Imagine that an artwork could read your mind. Somehow, it was able to predict how you were feeling about an event in your life. Maybe it was the birth of a child. Maybe it was a loss, or a crime. It was a 1 in 1000 chance, but somehow, an artwork told you how you were feeling about it. How would you react? Would you dismiss it as chance, or would believe it was fate?
This is the power of the Random Generators, a growing body of my interactive work in public spaces. The Random Generators ask viewers to creatively confront their way of looking at the world. While the interactions are often simple, the responses have been overwhelming. At one event, a participant told me that the game changed her life. Another shared with me, a stranger, a secret that was causing her intense guilt.
I became a game designer by accident. In fact, the last time I played a video game was 1989, and I didn’t think of my work as games until speaking with a professor in game design in 2013. What I really wanted was to focus on serving my participants in meaningful ways: to create experiences in which art wasn’t just something people peered at from afar, reflecting the feelings and thoughts of the artist. Instead, I wanted to create things that participants took ownership of, embodied, changed, and leveraged for personal reflection and transformation.
I believe these games can have a measurable impact on people’s lives. I was able to first test this thanks to a commission by the Queens Council on the Arts in 2015, installed on the Brooklyn Grange’s rooftop farm. My goal was to understand how decisions inspired by creativity get carried out over the course of a year. And what Ive found is that an artwork can help turn life itself into a work of art. And that may be a route to long term change.