Theme: Play and Self
When exploring this week's theme, I wanted to move away from the idea of representing the self and think more about what the process of making the self is. When creating something that is meant to be a representation of who we are, we automatically have some end goal in mind because we have a preconceived notion of what the end result will be (something that is like us).
However, in the actual formation of who someone is, there is no control or understanding of the end result. The formation of identity is totally random, so I wanted to explore this idea and play with the automatic connection we make between our identity and the ‘self’.
In The Ambiguity of Play, Sutton-Smith explores Gadamer’s idea that the game ‘plays’ the player. The player's reactions are often reflexive or involuntary, and thus takes the player outside of themselves. They are instead bound to reacting to the game. I felt as though this treatment of the self is similar to the understanding that your ‘self’ is a result of scenarios the self has no control over, but must react to.
I wanted to encapsulate this process in a playful way, which brought me to Vandenberg, Fein and Rubin’s (1983) exploration of fun. One of the criteria they use to characterise play is a focus on the means, rather than ends. I wanted my project to shift the participants' attention in the same way, looking at the process of the self rather than the result.
Hence, I wanted to try and adapt these notions together in a playful way to communicate the randomness of the individual self. My concept is for an interactive experience, where the participants are given a material like clay, and use different parts of the exhibit to shape, mould, colour or change their object in different ways. The exhibit would have multiple paths, but the participant could take any path they choose.
Each participant is given a substance like playdough, and then enters the exhibit in any way they like. They continue to walk through the different rooms and can use the different objects installed in any way they choose, but once they reach the end they are not allowed to do it again.
Video exploring my model: https://youtu.be/pAuvfnsQh8A
I first brainstormed different ways a material like clay or playdough could be changed physically, and then thought of ways I could make something that would have those effects. I came up with different models and sketches, but the real determining factor was the resources around me. I didn’t want to make something digitally because originally I had envisioned my concept as something self contained and physical, like a machine or gizmo which could be installed on a wall. I also wanted to be resourceful, and only use items I already had so it wasn’t wasteful.
Some of the materials I found I knew what they would be used for, others I first altered and then discovered how they could be used. My main tools were cardboard, masking tape and scissors. I made the object in sections and included multiple paths in all the sections until the last one.
It took me a while to work out how to communicate these ideas. I did a lot of brainstorming and sketching, and originally envisioned something that was hung on a wall and the participant simply drops their object in and it randomly rolls through and they receive the end result, like a gacha machine. However, it was as I was making the model I realised that the original idea removed the ‘self’ too much.
Originally, my solution to this was having the participants able to move the little sections around, as long as all the sections still had at least two paths so there was some randomness and participation. But, as I was making the object, I felt like controlling the path of the clay didn’t involve the actual player in the message about the ‘self’ I was trying to represent with the clay.
When I laid the model horizontally, I realised the player should be focusing on the object which goes through the exhibit. I was absorbed in the aspect of the model I was making, the little sections, and realised it should be about involving the participants in the making. This was a more accurate representation of this metaphor I was trying to communicate, and a more fun process. Hence, I re-envisioned the prototype as a model for an exhibit, which more closely embraced what I wanted to communicate: we don’t choose who we are, or what we are faced with but we make the choices along the way.
On a more critical note, the unfortunate thing about this prototype is that some aspects are more representational than functional. However, I still feel the idea comes across and the limits I had were a part of the fun in making something.