just carved out the
entire perimeter of the painting. And for such an attack, he was…well he was
put in jail for a while. But also he was roundly congratulated by more than a few people. Because
Red Yellow and Blue had been the subject of a huge amount of criticism since it first
arrived. Before it was slashed, it was the reason for dozens of angry letters and phone
calls to the museum. People said it made them physically sick. So someone finally having the balls to do
something about it? To some, it made him a local hero “This so-called vandal should be made the
director of modern museums.” “He did what hundreds of thousands of us
would have liked to do.” Red Yellow and Blue 3, the painting, is dead. But I mean…who cares? It’s red, blue,
and yellow. I can make those colors in microsoft paint. This is clearly just another example
of the pretentious art world deluding itself into thinking that childish blobs of paint
on a canvas are art. Right? This is a game called 2:22 AM. It’s free
on itch.io, made by Alice (@alonkulous on twitter). In a lot of ways, it’s incredibly
simple. Almost barebones. But there’s something there. The game is very loosely a take on
late-night television. You flip through different “scenes,” intercut with grainy footage
of showers, or empty intersections, or dandelions, or…
It makes me feel likef !!!!!!!!! 2:22AM remind me of Red Yellow and Blue. Because,
like, what is it? It sometimes feels like a horror game, but
not in a conscious way. It’s horror in the way a nightmare can be horror, where nothing
bad happens and everything seems normal but you know something’s off. It’s funny,
too. It’s a lot of things, but I’d be hard pressed to tell you a theme. 2:22AM isn’t married to a specific story,
or even a specific sequence of events. Different playthroughs will give you different scenes
with different timings. Often, there’s no way to interact with a
scene. Sometimes clicking performs an action, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it gives
full freedom of movement. Occasionally, you’ll need to accomplish a task. You might need
to open a refrigerator. Or dig a grave. And it’s a game that’s stuck with me.
It kinda lurks in the corners of my brain, in those sorts of memories that could be from
early childhood, or a book, or a waking dream you had during a fever. 2:22AM made me uncomfortable.
It made me think about all the other games I play, how predictable they are, how I understand
the rules. It made me wonder what lies beyond the polished edges of AAA game development. There aren’t a lot of places for games like
2:22AM to exist. Itch.io is a kind of haven for these experimental titles, and because
of that, itch.io is a kind of punchline for a lot of people dismissive of non-traditional
gaming experiences. Newer platforms, like the Epic store, have promised that the titles
they sell will be more strictly moderated. They’ll only sell “high quality experiences.”
This excludes the worst of the worst, like the rapist-glorifying “rape day.” But who decides what lives inside or outside
the realm of “high quality experiences?” Where do games like 2:22AM fit in? “We have ten or twelve pictures of art…
But we don’t have any penises stretched out on the table” Thus speaks former North Carolina senator
Jesse Helms, a remarkable line that I believe should stand amongst the most famous in our
nation’s history. Ask not what your country can do for you,
four score and seven years ago, “We have ten or twelve pictures of art…
But we don’t have any penises stretched out on the table” Mr. Helms is not currently a North Carolina
senator. Currently, he’s toxifying whatever water source he’s buried closest to. But in his time as a politician, Helms was
enamored with preserving the distinction between true art and…deviance. In that beautiful
quote, he was referring specifically towards Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe was a photographer
who took intimate pictures of human subjects. Embracing men, various acts of homosexuality
and sadomasochism, nudes of all shapes and sizes. And, in fact, a penis stretched out
on a table. Mapplethorpe was a constant source of distress
for senator Helms. Ol’ Jesse talked about Mapplethorpe, and his photographs, constantly.
(and I mean who wouldn’t, have you seen this thi-) Helms saw the photography as deviant,
and actively damaging to society, but he was also pretty politically canny about his opposition.
He didn’t try and get the art censored directly- just by proxy. Helm’s stated target was the National Endowment
for the Arts, a government program that provided money to artists and museums around the country.
He argued that, while Mapplethorpe’s art may be abominable, what’s even worse was
that the american people were paying for it. If it even needs to be said, the amount americans
contribute towards that endowment is almost incalculably small.But Helms was a man of
principal! He may have supported foreign death squads, but he was going to save americans
from spending that fraction of a cent on something queer, goddamnit. It’s Norman Rockwell and
paintings of landscapes or bust. Helms was pretty talented at whipping people
into a frenzy about this. When he talked about Mapplethorpe’s deviancy, people showed up
in protest at Mapplethorpe’s exhibits. In fact,
his attacks were so extreme and effective that a museum in Washington withdrew their
future Mapplethorpe showing. Almost immediately, the museum then received
an angry call- from Jesse Helms’ office. He demanded to know why they had withdrawn. Helms wanted more than to curtail funding.
