Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Culture: improving goat intestines and horse-hair

"Culture that catch-all word to describe the state of being civilized, is not about reading the right books or seeing the right films, knowing which knives and forks to use, or never calling napkins serviettes. It is about taking responsibility to conserve, develop and improve the world which we have been given.

Improve? Yes, God actually gave us marble, knowing that, when combined with those invisible gifts of imagination and determination, it could be turned into Michelangelo's David. God created catgut, horse-hair and wood, knowing that human ingenuity could draw from them Vivaldi's Four Seasons; cocoa pod, knowing that curiosity would transform it into chocolate and mouldy bread, know logic and the quest for knowledge would one day discover penicillin. (Of course, he also created the Grand Canyon and the Amazon jungle in the hopes that we might have the wisdom to leave them well alone.)"

-Hilary Brand & Adrienne Chaplin in Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Universe as the Living Image of God


"How then did Calvin teach us to regard the world in which
we live? We should be attentive spectators in the theater of
God's glory, who seek to recognize the actor on the stage by
means of the powers revealed in his actions. We should
contemplate and meditate on the world as the living image of
God, in which the invisible God renders himself somewhat
visible, so that the powers we behold, feel, and enjoy in this
image might lead us by anagoge to the God representing
himself to us in this image. We should be ravished with
amazement and astonishment at the beauty of the fabric of the
universe, which reveals the goodness of God to us and sweetly
allures us to seek God."

-Randall C. Zaclunan in the article:
The Universe as the Living Image of God:
Calvin's Doctrine of Creation Reconsidered

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

two of my favorite artists on inspiration and notes on sub-creation

"Imagination cannot function in a vacuum...The value of information and knowledge, visual or other, is the time it spends kicking around inside one's head. Despite the mice and the abandoned nests under the eaves, the mind is not an idle place, where things are stored away collecting dust. They talk to each other, exchange information, get together, make groups and friends, and eventually are there when you are doing the one thing you can NOT do consciously - be inspired."


*(this is a blog post where he talks about his artist's morgue, something I was first introduced to in the excellent book Digital Texturing and Painting)

"For an artist to create something completely original is impossible; there really isn't such a thing as something that is completely original, but it's very possible and sometimes very powerful to combine existing elements into a new whole. This is what an artist does: Ingest the world around him or her and regurgitate it, putting it back together into something that is familiar, yet unfamiliar; normal yet magical. I can cite examples of resources that proved to be an inspiration for us, but really those resources inspired us in very superficial ways. We've been "ingesting" since we were born, and what comes out now is the sum of our entire lives."

-Robyn Miller in an interview in Digital Space: Designing Virtual Environment

Besides inspiration, Miller refers what Tolkien (who influence both of these artists) called sub-creation: our created worlds are secondary within God's created world, thus never truly original. Ignoring this I think is why so much modern art is so ugly and poor. (edit: I have a post on this here.)

Also, the other day I stumbled upon this excellent article that sums up and explores a lot of things I am interested in about Worldbuilding as Storytelling, etc:

Sub-creation of Secondary Game Worlds:

"In order to sub-create a vivid world, I suggest that the game designers need to focus more on the philosophical, mythological, and religious cultural aspects of their world, rather than focusing on naïve quests. Not neglecting quests though, a believable game world requires naïve and epic adventures as well as cosmological inter-linkage between ideas. The game designer as sub-creator must want to say something with their world, and these messages are the basis of the cosmological level of the game world. They do not have to be didactic or moralizing, but the content ought to move the players emotionally as well as sensibly or rationally."

-Lars Konzack,
(who incedently has a blog I just discovered here.)

...and in order to make this post sufficiently ramblesome, there are many parallels between that essay and Ernest Adam's Will Computer Games Ever be a Legitiment Art Form.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

a video game designer on Mythopoeia

I occasionally read Gameustra , a game developer's magazine. I recently discovered that most of the articles I enjoyed were by one man: Ernest W. Adams. Take this article for instance, on the Silmarillion and Beethoven's ninth:

"Tolkien's creation myth irresistibly brings Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to mind, so much so that I sometimes wonder if Tolkien was inspired by it. The Ninth Symphony consists of five movements. In the first three, the orchestra explores three very different themes. But in the fourth movement, a conversation takes place between the cellos, which are clearly a teacher, and the violins, which are the pupils. One after another, the violins start to play each of the themes of the first three movements. Each time, the cellos cut them off with an emphatic negative. Finally, timidly, the violins introduce a new theme. The cellos encourage them, and the theme expands into the soaring Ode to Joy that is the fifth movement."

