Glass Hours

In 2018 and 2019, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced that the Doomsday Clock had reached “2 minutes to midnight.” For 70 years, the Clock has been a symbol for how close we are to a man-made disaster, where midnight is a point of no return. As our planet suffers around us, quietly and with frightening potential, are we able to make sacrifices for a future we can’t know or see? As we benefit from our privileges today, are we prepared to give up what is necessary to enable liberation for all tomorrow?

In reflecting on these questions, I read about the science of memory and how we think about time. I also spent months re-treading my own memory footprints, as well as discovering dozens of memories of my husband’s that I had never heard. The result was Glass Hours, an installation and card game exploring whether our connection, even love, of the future can grow stronger if we creatively engage with both our past and future in the same space.

Creators first picked a painted coin and were asked to share a memory that was evoked or invoked by the colors. For some, the spark was immediate, and experiences from many decades ago, or that hadn’t been recalled for decades, bubbled forth. One individual recalled a 60-year-old memory of a friend from childhood, someone who they hadn’t thought about or remembered for decades. Another remembered the color of the wall in the den of her old childhood home on a particular day. Her sister, who was by her side, then shared with us an old memory of skinny-dipping for the only time in her life. Neither sister had ever heard these stories before. Other creators noticed new details or colors in familiar memories, bonding with the paintings that evoked them.

Then, creators turned their coin over to a different painting and blended the color with a word. For example, some shared electric blue memories of heritage; or red memories of bias. Slightly different variations of the game were also made to help children engage equally. Many stories emerged, in private conversations and small groups. Some, however found it easier to engage with the words, rather than colors, making me realize that Glass Hours needs a 2.0.

Next, creators tossed their past memories into an unknown future and discovered that each future shape of the game board represented a different experience, from apocalypse, to extreme pollution, to a world of glass or colored orange. They were then asked to describe a future memory in that world and find a painting that looked like it, reversing the flow between color and memory.

I was invited by the amazing Jaime Faye-Bean to install Glass Hours at Bliss Plaza in Sunnyside, Queens, in 2019, thanks to support from Sunnyside Shines and the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Rather than showing only my work, I welcomed several other artists committed to interaction to help Queens residents explore and linger on 2 minutes. My hope was for New York’s public spaces to become hubs enabling local communities to connect with their creativity and surface solutions in diverse ways. The event, 2 Minutes to Midnight, became a free, interactive outdoor co-creation lab under the 7 train. Click here to learn more about the lab and other artists.

Installation

Card Game(s)

Visions of the Future

In 2014, creators came across a game board installed at the intersection of a cobblestone street in Dumbo, during the Dumbo Arts Festival. The board laid out about 500 unique events and 300 unique hand drawn symbols. Some of the written events were mundane, others were fantastical, some were about family, others were about sensory experiences. Similarly, the symbols ranged far and wide, from a flying cape, to a mushroom cloud, to a roller coaster, to a rocket, and more.

At the beginning, creators picked a penny with a number on it. They knew the number stood for one of about 900 emotions, objects, or symbols, but they didn’t yet know which one. They were invited to put their penny down on an event on the game board. Some people picked events that were connected to real experiences; others related to things they wished for; others purely imaginary. Many picked symbols.

At the other end of the board, they found out which symbol, object, or emotion their number stood for and were invited to write a simple story or equation. Their creative work was guided by how their choice, on the game board, and an unknown factor, their penny, came together. Creators then added their story to the game board.

People who chose to play Level 2 of Visions of the Future blind-selected a card from a deck with an unfinished sentence on it, such as: “Your feelings will change when…” or “The next step is…” They were invited to respond to a story or equation written by a creator from Level 1 or an event or symbol from the original board, contributing to a growing web of dialogue designed in creative constraint.

This was the first time that I created a game that had levels of advancement. After playing Level 2 a few times, some creators came back and asked me for a Level 3, which I hadn’t formalized into the game rules, assuming that people wouldn’t want to stay that long on a beautiful fall day. In Level 3, creators were invited to visually connect symbols, events, and responses across the board to create the backbone of a complete short story. A handful of people did so, writing out and emailing me complete short stories, composed with time and care.

Visions of the Future was a variation on Micro-Fiction Game and Random Fortune Generators, which go into detail on the underlying purpose of play and where it came from.

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Visions of the Future, Anjali Deshmukh