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Nomadic Branch Week 1 - Artist statement

As the first step on the research process, let’s ask ourselves why are we doing this, what is the big picture, the deep motivation that pushes us on the process of designing a urban game.

Usually an artist statement is at the end of the process, it’s a tool for the artist to look back and write something that could help the audience to understand better why and what their piece is expressing, challenging etc…
We are going to try to do the opposite, ask ourselves first why are we committing to this design process and learning experience together.

Deadline for this is January 22th and we will comment each other (maybe with questions) January 23th.

Thanks for sharing!
@LizzieH @KyrAvram @MarinaKy14 @soly @Highfather @BagelandBalloon

@natalia_skoczylas

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I come from a visual and participatory art background; my interest in games fits into the areas that I research through art, which are around the commons, public space, ecology and peer learning. Devising a game therefore has the same motivations for me as creating an artwork (they are the same thing): to share and reflect upon a subject. When creating a new project/game, I tend to focus on a fragment of a subject that I feel has relevance and can be explored in greater depth, and work in a fairly instinctive way to decide what kinds of interactions make sense with the topic and the people that are likely to be involved.

My motivation to be part of Trust in Play is to learn from and with others who also have an interest in games and society, so I am less interested in following my usual ways of working and subjects of interest, instead I’d like to see what working as a “school” can be. The goal is to create an urban game that is interesting beyond the learning process for ourselves – something that is of value to others that play it.

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Spirit? Spirit in peace and spirit in movement?

Body? Body in peace and body in movement?

More bodies? People? People in peace and people in movement?

Community? Community in peace and community in movement?

I would like to initiate a common movement in community to design playful permanent structures as a trace of common experience in peace.

The priority themes are body culture and health (cooperation with professional dancers, to develop a discussion about a movement as a tool serving the population for better health), integrity and cohesion with the local context and materials and support of alternative urban furniture development (playful permanent structures not necessarily considered as playgrounds).

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There is no I. There is no other. There is no surrounding. There is not a Me in an environment of other Mes. There is not a Me in a world that can clearly be differentiated from this Me. There is no where I end and you begin.

For all that matters, matter is relational. It is impossible not to relate, already on a physical level. Even if its effect are hard to trace: you are exercising a gravitational pull on me. We share the same space and therefore we affect each other. I dare you to sit in a room with a stranger and not relate to that person. I dare you to be in a room with just a chair and not sit on it (eventually).

My understanding is that “You sit on a chair” is much more than an activity. It is an expression of a relation. And in similar ways all forms of relations are an expression of an intertwined world. “You observe the chair” is an expression of objectification/wonder, “You turn away from the chair” an expression of neglect, “You destroy the chair” an expression of pain, “You colour the chair” an expression of care. Like with all forms of expression they are subject to interpretation and context, and in that regard form another form of relation. There is no running away from it because it would mean running away from yourself | the world — where would you run to?

Expression is much more than just the perceivable outcome of a single entity. An astronaut floating through the emptiness of space will lose their desire to express. Seen this way, the relational complex we call Earth is an expression of Life, and each relational of its parts express the world that we are.

How do we relate then? What do we express? On a global/national/local/interpersonal level? I see one expression in many facets and that is the expression of exploit: There is a Me and an Other that is there to satisfy my desires. I see global players that extract an utterly toxic substance, leaving behind devastated wastelands. I see national governments selecting people at the border by how useful they think those people are to them. I see municipalities selling out housing opportunities for those who pay most and not to those who need it most. I see people ignoring/evading each other because they feel the other is becoming a burden. I cannot prove it but I am convinced that the similarities in those dynamics are not a coincidence. I believe that the way we, as humankind, treat the planet reflects the way we treat each other. And vice versa.

In my work I want to explore how we relate to each other, our surrounding, the world on an every day basis. How are we together? What do we do? What does this express? I usually do this by experimenting with social spaces — situations that are highly social like dinners or parties. During this design process I will put my focus stronger on the urban space. My starting observation thus far is that urban space is seen mainly as a commodity: we use it to travel from one point to another, to decorate it with useless information (like advertisements). Urban space needs to be efficient, it needs to be as non-relational as possible (most relational spaces are confined inside of buildings, cafés, bars, restaurants — children get an exception with playgrounds). It is sometimes hard to believe that the most dense places in the world (in terms of human beings) are the hardest to find connection with other people.

I want to explore how we can relate to each other and the world in a more caring, attentive, loving way. I want to explore both how we relate to the urban environment but also how the urban space facilitates relating to each other.

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Thank you for sharing your statement, Lizzie.