He wanted those photos to be shown off. If you truly thought the art was causing damage
to society, wouldn’t you try to hide it from everyone? But he didn’t want it to
be hidden. He wanted public anger to encourage displays of outrage, hugely visible protests. Wanting it to be shown is a statement of intent.
Helms didn’t care about art. What he did want was to raise big crowds of “everyday
americans,” each of them representing the country’s anger at “non-traditional lifestyles.” “I have to conclude they really wanted that
exhibition in Washington,” said the museum’s director, Christina Orr-Cahal. “So it would
fuel their fire.” I remember the first time I saw them. I walked
into a dimly lit room in the Tate Modern, looked up, and saw this…colossus. And next
to it was another one. The room was full of them, actually, I was drowning between them. It felt like *?*?*?*?*? Mark Rothko’s work doesn’t fit very well
with the typical adjectives we use to describe art. Is this beautiful? Sure, but it’s not
beautiful. Is this complex? It is actually, but it’s not how we think of complex. What
is it? It’s red and brown in chunky stripes on an absolutely enormous canvas. And yet, hooooo boy it makes me feel. I’m
not unique for getting this sense from Rothko, his works hang in one of the most prestigious
art museums on earth. There’s this gravity that I, and others, feel when looking at them.
There’s a presence. But Rothko’s work, despite its acclaim,
is still subversive, still challenging the ideas of what “art” is, and what standards
it should be held to. And because of that, there are people who hate it too. In 2012, a man painted his own name and a
slogan in the corner of one of Rothko’s massive works, “Black and Maroon.” He
tagged it. And, according to that man, he had fairly grand motivations. He said: “Contemporary artists simply produce things
which aren’t creative in their essence or spirit…Art has become a business, which
appears to serve only the needs of the art market.” A contemporary artist frequently used as an
example of the medium’s creative bankruptcy is photographer Andres Serrano. My favorite
of his works, and probably his most famous, is of a plastic crucifix submerged in his
own urine. It’s titled “Piss Christ.” Piss Christ was another one of Jesse Helms’
primary targets. Of Serrano, helms said: “he is not an artist. He is a jerk. And he is
taunting the American people, just as others are, in terms of Christianity” For what it’s worth, Serrano says he’s
a lifelong catholic, that he follows Christ. Not that it mattered to the catholic fundamentalists
who attacked the photo with a hammer. A man who could also be titled “Piss Christ”
is Paul Joseph Watson, a contributor to InfoWars. Paul has political stances on many things
[eating books]. He speaks in front of a large map, to show his worldliness and breadth of
thought. One thing he’s made abundantly clear is
he has no time for modern art. “It doesn’t enrich our culture. It degrades
and cheapens society by exalting the vulgar, the crass, and the scatalogical. The people
promoting it are preventing us from enjoying modern art made by people with actual talent” Paul argues that modern art is a war on objectivism. What he keeps coming back to is there is “good
art”. We should know it when we see it. It’s this guy, who makes very detailed sculptures.
It’s not piss christ. It’s not Barnett Newman. And by claiming that these non-traditional
works are good art, what Paul says we’re really doing upsetting the “natural meritocracy”
that art should naturally fall into. And this isn’t just out of ignorance. Everyone that
praises this art is doing so because of their SJW-CUCK ideology, or because they’ve been
fooled into doubting themselves by these SJW-CUCKS. It’s all a scam, he says. By convincing the public that these pieces
are good, the artistic elite are elevating the wrong parts of art and riding their deception
all the way to the bank. Pause Paul’s claims that we can objectively judge
art often go right along with his assertions that people creating the bad art are talentless. (“The people promoting it are preventing
us from enjoying modern art made by people with actual talent”) Talking about “skill” in reference to
modern art isn’t unique to Paul, and it’s an understandable reservation to have. When
looking at a monocolored canvas, it’s probably occured to all of us that “I could paint
that.” The easy response is that, almost all art takes significantly more skill than
it may appear to. For instance, Rothko, king of colored rectangles,
is still kind of a mystery to much of the art world. He worked behind closed doors,
carefully altering the chemistry of his paints with egg, glue, resin, formaldehyde. His variations
between gloss and matte are incredibly subtle, and incredibly hard to replicate. Newmann, similarly, textured his big ol canvases
in ways that created a depth of color not easily reproduced. In fact, we know how hard
it is because after Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue 3 was carved up, the “restoration”
efforts spectacularly failed- it seems like it’d be easy to repaint the red part of
the piece, but when the man they hired did exactly that, observers could instantly tell
that something was off. The “shimmering” quality of the hue wasn’t there, there was
no sense of depth anymore. The restoration tried, and failed, to recreate the delicate
techniques of the original. Was it Red, Yellow, and Blue? Sure. But it wasn’t Newman. But this whole debate, does it require skill
or not, is kinda missing the point. While I’m thrilled that Paul thinks that labor
is what gives something its value and should be compensated as such, (COMMIE), reducing
art to a linear connection between “skill” and value fundamentally just turns art into
a commodity. Paul talks about how powerful the sculptures of Ron Mueck are- and I agree!
