Brainstorming concepts

Posted by editor on April 9, 2015

Today was my first day at the Art Carnival and it was wonderful to meet Kendal and the other participating artists. After a day of brainstorming ideas and discussing everyone's concepts - and what great concepts there were bring thrown onto the table - I came away very inspired! 

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We were asked to think about what carnival and games mean, and how we want people to think when they view/interact with our artworks. 

For me the idea of 'Carnival' elicits Venice and its carnivale, and is indicative of masquerade, the masks we hide behind and use as an excuse to disengage or manipulate or even bully. Masks provide an allure, a mystique, anonymity, mystery, arousal, danger, excitement - so many mixed emotions.

In thinking about the game and what that means, what distinguishes a game from play is structure. Play is an element of a game, but games have a framework with rules and a defined goal. Achieving the goal ends the game; play is endless.

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As an interaction designer, my mantra with my work is that the product or piece is not finished until someone is using it effectively. This approach also informs my art practice, as I like to create pieces that require audience participation either to be completed or to be created. 

What I want to do with my art is to challenge people to think outside of their comfort zones. I'm interested in exploring identity and belonging within community and the role society, empathy, compassion and tolerance play in this. I'm intrigued with behavioural sciences and how different situations and messaging can affect or change our behaviour and attitudes. I'm also interested in exploring how people interact with both the artwork and each other in developing the work or changing the narrative and outcome. 

One idea I want to explore that ties all of these concepts together, is a reinterpretation of an old and well-known game: chess. Yoko One created a white chess set as a win-win game statement - which I love! In my game, the pieces would not be regular chess pieces; each would be given a label or character, based on the types of people society deems to either be political pawns (for example, refugees, aboriginees, single parents and health care workers) or powerful players (such as celebrities, media moguls, politicians and advertising spin doctors). What I want to do is use a game that is strategic, tactical and often ruthless as a metaphor for playing not just a game, but with people's lives. Who are the power brokers? Who are the pawns? The point to chess is that to gain advantage, you must sacrifice those from your own team. Who would you sacrifice in order to win the game?

My initial idea was to have one side with the pawns and power players as deemed above, and the other side with them flipped. But I'm not sure as yet how to best execute the idea. It could be a performance piece, with people in costume or simple black and white printed t-shirts as the 'pieces' and elaborately costumed callers/MC's as the 'players'. Should the 'pieces' be masked or unmasked? Will this change how they play? Should the 'players' be masked or unmasked? Can the audience also participate as 'pieces' or 'players'? Should they get to choose which they are or should they be assigned a random character to play?

Is the framework of chess counter-intuitive to the objective (ie to step into the shoes of someone else and play as them, to gain empathy and understanding)? Is it too obviously polarising from the outset? Too aggressive? Perhaps the rules for this chess game need to be rewritten; perhaps all the pawns are on one team and all the power pieces are on the other team. Maybe the aim is to create a balance in which all in the team are on an equal footing. Perhaps rather than each side fighting the other to win, the aim is to work together to achieve a shared goal. Maybe the participants need to come up with the rules and objectives? Perhaps it's chess but with the rules of a different game that encourages players to work together to gain advantage?

It was also great to wander around Avalon, view the potential sites and get a feel for it's Avalon-ness. I'm feeling very excited and encouraged, despite having more questions than answers after today! Can't wait for the next part. Bring it on!

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