Right now I feel quite interested in what “working as a school” means for you. So far I have understood a school framework as more support structure for what I want to do. I’d be curious to hear a little more about that.

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loved reading this :slight_smile: it helps me decipher some of my own thoughts and ideas!

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What is the shape, the colour, the odour of that space between TRUST and mistrust?

Could the experience of PLAY be an opportunity to deconstruct the Trust-by-default that allows us to function in a society and in place?

These questions are intriguing enough for me to jump on the Trust-In-Play roller coaster ride and explore, learn, and get inspired. Maybe I’ll get answers for completely different questions but hey, that’s part of the GAME.

I perceive games and playful experiences as a neutral/fair/impartial(?) tool for urban practitioners to engage with citizens and invite them to interact / discuss / explore their environment, their relationship to space and the social behaviors/ activities in the urban space.

I am very interested in life between buildings and how ephemeral structures / interventions in the urban public spaces can temporarily create opportunities for sociability and interaction between the citizens. So far I have explored this phenomenon through the practice of architecture, scenography and placemaking. The process of urban game design in this new “school” promises a collaborative learning experience with the potential to complement my knowledge, skills and tools on how to synthesize space, art, storytelling and engage COMMUNITY actors in order to create an original creation.

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hello Marina, thank you for your statement. I would be really curious to see what you were involved in when doing ephemeral structures / interventions in public space (architecture, scenography and placemaking). May you think about giving some pictures during next week call?

Dear Tibo, I find this statement very strong. The very similar feeling resonates in my head since a long-time while travelling the world and meeting different cultures and backgrounds with various focus on relationships and nature. It seems that there is something systematically wrong and it might get better only by energy and time investment of individuals. I consider that the very first point is to wake up, be aware and come to realise the situation, preferably by intense emotional experience…

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Thanks for the question T! That’s a really good thing to discuss – I’m not sure in my own mind even all the things a school can be. I suppose I’d been thinking about this school as the opportunity to learn through a process of co-authorship.

There are a lot of tools/methods for project development that I have found very helpful but also feel like they prioritise the development of each individual separately (mentorship, one-to-one tutorials, group critiques, reading lists etc.). The kind of school I’d like to see has shared experience and collectivity at the heart, as opposed to say a course, which could be something you undertake to enhance your own individual knowledge, skills etc. and which can sometimes be done totally individually, e.g. online distance learning.

Perhaps I’m getting too much into micro-semantics, but basically I feel my general way of working as an artist is to come up with my own idea for a project, then to ask for advice and sometimes to invite collaborators. TiP feels like an opportunity to do something a little different, less I, more we, which wouldn’t normally be an option (at least not on this pan-european scale). Of course if everyone else is more interested in working on individual projects and using each other for support I’m cool with that – there’s such an interesting breadth of experience, ideas, perspectives between everyone that this international support network would definitely really enrich any individual project.

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Thanks Marina! Really loving the sensory way of thinking about space and trust!

I’m interested in what trust-by-default positions you see in society/public space… and also what potential mistrusts-by-default? What trusts and mistrusts might different users of space have, and how do these interact? How does this change in different places (I’d particularly like to hear about how you see the answers to these questions in Cyprus)? These could be interesting starting points for developing a project around…

This could be a huge topic to look at (perhaps even for a game itself?)… It’s making me think of the conversations happening at the moment about how algorithms/AI incorporate the biases of their creators. Do you have any thoughts you could share about how we can make games neutral?

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Nice, I’ve also been thinking about urban furniture and how it relates to bodies in space…

Something I’ve been wondering about is how street furniture’s defining feature seems to be its use value – items of street furniture have specified purposes. Would alternative urban furniture not have a defined use? Would it then be distinct from public art? Or should we be finding alternative uses for existing urban structures?

It might be a bit of a wild shot but I have recently tried to look at “my work” in a different way. I would like to share that here since I feel there could be something interesting regarding another way of collaboration.

One of the most challenging aspects for me about “growing” into sth that people refer to as artist is the idea that what I create is seen as an expression of who I am in this world. In the process of making things I kept considering how people would look at me through the thing. To a point where I would get very anxious about doing anything at all (as everything could be misinterpreted). In the end, my perspective became externalized.

And last year that changed for me. I tried to look at what I was creating from another perspective. I was falling a love with a collaborative theatre project (for which I was writing, designing interactions and keeping an eye on dramaturgy), and I mean this quite literally. All of a sudden I looked at the piece with this question: What does this piece need in order to grow more? How can I fall in love with this even more? What do I like about it? How can I make that stronger?