I’ve seen this big face, it kicks ass. Mueck’s sculptures make me consider humans through
a different lens than I usually do, making me consider my place in the species and building
a strange sense of solidarity with these aggressively real-looking figures. But if someone told me that Mueck was able
to make these sculptures in minutes, that actually they didn’t take much effort at
all… I would still have those experiences! It is
absolutely impressive when an artist spends huge amounts of time perfecting an intricate
style, but that’s not why I experience them how I do. Feeling art, getting the !!!! or
*?*?*, that’s something that happens almost involuntarily. Now we get into the second part of his argument.
Art has to contribute to society. And whether Paul knows it or not, he’s not the first
person to think of this qualification. In fact, it’s very closely in alignment with
a particular political ideology SURPRISE IT’S FUCKING FASCISM Okay, a quick disclaimer before we get into
this. Art is the most damn subjective thing there is. If you don’t like any of the art
I’ve talked about in this video, 100% fine. If you don’t like anything that’s been
made after the year 1800, also fine. I am not about to tell you that not liking modern
art makes you fascist. However. Fascism does make strong efforts to bring
art under a rigidly bordered, “culturally appropriate” definition. There’s this
pursuit, in fascism, to make everything of “an aesthetic.” That aesthetic is simultaneously
mythologized, made into the history of a culture. Once that culture is appropriately mythologized,
the art that feeds back into it is seen as “contributing” to the created society.
When, for instance, every artist that the dominant ideology values for the last thousand
years has been a white guy (or portrayed as such) and creates things that glorify white/colonialist
ideals, there’s something that starts to feel “natural” about that. It creates
a fundamental hierarchy. Any art that pushes back, or simply pursues
a different aesthetic, isn’t contributing anything to that mythology anymore. And in
fact, when the artists pushing the different aesthetic are members of groups that have
been historically oppressed by the dominant culture, the art they’re making may feel
like an attack on that mythology. Or at least, that’s how it could be framed, if one had
certain political motivations. One place you can see those political motivations
is, uhh, Nazis. Pause On one hand, you might look at Nazis and see
a surprising amount of respect for artists. Joseph Goebbels called artists “’gottbegnadeten
Sinngeber,” or “a divinely gifted purveyor of meaning.” High praise indeed. But as
Barbara Fischer notes, as well as this being characteristic of the “banal and overwrought
late romanticism” of the Nazis (sick burn), “purveying meaning” was only acceptable
when the meaning being purveyed fed back into the national mythology. There is little subtlety when looking at the
most valued art of the third reich. More interesting is the fact that, as well as the galleries
full of naked boys with swords, the nazis also showed off the stuff they hated, in a
gallery called “Degenerate Art” We now stand in an exhibition that contains
only a fraction of what was bought with the hard-earned savings of the German
people and exhibited as art by a large number of museums all over Germany. All around
us you see the monstrous offspring of insanity, impudence, ineptitude and sheer
degeneracy. What this exhibition offers inspires horror and disgust in us all.
– Adolf Ziegler, president of the Reich Chamber of visual arts This gallery, full of art removed from other
German museums, held such deviants as Henri Matisse, André Derain, and Oskar Kokoschka.
Gaze! If you will! Upon deviance! If you truly thought the art was causing damage
to society, wouldn’t you try to hide it from everyone? But they didn’t want it to
be hidden. [He wanted public anger to encourage displays of outrage, hugely visible protests.]] Sorry, uhh, This kind of art, the Nazis said, would only
be made by insane and degenerate artists. Specifically, they must be mentally ill to
create these kind of abstractions. Alongside each piece in this exhibit was the
“extravagant” prices they were bought for, inviting mockery and anger. The gallery
made familiar claims- no one, in their right mind, would enjoy this art. Instead, the fact
that these pieces were held in high regard was indicative of the insidious plots of the
left. The art held critiques of the sexual norms and family values that were so important
to Nazi notions of respectability. Modern art, they said, was also made for the “eradication
of the last vestiges of racial consciousness.” New and transgressive styles by black and
Jewish artists were indicative of their “degenerate intellectualism.” Eugenics, of course. Through the systematic
devaluation of art. A fun fact about Barnett Newman is he’s
a Jew! A less fun fact is that, for every attack on his work because people didn’t
like Red, many more have been specifically done by white supremacists. Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue IV
was spit on by a man who said it was a “perversion of the German flag.” Another Newman, a sculpture called “Broken
Obelisk,” was spray-painted with Swastikas in 1979 Last year that same sculpture had white paint
poured into its reflecting pool. Scattered around the vandalism were brochures with the
4Chan-pioneered supremacist campaign, “it’s okay to be white.” Whether they know it or not, the fact that
white supremacists hate Newman’s art fits right in with the message he always said he
wanted to convey. In 1990, he said of his art: “One of its implications is its assertion
of freedom…if [it were read] properly it would mean the end of all state capitalism
and totalitarianism. (1990) Challenging our preconceived notions of art
means challenging our preconceived notions of institutions, of society. This kind of
art doesn’t fit into the cultural narrative, and because of that, it becomes a target.
