Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Art of 8-Bit History

Luke Skywalker filtered by 8-bit Avatar Maker
"What follows is based on actual occurrences. Although much has been changed for rhetorical purposes, it must be regarded in its essence as fact. However, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles either" Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
A few years ago I began a project to explain Modernism via the original 1977 Star Wars movie. This is not an even match up. To understand everything you need to know about Star Wars takes 2 hours, but to understand even a small corner of Modernism is a project that can eat up ones entire adult life (ask me how I know). What I ended up doing, was viewing the movie under a critical microscope, breaking it down moment by moment and enlarging on every detail. Modernism, meanwhile I was forced to reduce to a few key players, some illustrative anecdotes, and iconic art works and architecture. A friend who came to one of my talks about the project took issue with art historical liberties, he felt, I was taking. But in truth, I wasn't changing the facts of the story; I was changing the resolution of the story. The history I lay out may not have the richness of detail we find in an heavily annotated academic survey, but just as an 8-bit portrait is still a photograph, an 8-bit history is still a history. Likewise, the "truth claims" of Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Lincoln, and even Django Unchained shouldn't be dismissed because those films simplify complicated histories. While these films can never provide full historical resolution, they remain important looks at important moments.