Child’s Play: The Grid I

In a new series, I create tape installations that allows the audience to create their own games.

Games have constraints, such as the boundaries created by tape. In this piece, The Grid I, I transformed an exhibition gallery using masking tape. One side has only parallel lines, while the other side has both parallel and vertical lines.

The Grid I (April 2013)

The Grid I (April 2013)

The Grid I
April 2013
installation
31 by 34 feet
masking tape, toys

The Grid I (detail)

The Grid I (detail)

Agents of play were also provided, such as a jump rope, game tokens (in this case, baduk, or the Korean version of Go), a stuffed die, and balloons.

agents of play

agents of play

In the past week, I invited two groups two play with this grid. They had to create their own game, with their own rules, and utilizing the agents of play if they wished. They had to answer questions such as, “How many people or groups can play?” “How can I score a point?” and “How can I win?” (if it was a game about winning).

The first was a group of teenaged boys (aged 17-18). Most wanted to be architect, while the others wanted to be painters. They divided themselves into two groups and created the following games:

1. No Bounds

Players stand in a circle, avoiding the tape, and kicking a balloon without letting it fall to the ground.

I - No Bounds (balloon)

I – No Bounds (balloon)

2. Avoid Baduk

A player rolls the die, and the number corresponds to the number of baduk tokens he takes. He throws the baduk pieces at the other players standing in a line opposite him, who try to avoid getting hit.

2 - Avoid Baduk (stuffed die, baduk tokens)

2 – Avoid Baduk (stuffed die, baduk tokens)

The second group I invited was a lovely group of 12-year-old children from a local elementary school. Here are the games they played:

3. Baduk Slide

Players slid the baduk pieces across the floor. The one who slides the baduk piece the farthest wins.

3 - Baduk Slide (baduk tokens)

3 – Baduk Slide (baduk tokens)

4. King

One player is the “king,” who is unknown to the others. They follow each other using the lines of the grid, whispering and finding out who is the king.

4 - King (just the grid)

4 – King (just the grid)

5. Tennis

Players used the plastic piggy banks as modified rackets and took turns hitting the balloon.

5 - Tennis (plastic piggy banks, balloon)

5 – Tennis (plastic piggy banks, balloon)

6. Volleyball

Players used the die as a ball, and the rope as a net.

6 - Volleyball (rope, stuffed die)

6 – Volleyball (rope, stuffed die)

I learned a lot about children’s creativity and ingenuity from this project, and I think the kids had fun. It was fascinating to see objects whose function was completely changed for the purposes of games they thought of. It was also interesting to see components of traditional games and sports (such as tennis and volleyball) be used.

I definitely liked creating a piece where the audience had to interact with it for the artist’s intentions to be fulfilled. I would love to keep turning galleries and exhibition halls into playgrounds. Critically, these are children who are overexposed to online games—I was happy to get them unplugged from their smartphones and computers and plugged into their imagination. I’m definitely looking forward to pushing this idea further.

Some behind-the-scenes images with the elementary school kids. (Photos by Kate Kirkpatrick)

Many thanks to Ms. Se-Hui Park of Shin-il High School and Ms. Ju-Eun Lee of Changdong Elementary School, their awesome students, and to the staff of The National Art Studio of Korea who assisted with organization and translation.

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