What If We Considered Dead Island's Severed Torso As Art?

Anytime something shocking or awful is done by the video game industry, you'll have people chiming in that we should leave it alone because it's actually art and so it has a right to exist (because apparently being art means the ability to exist without criticism and any criticism is actually the equivalent of censorship!).

It seems apparent that Deep Silver had similar thinking — looking at how the controversial special edition of Dead Island: Riptide is marketed, it says it's an "an iconic Roman marble torso sculpture".

This is to say Deep Silver wanted us to consider its torso like this art, which to me, seems absurd. They're not equivalent at all.

But let's bite — so proposes Gameological in its write-up, "It Belongs In A Museum". It considers the Dead Island torso as art that could be in a museum — but not just any art type of art. Shock art.

Shock art is a type of art that, according to Wikipedia, "incorporates disturbing imagery, sound or scents to create a shocking experience. It is a way to disturb 'smugs, complacent and hypocritical' people."

But if we actually stop and analyse the Riptide torso as a work of art, things get kind of ridiculous.

Note the spinal column that juts out of the neck. The way your eye is drawn to an insouciant bit of bone on the arm. These are important cues in the visual vocabulary of Modern Game Studio artworks. They symbolise worship of the deities Dark and Gritty. According to lore, anyone who gazes upon these gods-and isn't too much of a pussy to handle it-is granted the power of being a badass who nobody should mess with. On account of the darkness. And grit.

One might note that the breasts, however, are intact. There's a good, artistic reason for that.

This is in keeping with the long game-industry tradition of honouring huge bazongas above all (and honouring the arse, too, if there's any development time left over after programming the huge bazongas). Even in the early years of 3D games, when female characters had faces that looked like bulging hexagons with lipstick, developers managed to give video game breasts hyper-real motion and buoyancy. Game women benefited from an experimental field of game science known as "boob physics" or "teat-jigglies." This piece is a salute to that heritage.

The best part comes when John Teti, the author of the post, explains the gore:

The gore serves as a complement to the misogyny, because without that face and those limbs to distract the viewer, a clear point of focus-boobs-can emerge. It's so elegant how it all fits together. You know in A Beautiful Mind when all those numbers and equations are connecting together around Russell Crowe's head, like a dazzling crystal? This is like that, except with hating women instead of maths.

Ouuuuch. But, there you have it, defenders of Severed Torso As Art. It's art now; we've considered it as such. What that art says may not exactly be good — but hey! Art.

It Belongs In A Museum [Gameological ]


    Who cares? This was a publicity stunt and it's obviously working. The real winners are Deep Silver.

      Bingo, Deep Silver did this as a stunt because people would be shocked and not stop talking about it, and it goddamn worked.

        Have you ever considered they just thought it was a cool idea until a bunch of babies started crying about it? Not everything that gets blown up out of proportion on the internet started off as a publicity stunt. See: Hitman Absolution trailer.

        Unfortunately these days, thanks to a select few femi-nazi's and their over senstivie fanbase of overly politically correct males tagging along for the ride, anything depicting a female (or god forbid a prominent display of breasts) is considered outrageous and sexist.

          But surely somebody at Deep Silver would have looked at the bloody torso with breasts and thought 'perhaps people might get the wrong idea from this'

          I don't think there was anything intentionally misogynist or woman-hating behind this idea, but whoever approved it would have known that it would have caused a stir what with all of the other controversies that have happened over the last year.

            I can only speak for my own opinions on this matter - and, assuming their intentions were innocent, I don't really think anyone would have seen anything wrong with this. Even now I struggle to reason why this is the issue it is... As a company of course they have to backtrack and say "Oh sorry, we should have known this was a dumb, offensive and hideous idea" but internally they're all probably thinking "what the hell is wrong with these people? It's fine!"

              I think enough has been discussed on why the torso is wrong or not or whatever, I won't throw in my two cents on that.
              All I am saying is that with all of the shitstorms that have blown up lately over anything that could be interpreted as misogynist in this industry, surely Deep Silver would have been aware of what sort of reaction they could expect to see from this.

                They were aware. And that's the point.

                Gamers are the most easily offended people in the world and getting a whole bunch of free press from it has become very lucrative.

                Last edited 18/01/13 5:59 pm

    The only real problem with this bust is that is looks really crappy. The design and paint job in the image are terrible.

    Other than that it's within context to the game and the name of the special edition, people surely have the right to be outraged and offended, but then people also have the right to enjoy morbid busts and figures.

    If it's not your thing, don't buy it, but you shouldn't be demanding it be recalled or not offered to those who do want to spend their money on such things.

      Pretty much. I was pretty unimpressed when I saw it, I just don't think the quality's there.