Suddenly this piece was not just what I was creating, but rather a living entity that I met. Yes, in strict sense I had some sort of authorship on it but it didn’t feel like it. We were a collective of around 5 people in this piece and it felt more like we were parents to this thing.

I am not 100% sure where I am going with this. I just imagine a school in which we are not coming together in order to facilitate ourselves as marketable artists that need to spread their projects with the world, acquire whatever credits in order to get the next gig. Instead it is a breeding ground for meaningful/playful practices that kind of take on their life.

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I couldn’t agree more, sadly. My feeling is that we need to try to work at both macro and micro levels simultaneously – practice small interpersonal acts of care whilst also working for systemic change. Was chatting with someone earlier about how the monetary system we have was born out of exploitative relations and goes on today to reinforce them. We have it within our capacity to design an economic system that prioritises a just society rather than encourages personal gain and enriches entrenched elites, but to implement such a change is incredibly unlikely with existing mindsets.

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Hello everyone! Today, we here at MICA join the fray at last.

At first glance, this question is a difficult one. The first thing to pop into my mind is the purpose of following through with this platform and process is because it fulfills a requirement for graduation this semester. Another is that it looks good on a CV or will help me grow as a game designer. Another game under my belt, you could say. However, thinking back on that now, it feels like a weird and cynical way to look at this opportunity. There must be more to my decision because this opportunity is so much more than that; it deserves so much more than that.

About a year ago, I was speaking to a friend of mine while playing a game, and he told me “it seems like you are always having fun.” Of course, this is not true. Life has its ups and downs, but my response surprised me. Without missing a beat, I responded “I try to have fun with anything and everything I do. It makes everything more enjoyable.” Very quickly afterward, I confessed that is not what I do. I’ve never even thought about that before, and I am not sure where it came from. It does sound like a wonderful way to live if I could do that successfully!

That statement has stayed with me since that day and coincidentally came into my life right before I learned about Trust in Play and the Nomadic Branch. Thus, what followed was my inner dialogue about pursuing this opportunity, for cynical reasons and just because it sounded like it would be a blast! I had heard about the Training Week, and that sounded like it would be very fun, even though the details would not be revealed to me until much later. I enjoy meeting playful people. I find people who are comfortable getting a little goofy around strangers magnetic and I strive to be someone like that; someone who lives authentically as themselves and interacts with the world in their own magically way.

I think urban games can serve as a gateway to that authentic self. So many people, myself included, shy away from having fun and letting go of worries. In a game, however, the magic circle allows for some comfortable exploration of the authentic self. Some may call it escapism, but in my own experience in urban games, individual people bring so much to the play from their authentic selves; at least an amount they are comfortable with. The games and their rules or guidelines serve as a vessel for exploration of interaction with other players, with interaction with the world, and experimentation of the self. Those explorations are what, I believe, drives me, and what pulls me into the world of play.

As for designing these experiences, my interest and enjoyment comes from seeing people interact with the work I make. Every time I see people play the games I make, I feel as though all of the time and effort spent on creating it worth it! I love playful experiences, and I love bringing those playful experiences to others. Life is rough sometimes, and if I can bring some light to others the same way others bring it to me, then I am happy.

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I love this statement. As someone in my final semester of college, I find myself getting trapped in this mindset a lot. “What can I do to be more marketable?” “What can I do to have a better portfolio?” and other questions like this feel… bad. There has to be a better descriptor than that but I’ll go with “bad” for now. I also would love this idea of a school to be more about building each other up and spreading knowledge, experiences, and stories. To learn for the sake of learning and feeling good and proud of oneself. To not be focused on the grind and finding the next success.

I’ve written a lot of artist statements in the past few years-- perks of going to an art school, I guess-- but I don’t think any of them have been explicitly about my relationship to play.
So here we go!

I stumbled into the concept of “urban games” on accident. I was invited to participate in a student-run urban game 3 years ago, and it was downhill from there. Initially, the club seemed like something I was interested in on a purely theoretical level, but would be too embarrassed to participate in reality. There’s something very vulnerable about allowing yourself to play openly, in space where others don’t. Allowing yourself to be silly is a skill many people forget.

At the time, I was engaged with game design on a more aesthetic level. I was still majoring in illustration, and had decided that I was going to be focusing on how to make the art for games. Knowing how games are made was just meant to inform my illustration practice, not convince me to toss that practice out the window and go full-speed on games. (SPOILER ALERT: i did)

Fast-forward a year later, and I’m struggling to find out why my illustration coursework isn’t as engaging as I’d hoped it would be. Fast forward another year, and on the exact date that I switched my major to game design I was in Athens, learning new urban game philosophies.

