My work centers on creating experiences in public spaces that tear down barriers between objects and viewers. I try to create pathways for “audiences” to become “participants” to become “artists,” by embodying a spirit of shared generation in every aspect of my work, conducting it like electricity in meaningful space where people can settle it deep into their bones, their soul. Creating space for people to walk their road from audience to maker is embodied democracy.
This ethos is in solidarity with many amazing artists engaged in social practice who believe that the mainstream art world too often uses unbelonging to drive, and express, value: the rarer the object, the more financially valuable and less accessible it is. With only a small number of people and institutions — historically white male, Western, and guided by hegemony over diversity — continuing to decide for all of us who and what has value, we seek another way.
I became an artist by choice, but 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 an expert in game design told me why my work fit. My commitment to games is because systems are the bared soul of my practice. Magical creativity can occur under constraints, or rules, and embodying the spirit of “play” allows us to experience constraint and take risks in a safer way. Games also create space for children and adults to engage equally. Age is another aspect of unbelonging that we accept more than we need to. For me, the concept of “game” is a philosophical approach, not a tactic to lure people to a lesson or message. Too often, “gamification” misses that difference.
Games can foster transformations, and I’m grateful to have had the chance to see micro-movements of change with the people I make for and with. One participant-creator told me that my game changed her life; another shared with me, a stranger, a secret that was causing her intense guilt; another surfaced a memory more than 60 years old. And many people have told me that my games have ushered in small self realizations. (Click here for a longer reflection on this.)
I was able to first explore measurability thanks to a commission by the Queens Council on the Arts in 2015, on the Brooklyn Grange’s rooftop farm. My goal was to understand how decisions inspired by creativity get carried out over time. What I found after contacting participants a year later is that art can help turn life itself into a work of art. And that may be a route to long term change.