Today, the Earth is around 13.8 billion years old. To think about how all of this happened, and the blip of human existence so far in an expansive Universal story, is sublime: awe-inspiring, frightening, beautiful, spiritual, existential, and creative. I hoped to share that with others in my usual spirit of shared, embodied generativity: working within “games” to create space for sublimeness to sink into soul, flowing on a quiet current of Earth’s fragility and well-being.
Thanks to the Queens Council on the Arts in 2015, Bending the Universe was installed on the Brooklyn Grange’s LIC rooftop farm in Queens. Creators first selected a ‘game piece’ with a word written on it, from “hope” to “witches” to “love” to “books,” and more. They could freely choose or be given one at random. But they didn’t know yet what they were going to do with it- only that their choice mattered. They were asked to put their game piece down on a game board. The game board was a timeline, chronicling and visualizing phases of Universe creation, from the Big Bang, to the unknown end.
To choose their spot, people walked along one side of the board and explored a continuous timeline of our Universe’s history as we know it today. The timeline marked milestones in time, detailing how the Forces work and when they came into being, when matters started to form, how Earth started to form, the emergence of life, the death of our beloved sun, and billions of journeys of matter and energy beyond. Peoples’ choices were conceptual and aesthetic as they changed the game board in their painterly ways.
When creators finished, they met me at the end of time. I gave them a blank milestone marker and asked them a simple question: what happened to your word at the moment in time that you chose? They reflected and wrote strange and beautiful stories, weaving in real facts about the Universe, and placed them on an alternate timeline mirroring the real one. Throughout the day, an alternate collective timeline emerged as stories accumulated, about love at the end of time, ideology at the beginning, and so much more.
Based on how they participated, they received a horoscope.
The Nature of Horoscopes
From reading hundreds of pages about the Universe to create this game, I experienced two understandings of my own:
1. From beginning to end, our Universe is a rainbow, filled with red explosion at the beginning, dreams of quiet blue in silent expansion, birthing in green majesty as galaxies and planets form, and sunsetting yellow and orange as we prepare for endings and beginnings.
2. Matter and energy, as one becomes the other, are us. We seek contraction, quiet, containment, introversion, and introspection as matter takes form by pulling into itself under the force of gravity. When we contract to far, do we absorb others? We seek expansion, explosion, dissolution, and distance as energy takes identity and stretches with the Universe. If we stretch too far, do we get absorbed?
These two understandings took creative form in a final step: a horoscope system that I designed. People who wished for a horoscope tied to how they played were asked to share which moment in time they chose and whether they saw themselves as matter or energy. Based on their answer, they received a ‘horoscope,’ which predicted their life stage or their stage of mind, a mirror for the Universe. The horoscope, often eerily prophetic, framed an opportunity for participants to make a decision in their real lives. For those that chose to make a decision, I followed up one year later.