-Tolkien, Beethoven, Vision

Who would expect to read that in a game designers magazine?
Some of his more interesting looking articles are:

Will Computer Games Ever Be A Legitimate Art Form?
The Role of Architecture in Video Games
In the Beginning Was the Word
Dogma 2001: A Challenge to Game Designers
What’s On the Designer’s Bookshelf?

Besides quoting Tolkein, he's a fan of my fav. writers on architecture, Christopher Alexander.

Anyway he pointed me to this book which I quote:

"A beautifully designed videogame invokes wonder as the fine arts do, only in a uniquely kinetic way. Because the videogame must move, it cannot offer the lapidary balance of composition that we value in painting; on the other hand because it can move it is a way to experience architecture, and more than that to create it, in a way which photographs or drawings can never compete. If architecture is frozen music, then a video game is liquid architecture."

-Steve Poole, Trigger Happy: the inner life of videogames

But, to link this to the previous post, I think video games can often help us appreciate nature as art, because you are suddenly aware that everything in that enviroment is designed and controlled and crafted for beauty, and it's not different in our world.

Kierkegaard on seeing nature as art

"The Reason I cannot really say that I positively enjoy nature is that I do not quite realize what it is that I enjoy. A work of art, on the other hand, I can grasp, I can—if I may put it this way—find that Archimedean point, and as soon as I have found it, everything is readily clear for me. Then I am able to pursue this one main idea and see how all the details serve to illuminate it. I see the author’s whole individuality as if it were the sea, in which every single detail is reflected… The works of the deity are too great for me; I always get lost in the details. This is the reason, too, why people’s exclamations on observing nature: It’s lovely, tremendous, etc.—are so frivolous. They are all too anthropomorphic; they come to stop with the external, they are unable to express inwardness, depth."

-Søren Kierkegaard, Sept 11 1834 (Journals and Papers, Vol 1)

In modern times, I think surely this has to do with the loss of seeing the world as the free creation of God. Seeing it and knowing that it does not have to exist, and is held in existence by him. I have another post on this here, about the feeling of exploring a beautiful computer game vrs the real world.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

notes on science as love of beauty (aesthetics)

Because the world is the free, unnecessary, artistic creation of God (for the display of his beauty and glory), when we study the world and how it works (science) we are analyzing and exploring art. We are finding connections between different parts of the art-work that are not visible at first glance.

Because we can immediately see how beautiful, diverse and unified his work of art is, we know that if we look for symbols; search for meaning; and ask how it all holds together, we will find answers to these questions.

It is the beauty of the stars and cells that compel us to invent the telescope and microscope.

It is the wonderful coherence, the fitting-togetherness of creation that leads, attracts beckons scientists like Einstein to discover (to uncover more beauty) theories of unification.

It is because Kepler knew and heard the beautiful music of the spheres that he was able to scribble down a few bars in his descriptions of the motions of the planets.

The history of science is the story of the uncovering of the glory and beauty of God in his art of creation.

It is because the world is beautiful and that it fits together as a whole that we know things like mass and energy or gravity and electro-magnetism will ultimately make sense together. In it's diversity we will find unity.

And we know that from that sublime unity of natural laws will come the infinite diversity of physical forms in snowflakes, leaves, trees or galaxies.

This is in part inspired by this passage by David Bently Hart in The Beauty of the Infinite:

...our knowledge is first of all worship, thanks, awe, and desire before it is rational reflection: to know the world truly is achieved not through a positivistic reconstruction of its sufficient reason, but through an openness before glory, a willingness to orient one’s will toward the light of being, and to receive the world as a gift, in response to which the most fully adequate discourse of truth is worship, prayer, and rejoicing. Or, the truth of being is poetic before it is rational, indeed is rational precisely as a result of its supreme poetic coherence and richness of detail.

Peter Leithart has several posts about that book (with quotes and summeries) here.