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April 11, 2007 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-04-11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Wednesday, April 11,.2007 - 5A

Art in context

Marcel Duchamp made
history with a urinal he
signed a name to and
had exhibited in a gallery in 1917.
If it was in a
museum, if it -
was on the wall,
he said, it was
art. After all,
everyone was
standing around
looking at it.
The argument
that "anything"
can be art - the ABIGAILB.
principle "beau- COLODNER
ty is in the eye
of the beholder"
making our subjective perceptions
into our only real judgments - is a
fairly recent one. This argument has
gained momentum as discoveries
in cognition reveal our inner work-
ings and the degree to which these
determine what we know, or what
we think we know, about what's hap-
pening outside of us.
When looking at something
you've been told is art - told either
by a person or by the fact that it's in
an institution officially concerned
with art - it's common to take a
moment to consider it fairly seri-
ously. Art is usually thought of as
carefully constructed - it has its
time and its place.
But it's been suggested that art
can't stand alone, that it sometimes
doesn't speak for itself, and that
sometimes people need help contex-
tualizing certain works.
The Washington Post recently
ran an experiment. It tested howu
context affects people's perception
of what would otherwise be conclu-
sively stamped great art. The paper
placed Joshua Bell, the young and
celebrated violinist who performed
at Hill Auditorium in February, in
a Metro stop in D.C.'s business area
during rush hour. He played some of
classical music's most famous pieces
on a violin that's famous in its own
right. He turned a few heads, but
only in passing, and a scattered
handful of people paused in their
commute during the 45 minutes Bell
performed in the station.
The Post article made a dual
argument, one part about modern
living and one about the nature
of looking at art. First is the idea
that modern accessories and habits
aren't conducive to experiencing
new and surprising things, rather
than encouraging us to access them.
Second is the idea that we identify
something as worthy of investi-
gation only when its immediate
context tells us to. Something mem-
orable may be made forgettable, and
a urinal can be placed on a pedestal
and declared a turning point in art.

Bell may be one of the hottest tick-
ets in classical performance today,
but unless he's on stage, the article
said, you wouldn't know it.
Of course, passersby haven't paid
for tickets or selected themselves
as an audience. Their mental state
doesn't mesh with an environment
that offers something like Bell's per-
formance, because all other features
of the Metro station speak to a dif-
ferent set of concerns. As the white
walls of a museum tell you to take a
moment and look at something, the
escalators and swinging doors of a
Metro stop tell you to get moving.
Which is entirely appropriate.
To a sometimes astonishing degree,
though, spaces are tailored so per-
fectly to their intended purpose that
no bit of novelty, however splendid
in its own right, can compete. Bell
and his stentorian Stradivarius were
totally snubbed while the Metro
lotto booth got its usual share of
It seems that people can be loyal
to their environment even to the
point of absurdity.
But institutions with a vested
interest in making people recep-
tive will create an environment
that encourages positive emotion.
Stop. Take a look
Do you see art?
Museums lead us in through grand
arcades; theaters cushion us in red
velvet. The lobbies of the Metro-
politan Opera House in New York
and the Paris Opera in Paris implore
audience members to look at each
other as they promenade up stair-
cases with splendid views of every-
one else. These spaces are designed
for spectatorship, and people flock
to them for recreation and for the
freedom to look and be looked at.
Earlier this year the Museum of
Contemporary Art Detroit distrib-
uted arrow stickers to the public for
people to place next to something
they considered art. They were told
to take a photo of the arrangement
and send it into the museum, where
it was indeed posted on the wall as
art. It's gimmicky, but it does get
the eye roving. These bright arrows
are explicit versions of those marble
staircases, those gilded frames, and
those white-tie tuxes that let us
know it's OK to stare: it's art.
- Colodner, who is in fact
a work of art, can be reached
at abigabor@umich.edu.

Why does organized crime always look so baller? (Tiger mask included.)