      It also doesn't really match up with what I expected of the game. I think it's mostly to do with the tone I expected from Dead Island pre-release. What with the trailer tugging on emotional heartstrings and all, I expected a deep (silver) and emotional experience, but instead got something quite far removed. A bust like this serves only to remind me of over-the-top things like Piranha: Double D Edition, where it's entirely intentional, or Dead Rising / Saints Row, where exaggerated sex appeal mixed with gratuity actually works.

      Here it just doesn't work for me. I don't look at it in terms of it being offensive in the slightest, because I don't find it offensive - I just find that it is further removed from the experience Deep Silver wanted to communicate when they released the first trailer. It's just disappointing, that's all.

      A zombie torso would be within the context of the game. There is nothing on this statue that marks it as a zombie from the game, a necessary element to argue that is from the game and within context ie skin tone, tissue degredation, blood pooling, even a texutre overlay from an in-game zombie.
      This is not the torso of a zombie. Without signage or an explanation, there is nothing linking this statue to the Dead Island franchise.

      Claiming that the statue is within the context of the special edition name "The Zombie Bait Edition" is a fallacy of order. It presumes the statue was created to fit the title, whereas it is more likely that the two were created concurrently, or the statue came after. Either way, it's a misleading attempt at justification.

      Leading into rights and your exchange below over the definition of art. Art is not excluded from critique, to claim that because something is art it is immune to criticism is ridiculous.
      The statue is sexist, claiming it as art does not stop it from being sexist.
      I think it's cute that Deep Silver went for an interpretation of the Venus de Milo, but they missed the mark in the context of their game by a long way.
      People don't necessarily have a right to interpretation, but they do have varying capacities and abilities to interpret.

      Dead Island has never been marketed as shock or grind horror. This piece is entirely out of context for the gameplay, mis en scene, marketing, and previous target demographic.

      Consumers should be able to buy what they want, they should also be treated with a modicum of respect by the industry.

        Who is to say it's a zombie and not a human victim, please see bottom right corner of this screenshot, of course their limbs are still attached, but the possibility is there, also, zombies do not neccesarily suffer changes in skin tone or tissue degradation, it depends on how long they have been zombified, assuming of course this is actually meant to be a zombie.


        The bust does have signage, it's just been conveniently removed from the image for this article, probably to further the authors opinion.



        Not sure about your special edition name point, I was stating that the bust fits in with the name of the edition, I don't see the order of creation of either one affects this, perhaps that's just me. If I were in the situation portrayed in the game I would hack up bodies to use as bait or distractions, at least that's what it's trying to purvey to consumers in my eyes, however, whether this action is possible in the game for that reason or not would probably put my point below on it being in context with gameplay in a precarious position, atleast in regards to the name of the edition and inclusion of the bust, the action itself is still possible regardless.

        I agree completely, I was not trying to say that art should not be criticised, it most definitely should be. I really don't see the bust as sexist, honestly most things I have read claim it to be, but the reasons are either not mentioned or are weak, is it because attention is drawn to the breasts of a resort going woman dresses in a bikini? What if she were flat chested, or if one of the breasts were missing, would it still be sexist then?

        Not marketed as such no, but the gamer certainly plays out and presents itself like one, at least to me it does, the original trailer that everyone loved was not lived up to in any way, in this instance I see the way the game was marketed and what the game actually is to be polar opposites.

        Out of context of gameplay? As stated, that can be done to the corpses in game, however while not required or neccesary to progress, still possible. Out of context of mise en scène? I think this fits very well into the visual theme of a zombie infested holiday resort, not as effective as an actual zombie figure or something similar for sure, but to say not in context at all? I can't agree.

        As a consumer who does not feel disrespected by this in any way, my experiences might not be the universal rule for everyone, but painting all consumers interested in this game as being disrespected is not correct.

    Edited due to Spruppet correctly pointing out I'm an idiot. :P

    Last edited 18/01/13 8:34 am

      I think she did. The wording indicates sarcasm and she knew what Gameological were doing with their article

        Could be right. I think I'm so used to her taking a holier than thou attitude with everything I just start automatically assume that's what she's doing.

    "This is to say Deep Silver wanted us to consider its torso like this art, which to me, seems absurd. They’re not equivalent at all."

    who are you to judge what is and isnt art?
    Like i said in the last thread for this, if some crazy chick can paint with menstrual blood and call it art, or a guy in Germany using faecal matter. hell there is an australian guy who paints with his penis.
    I see this torso as more artistic and more acceptable.

    regardless of the humourous side in the linked article, it is a valid discussion.

      That's sort of the joke. You can call anything art but that doesn't make it worthy of being put in a museum or getting looked at like it's a masterpiece.

    Am I the only person who wants this severed torso to put amongst my other collectibles from games?

      No way dude, I want this sooooo much

    This is not art. Art is a creative endeavor that the artist uses to convey an idea or a feeling to the viewer. Art has meaning.

