The pampas of ennui

Being Leonardo Boiko's online Journal, featuring Long & Very Sporadic Essays on any Subject.

Mother and mother’s photographs

12 February 2012

Shigesato Itoi (in: interview, translated by Chewy & Tomato):

Human beings think that somewhere, they will live on forever, but actually, there isn’t such a think as “forever”. In all of the information I have come to learn since becoming an adult, there is some information that has influenced who I am today. One of them is how the Earth will no longer exist 5.5 billion years from now. […] Just as each of our lives will end, what we think to be the biggest thing in the world–the planet itself–will someday come to an end as well. There’s sort of a feeling of refreshment in coming to realize that. If people think that the world will just go on existing forever, they’ll think of an endless number of things that they’re going to have to keep on improving.

—It’s only natural to think that way, isn’t it.

Yeah. But to me, those thoughts of endless improvement are a display of self-denial. […] But when the world ends 5.5 billion years from now, just knowing that everything is bound to come to an end makes it easy to avoid being pulled in that direction.

A translated magazine interview is a pretty unlikely place to get philosophical insight. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t read variations of this idea ten thousand times by big-name Real Existentialist Philosophers and such. But, you kow, this time it actually 気になった。 It’s weighing on me.

I think it has to do with the fact that I’m playing Mother 3 right now. I don’t believe in the “Mr. Postman model of art”—the idea that art is supposed to deliver “messages”, & that reading a work would be about finding and deciphering correctly its “message”. But there is such a thing as an author’s feelings becoming enmeshed on his creation and emanating from them. It’s different from a message; more like, dunno, a fragrance that builds over time and grows on you. Every little thing in this game feels like it’s telling me something. Mother is a copywriter’s RPG—it’s made of sentences: not “text”, not even paragraphs, but sentences—small, self-contained things, each with its own small but firm identity, its dignity of existence:

—The townspeople have really distinct faces, and everyone’s different.

Well, it’d be disappointing to see people with the exact same face. In the end, I didn’t want to make this a game simplified by symbols. When you’re in the overworld and you have to walk into a symbol to trigger the screen and open up the town, that town ends up being turned into that icon. And I especially wanted to avoid representing people through mere symbols.

[another interview; translation by stellajean]

And what the little things say is, the ever-present fragance, is this: “relax and enjoy the little things.”

Mother, originally a Dragon Quest pastiche, is a quest-based RPG built so as to undermine the concept of quests.

There was a time when I used to despise photography of the kind that my mother takes: plain records of “special” events in life, taken for indexal value without any attention to the æsthetics of the photograph itself, as if the machine could magically capture away a point from the flow of space-time—a futile effort, and an illusion and a lie. With that in mind, I stubbornly refused all requests to take family or travel pictures; I made a point of only shooting pure, disinterested, affected “art” photographs. That was until I noticed the reason I wanted to make art was to be an Artist, to be special—as if that could mean something on the face of nothingness; as if it could transcend the flow of time. It was precisely the same kind of illusion! It was, in short, “thoughts of endless improvement”.

I came to look upon vernacular photography with renewed interest; these days it actually moves me more than “art” photography of the kind displayed in galleries.

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