Jonathan Blow and Heather Chaplin at the Hammer Museum

Hammer Museum: Games and the In Between

“It was less a conversation and more a therapy session focused on how great self expression—great art—is an attempt to build some sense of peace between the notions that art is meaningful and meaningless all at once.”

Heather Chaplin, journalist and author of Smart Bomb, began her conversation with Jonathan Blow at the Hammer Museum by asking the audience if they’d played Braid, Blow’s acclaimed puzzle platformer videogame from 2008. When most of the crowd raised their hands, Chaplin jokingly remarked that she’d take that as permission to skip the “Are videogames art?” debate. I was relieved; I think everyone was. With that invocation—that videogames mean something to us—Chaplin and Blow were free to get serious about just what in the hell videogames are and can be about. Over the course of two hours Chaplin and Blow danced and dwelled among science and philosophy, quantum mechanics and alienation, the truths of mathematical systems and the fuzzy feeling of your butt on a chair. As far afield as the discussion got, it never lost sight of the material: Blow’s upcoming Braid and upcoming The Witness and Chaplin’s autobiographical book project each illustrations of attempts and sometimes (always?) failures at truth. The resulting performance was something equally personal for participants and audience wonderfully and abashedly overreaching in ways that usually require whiskey. It was less a conversation and more a therapy session focused on how great self expression—great art—is an attempt to build some sense of peace between the notions that art is meaningful and meaningless all at once. A task for which games seem particularly well suited.

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  • Catherine Gutierrez

    Very well written Tanner Higgins