    This is tits.
    Tits with the sole intent to sell a product.
    By even making the suggestion that it could possibly be considered artistic, you're giving this dumb idea way too much credit.

      Let's start with what "art" might mean...

      "1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

      2. the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, or drawings: a museum of art; an art collection. See fine art, commercial art.

      3. a field, genre, or category of art: Dance is an art.

      4. the fine arts collectively, often excluding architecture: art and architecture.

      5. any field using the skills or techniques of art: advertising art; industrial art."

      [from dictionary.com]

      Looks like this fits into a number of above. Seems you are wrong, technically this is art.

        of your five definitions, which fit?

        5 - nope. thats talking about industries.
        4 - nope. thats talking about collective artistic disciplines.
        3 - nope. again, collective naming of a field.
        2 - this is the closest one. but this isnt subject to aesthetic crticism. this is a base appeal to the lowest common denominator with the intention to sell a video game. this is marketing. marketing isnt art.
        1 - not really. it describes the process of production. this wasnt sculpted by an artist. it was built to spec by someone contracted by a marketing company. it was not an artistic endeavor, it was a job. they knew that the were making a marking prop, & not art. then a few thousand were stamped out on a production line.

          Both numbers 1 & 2.

          Beauty and appeal are subjective, it's also outside or ordinary significance else there would be no furore, it could even be argued that the furore itself caused the piece to be outside normal significance. Now, I admit to not knowing the specifics of it's origin or creation, however I don't see how your method of it being merely a job no different than an artist taking on a commission.

          It's not subject to aesthetic criticism? "Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of art, beauty, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty." I believe this is one of the reasons people are unhappy with the bust, they find it to be tasteless and criticise the use of the female form in this piece, as you objectively stated "this is a base appeal to the lowest common denominator". Not too sure about your "marketing isn't art" comment as it definitely can be interpreted as art, in fact that comment interested me enough to look up "Is marketing art" which revealed a number of opinion pieces on that very topic, you are merely expressing your own opinion as fact when marketing can be placed into definition number 5 or even 3 in this case, and another topic entirely.

            First of all, yay! someone on the internet who is able to have a reasonable discussion! you're a rarity.

            Secondly, you're right in saying that art is subjective. But I still think that the definition of art is in the intent of its creator. it could be the most god-awful ugly piece of rubbish with an insignificant message to impart to the viewer, but as the creator made the piece with an intent to convey an idea through their creation, then sure its art.

            This one, however, I dont think qualifies as art because, most likely, the creator had no artistic intent in its creation. 'heres a few spec drawing of a design. we want you to make it. heres money for your services.'

            i dont doubt that the person who made the original model is an artist, I just don think that this piece qualifies as art.

    Art or not, people should have the choice to buy what they like.
    Morbid statues and torsos etc? Havent most people been buying that stuff for years.
    Neca, McFarlane Collectible figures immediately come to mind

    People should just get over and make the choice that they dont want that particular collectible and just move on.

    who gives a shit, if you like it buy it, if you don't, don't.. move the fuck on journos
    talk about trying to get a story out of nothing

    Of course it's art. But it's not the kind of art that I like and I would never, ever buy something like this.

    And I find it a bit disturbing that there are people who would. But that's ok. It would be boring if we all had to like the same thing.

    But I really hate this.

    There goes Patricia again, talking without thinking.

    Those who try to define art are missing the entire point of it! Art can be anything for anybody, what means nothing to one person can mean everything to another.Art is anything you want it to be, even if something like a bloody torso statue. Just because YOU take nothing away from it, that doesn't mean it can't be considered art. Whether or not it's creators intended it to carry a deeper meaning is irrelevant. Everything is open to interpretation.

    Why waste your time debating whether or not its art? It has a right to exist, whether or not it means anything to anybody. Its not illegal, its not harming anyone by existing. No one is forcing anyone else to buy it or look at it. Give your opinion and move on - why have 3 different people wrote 3 unnecessary articles about something so trivial?

    Everyone these days seems like the offspring of Germaine Greer or Tracy Grimshaw....Over opinionated and refusing to shut up about things that don't even affect them. Like THEIR opinion is the only rational one, anyone else is just stupid and below them.

    It's really getting old. When are you journos going to realise that no one wants to hear your opinion? Just report the facts and leave it at that....Seriously.

    Why is this such a huge issue? Why was it even an issue at all?

    Why does the world continually make me want to hate it so much?

    Blah, Blah, Blah - Where can I order this ?

      I'm with you, take my money and give me the damn severed torso.

      It isn't shocking and awful. All the weak-minded people crying over it are pretty awful though.

    If it is art, it's the equivalent of a graffiti tag. I've seen good shock and horror/gore art and this comes nowhere near it and feels more like a juvenile attempt at making people gasp purely for the lulz.

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