Making the 'Man'
Author David fishers brings the mob from the novel to PS2

Daily Arts Writer
Ever wondered if TV shows,
movies and video games portray
organized crime realistically?
"Made Man" is one game that
attempts to answer this question.
It was designed by crime expert
David Fisher with help from for-
mer mafia member Bill Bonanno,
whose family was the inspiration
for the "Godfather" movies.
Fisher himself has an exten-
sive knowledge of crime. He
worked with another mafia mem-
ber on his autobiography and
has worked with district attor-
neys and police officers. He also
authored several crime novels.
Such a background is probably
what motivated Acclaim Studios,
now Silverback Studios, to con-
tact him about developing a story
for what they described as "the
most realistic crime video game
ever done."
Fisher jumped at the chance
to apply his knowledge of the
Mafia and mob culture to anoth-
er medium, and ultimately thor-
oughly enjoyed it. Fisher said he
sees gaming as "a new world of
entertainment" and said "a lot
of people see it as just an exten-
sion of the movies, but it's its own
Fisher provided insight into
The B-side:
The fashion

how he constructs his fictional
worlds of crime: "You look at
organized crime, there are cer-
tain patterns," Fisher said. "I
tried to delineate what these lev-
els were."
Besides writing the basic story,
Fisher also worked on developing
the theme of each level as well as
the environments, the look of the
characters and even the dialogue
between mobsters.
Fisher hopes to continue to
work in video games, saying
there may be plans to turn his
book "The War Magician" into
a video game with Tom Cruise
as the starring voice. He said he
would welcome an opportunity
to work on a crime-related video
game again. "I'm game, I'd like to
do it," Fisher said of the possibil-
ity of developing another game
like "Made Man".
The game itself is a third-per-
son shooter that follows Joey
Verola as he rises through the
ranks of organized crime to
become a "Made Man." His jour-
ney takes him from North Caro-
lina to the jungles of Vietnam
and the mean streets of Brook-
lyn. To Fisher, this diversity of
landscapes is what separates his
game from similar shooters such
as the aforementioned "GTA,"
which take place only in the city
and its suburbs.

Though the landscapes may
be varied, "Made Man" -doesn't
do much to innovate the Mafia-
game genre. It's a fairly straight-
forward shooter with weapons to
pick up, health to collect and bad
guys to kill. The problem is that
"Made Man" will inevitably be
compared, as it has been here, to
PS2's "GTA" games. These games
revolutionized their genre by
incorporating every aspect of the
city into gameplay, offering avast
weapons selection and develop-
ing a bevy of dynamic and diverse
characters. "Made Man" is an
entertaining game, but it fails to
develop a fully realized interac-
tive environment, a task that is
certainly not easy.
But the main reason why
"Made Man" will never be called
an innovator is the same reason
few people praised "GTA" for its
story. Though "GTA" developed
an arc around three mob fami-
lies that was more complex than
an episode of "The Sopranos,"
the game was mostly successful
because of its high replay level
and, of course, its excessive vio-
lence. The game just couldn't get
players to care about the story.
"Made Man" suffers from
the same problem. If anyone
can craft a good Mafia yarn it's
David Fisher, but video games
have never been a medium that

cared too much about stories. It's
always been rescue the princess,
kill the aliens and don't ask why.
And though "Made Man" may
have a great story, that fact alone,
sadly, won't attract many gamers.
The game's primary audience -
12-year-olds to college-aged kids
- would probably just as soon
skip the dialogue and get to the
Fortunately, according to
Fisher, "Made Man" does a
good job interweaving dialogue
with gameplay, so characters
are developed without detract-
ing from the playing experience.
This, perhaps, is the first step in
getting gainers to derive some-
thing from their playing experi-
ence other than carpal tunnel
But Fisher also knows "Man's"
shortcomings, like the fact that
it's only available on PS2, a sys-
tem steadily being usurped in the
gaming world by XBOX 360 and
PS3. According to Fisher, this is
because the game had been in
development since 2003, when
Xbox 360 was just a gleam in Bill
Gates's eye.
"I also think that, for 20 bucks,
it's a great game," Fisher said.
"Twenty dollars to own the only
mafia game developed with the
aid of a former mafia member?
I'd buy it."

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