This week is the first part of a two-part blog entry. Through the domains of play and art, we will consider the relationship of videogames to the collapse of the sacred and the profane in our everyday lives.
Today’s discussion will provide the conceptual outline for the second part, to follow in the next blog entry, in which I will look more closely at the current domain shared by video games and art: the GameArt movement. At that time, I will also examine criticisms laid against the video game industry in some detail.
For now, in this entry, I will try and clarify the question I have asked in the title. I am interested in the intersection of play and the sacred in contemporary art, whether or not we can even speak of the sacred in this connection.
There is no clear definition of the sacred today, implying a general profanation of Western culture. That which is sacred to you may not be for me, and may not even be religious in character. Ritual sacrifices in ancient cultures, for example, implied a set of theological beliefs that were coupled with complicated acts of consecration, embedded in a network of axiomatic concepts that reserved access to the sacred for an elite social class.
At the center of the sacrifice is simply a determinate action that, as such, is separated and marked by exclusion; in this way it becomes sacer [Latin] and is invested with a series of prohibitions and ritual precepts. Forbidden action, marked by sacredness, is not, however, simply excluded; rather it is now only accessible for certain people and according to determinate rules. In this way, it furnishes society and its ungrounded legislation with the fiction of a beginning: that which is excluded from the community is, in reality, that on which the entire life of the community is founded. (Giorgio Agamben. Language and Death 131)