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Arttitude or - a take on the current C-64 graphics debate

"Bloody hell talk about starting WW3. You must be laughing your nuts off now. :)"

Ladies and gentlemen, the above quote was a message from STE'86 concerning the heated discussion on CSDb concerning the voting in the doublescreen pixelcompo. You might say that this discussion have been covered elsewhere, which is a good argument. Unfortunately, the quite extensive article on this topic (The Wire) in the last issue of VN (#56) didn't add much save for a lame rehash of the CSDb discussion. So, pardon me for dragging this carcass out in the light once again, for a second dissection. And before you start thinking about it - this article will not defend plagiarism. If you have a source, it should be clear that you have one - especially if it enters a compo. That should be clear enough. This article is about the right or wrong in using already existant images - it doesn't really matter if you copy, pixel, scan or convert them in order to use them in their new context. And no, pixelpurists and crafthuggers - this isn't about the holy craft of true pixeling either. There is something else that matters, but more about that below.

First things first though. I'm an artist. I mean, not just a pixel-artist, but a real one. Artist, like in graduated from the art-academy after spending 6 years at artschools. I don't point this out to brag or act superior - I simply want you to understand that the subjects I'll be discussing is things that follow me in my daily life and that have followed me for a long time. As an artist, you could probably classify me into what people tend to call a conceptual artist - my art and my practice is based around embodiement of ideas rather than the craft. I'm more interested in stories, time and human perception than the aesthetics and physical expression of a painting or a drawing. Naturally, this perspective affect how I view the scene aswell.

I haven't been awfully productive on the scene the last 5 years, but during this time all my compopics or single releases - save for one (Cargo) - have been made out of my own collages or photos. Ever since Timanthes arrived I have never bothered to handpixel anything from scratch. For me, outlines and proportions are necessary evils as I usually work with portraits or semi-portraits. Like a beamer helps my friends find these proportions in paintings, Timanthes saves me energy to focus on other things - and in the end, 95% of the pixels will be pushed around anyway, so why not? I agree it's less crafty than an image pixeled from the start, but it doesn't make it inferior as an image or even as an artwork. But to get back on track - this argumentation and action is a consequence of my approach - I certainly wouldn't judge a completely handpixeled image higher than a semi-conversion. For me, the choice of subject, de- and recontextualization, your visual choices and how an image changes with the transition to pixel-art is what is important. But that's just me.

When I made one of my first C-64 images ever (Majakovskij) back in 2000 I showed it to Sander/Focus. I was terribly proud of my SHF-pic. Wow, new editor, new restrictions - and it really looked like the guy! Luckily, Sander dropped the comment: "Yes, it is nice. But you've pixeled this off a well-known Rodchenko photo - what in the pixeling makes this your work? What did you add to it?". This comment kind of sank in to me, changed my perspective and have followed me ever since. A repixeling of something is a bit like making a painting or a drawing - it could be many things. It could be a photorealistic copy of an original piece, or it could be a very personal interpretation - but whatever it is, there should be a significant part of your vision embedded within it. Compare the work of the photorealist Chuck Close to works by impressionists like Monet or Van Gogh. Close embeds his vision with a careful choice of subject and attention to detail, whereas Monet or Van Gogh embeds their vision with a choice of semi-abstracted wide brushstrokes and a careful choice of color. Surprisingly enough, we see the same in pixel-art.

There have been a million of these Boris Vallejo renditions during the last 20-25 years of C-64 art. This is quite natural, as the tradition of making computer fantasy art was established in the eighties. In the beginning the choice was natural for the teenage artists - these were impressive, detailed images, filled to the brim with dragons, muscles and tits. Gradually, this drifted into tradition, and in the early nineties, this tradition had became the norm. Corresponding with the rise of IFLI in 1992-93, we soon started to see truckloads of flickery Boris renditions on black background. Many see this as the low-point of C-64 art (aka flickering tits + dragons). But even here we can see and identify unique ways of translating an image onto our beloved C-64 platform.

An example? Take the early images from Sebaloz. Looking at a single image, you might see just another Boris-rendition, but when you look at 5 or 10 of them, you see the consequent preferance of brown-reddish colors, the often complete removal of backgrounds, the muscly homoerotic images of lightly dressed men and a fascinating amount of detailed, skewed faces. There is something deeper, a personal marker, residing beyond that single image. This marker is a choice, a conscious or unconscious artistic choice that is just as important and vital as making a pixeling career based on original C/G porn and cats or whatever you might come up with. Hell, you could even make good artistic choices out of straight 1:1 conversions if you really are aware of what you are dealing with. The problem with a straight, 1:1 conversion isn't that you are cheating or making things simple for yourself. The problem is that the only stamp of identity you put on it might be your choice of colors, the contrast and the cropping. A conversion usually lacks that thing, that something, which makes this image yours. If you have a minimalist approach or use the fact that a converted image have a lack of personalized markers - even a load of straight 1:1 conversions might be a viable tool.

To sum it up, most art is made out of the necessity or/and will to express something. I believe that goes for pixelart aswell. The craftmanship of pixelling might feel like an important thing, but it's only important in order to make an image more aesthetically pleasing or to make that personal mark I described above. Mind that doing craft for the sake of the craft might be pleasing, but it's not a purpose in itself. To attempt to reduce the C-64 pixelart into something that have to be made from scratch, an eye-to-joystick craft or something that have to be pixeled out of the pure figment of an artists mind is nothing but a purely political standpoint. A standpoint that limits what C-64 pixelart could or will be.

Come on. Let's do some limitless pixeling instead - doublescreen or not.


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