17 février 2011. Séminaire “Iconotexte(s)” : Thomas Hensel “Still Life in the Crosshairs or For an Iconic Turn in Game Studies”

Thomas Hensel, Docteur en Philosophie, Professeur à l’Université de Siegen, Allemagne

Still Life in the Crosshairs or For an Iconic Turn in Game Studies

If it is true, that computer games are one of the most complex artifacts to be the subject of art history or media studies, then the competence and capacity of these disciplines has to be proven with regard to their ability to approach these artifacts in an analytical way, and, if this is possible, in the manner of their proceeding. In order to do justice to the manifold aspects of computer games – be it narrativity, audiovisuality, inter(re)activity and immersion, ergodicity or ludicity – and their power to integrate all these aspects, game studies test multidisciplinary and polyperspectivic approaches, which unite positions from literary studies and information theory as well as pedagogic and economic perspectives. A glance at current as well as arguably canonical research literature nevertheless reveals a distinctive blindness and maybe even ignorance with regard to another aspect of computer games : their visuality and their pictoriality, that is to say their iconicity. When, in the presentation, images are discussed within the context of computer games – with the term ‘image’ denoting all iconic artifacts from paintings to the interactive image belonging to a simulation –, this happens with a focus on a feature, which is attributed to artistic images in particular. According for instance to Arthur C. Danto, these are distinguished by the fact that they relate to something, but at the same time address the means used in the act of relation. At least since Victor I. Stoichita’s major study “The Self-Aware Image”, this double coding of images has become generally accepted in art history, and self-referentiality has become the point of departure for new explorations in game studies as well. The presentation’s remarks have to be understood against this foil : If one succeeded in describing a computer game as an artistic picture medium, which displays and reflects its own iconicity, then the analytical tools of game studies would have to be expanded by a further instrument, namely an iconology. But this would not have to be the kind of iconology as conceived by Aby Warburg or Erwin Panofsky, but rather an iconology understood as a tool used for the examination of the forms, contents and performances of images irrespective of their media. In the course of this process, computer games – already apostrophized as the “tenth art” by media studies – are in no way to be ‘incorporated’ or ‘colonized’ and subsumed under their precursors – rather, this is an attempt to mediate between the two poles of game studies, narratology and ludology, and to make some assertions concerning the characteristics of computer games in general. The example case of the presentation is a single, but, in its self-awareness, not singular commercial computer game, namely “Resident Evil 4” (Capcom 2005).

La séance aura lieu de 10h30 à 13h, en salle 228, site Tanneurs.

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