And ultimately, the crime that these artists commit is the right’s biggest fear. They
are upsetting the hierarchy. They are taking themes, experiences, and emotions that don’t
fit into our nation’s narrative, and they are expressing them in a way that is impossible
to ignore. And thus, the rejection of non-traditional
forms of art so often boils down to a rejection of oppressed people within those mediums.
Nazis didn’t call Kokoschka a degenerate because of his artistic stylings, they did
it because of his public anti-fascist activism. White supremacists didn’t vandalize Newman’s
work because of the apparent simplicity of his art, they did it because would be deliberately
obtuse, and saying that a half-decade of rape, bomb, and death threats were because gamers
were angry about journalism and a series of video essays would be- “This is what happens when lefty sjws and
cultural marxists seize control of something and ruin it for everyone else. No wonder gamers
are so terrified of them subverting the video game industry.” Depression Quest isn’t a new sort of game.
Text-based adventures have been around for decades, and descend from tabletop games before
anyone was even playing pong. But Depression Quest is an interesting title, because it
uses those implicitly understood rules of the genre to subvert our expectations. As you play through the life of a fairly innocuous
main character struggling with depression, options present themself at the bottom of
the screen. Your significant other has invited you to a party- what do you do? But time and again, the most desirable option,
the choice that would help “win” the game, is X-ed out. It’s clear that the best option
would simply be to go to the party and enjoy yourself, but you can’t do that. Every decision
is managing compromises, doing things that you know aren’t ideal but is all that’s
available to you at the time. And at the bottom of the screen, where you’d have your character
stats, there are just three lines. You are Depressed You are not currently seeking a therapist You are not currently taking medication for
depression. It’s a brilliant little experiment, a game
that plays with the established power-fantasies of most roleplaying to put you in a situation
where you’re undercut by mental health at almost every turn. It’s a challenging game,
though not in the traditional sense. There aren’t game overs, per se. But in many of
the situations, every option feels like a losing one. We’re hard-wired to want to
succeed in games like this, and Depression Quest makes it feel like that’s just impossible
sometimes. It makes me feel like -_-_-_-! As nice as it would be for Depression Quest’s
legacy to be an innovative title that played with the tools of the medium, it wo- “You can’t play what isn’t a game in the
first place. Also I don’t need some hipster dangerhair
with histrionics to teach me about depression “Not sure if that bitch ever really had
depression as much as she had batshit insanity 24/7.
Not sure if wild as fuck mood swings over every single thing counts as “having depression” “Depression question? More like narcissism
quest.” “I think the worst thing about the game
as that there was no option to just go ahead, commit suicide, and end it.” It’s BEEN OVERSHADOWED by targeted harassment
campaigns at its creator ever since it released. They say there is no way that this game got
coverage and praise on its own merit. It’s a textbook example of the war on objectivism.
Anyone who says otherwise, says they had a direct connection with this game, says that
it helped them view their- or others- depression in a new light, is participating in an effort
to force untalented people and destructive ideas into gaming. “This is what happens when lefty sjws and
cultural marxists seize control of something and ruin it for everyone else” Pause Patrick Buchanan, living fossil (wait, no
that says “Paleoconservative”), proclaimed that much of modern art was “Barbarism!
The Precise word!” Buchanan was speaking alongside Jesse Helms,
and was also attacking the National Endowment for the Arts. But he cut right to what he
felt was the meat if the issue. Art like this, this barbarism, this dreck,
was a direct result of the “amorality and cowardice of art critics.” This is the heart of it, right here. This
is the most naked form of attempting to control art. And when Buchanan yelled “it’s about
ethics in video game journalism!” (wait shit sorry, that’s not right) When Helms took the stand to say “Journos
only gave Gone Home good scores because they didn’t want to be called homophobic” (wait
that’s not it either) When people prescribe art to a specific set
of qualities, and attack everything that lays beyond those lines, we have to understand
what they’re doing. Those qualities, they just so happen to perfectly
align with the dominant cultural ideology, don’t they? They’re not showing respect for the craft, they’re not trying to “uphold
meaning.” They’re enforcing a hierarchy. They’re
attempting to define a cultural narrative. And above all else, they’re not. Talking.
About. Art.


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