This doesn’t explain the “why,” though.

To me, play is the best way we can get to know each other. We learn so much about each other through playing together, whether it be a short, intimate conversational game or a 6 hour long board game. It is one of the easiest ways to connect with people; once people enter the “magic circle” of a game, they change. There’s something fascinating about the way people willingly submit themselves to new (temporary) social rules, and how far they’re willing to let themselves dive.

The reason I’m interested in play is because I want to know people, and I want to tell stories. Every game tells a narrative, either through the structure of the game itself or the experiences players find through engaging with the system.

On the other hand, I think it’s important to utilize games as tools for change, on both a personal and systemic level. That’s not to say I think games can end capitalism-- they probably can’t-- but they can be used to teach players how to engage with their environments differently. They can invite us to change ourselves and how we see the systems in which we exist, but we have to design them with care.

I think at my core, I want to be an agent of change. And I want games to be my vehicle for it. Urban games are a natural result.

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I love the discussion about what Trust in Play will be as a school, and this journey is one of the one that interest me the most.

I feel that here we have the opportunity to experiment and deconstruct some of the classical structure that we created on the topic of design and I would love to dismantle these together.

Last year, for the first time in my life, I start working full time as an educator in a US private university (MICA - Maryland Institute College of Art).

My previous experience of teaching were mostly business oriented, 2 days workshop with small groups of individuals that I would never see again. The goal was to pass to them as much as we could about the topic we were mastering (how to make effective presentation).

In this, as @KyrAvram said, it was a very exploitative process, but the counterpart, was that we can make a living out of it.

I’m a white cis male person and the last year in the US made me clearer how this could impact your existence and how privileged I am. I never experienced poverty, but I was educated to be frugal (and I love this side of mine), my grandparents being WWII generations farmers.

I’m an immigrant (the first ever in my family), in a nation that is both the best (everybody can make it here!) and the worst (we want you only if we can exploit you), this make me vulnerable, unable to make long term plan, alone in my day to day specificity.

For the first time though in the last year I was able to reach a financial stability, but I acknowledge that this is the result of a very exploitative system, the US higher educational system.

MICA is a very expensive art school, students take on loan to be able to attend this school, and they need to get very good job when they are out of here in order to pay back as fast as possible their debt. Not easy for artist. My european attitude of being poor but at the same time give myself time to find the perfect job, doesn’t apply here.

Having all of that under my skin I really struggled to understand my role as an educator, in that moment one foundational reading was Teach to transgress by bell hooks.

Their concept of Engaged Pedagogy and how to Embrace Change are something that I’m aspiring to.

The learning environment is a environment of change, and everyone that is present and committed will be changed by that. It’s a community in its more deep sense, because is a communal experience.

I’m not particularly affectionate to my role as the professor in an environment, I don’t feel de-evaluated if i lower myself to the position of a facilitator or an older peer, but I wonder if I should challenge that as well.

Is it possible to educate people to be free? To find a way to navigate the contemporary professional system and be self-realized? Are we allowing this in our learning environment?

This is a question that I would love to explore here.

One thing that I really like of Trust in Play (and back in my mind I feel is one result that it’s important in an educational environment) is relationship with other humans.

In my professional development, humans, friends, peers were SO important, they were everything! (here is the italian text of that presentation)

This long statement just to say that I would love to be in this with you, I hope that this space will be an opportunity of growth for all of us and I hope that though sharing and challenging each other we will reach a more complete self-realization of ourselves.

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Hi Marina! I love that you brought up the concept of trust versus mistrust-- it seems we dwell a lot on the idea of trust, but mistrust is an essential part of that conversation. We need to acknowledge that building trust doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and that overcoming mistrust is an essential step when it arises.

I’m with Lizzie-- I’m really curious about your thoughts on this. I’m of the opinion that neutrality is impossible to achieve, so I’m wondering if this is something that we as a school should discuss. Is it really fair to act as though we as practitioners and facilitators are capable of neutrality? No person is without biases or morals, and to divest the personhood from a facilitator is dangerous territory.

(however, I think that fairness is not the same as impartial/neutral, much like how equity and equality are not the same)

Hey Soly! I don’t intend to show some of these in my presentation since I want to explore projects/design of others that inspire me for creating my own game. But here are some links to watch videos of projects I was involved in with the Urban Gorillas and Xarkis, two collectives based in Cyprus.


(I disagree with the foodwaste during this project though)

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