Museum of Non-Participation
ACT 00168
Tha Game of Power
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  • The Game of Power

    This version of The Game of Power was performed at the opening of the exhibition: The House of the Unexpected, at Blackwood Gallery in Mississauga, Toronto.

    On arrival at the exhibition people encountered the door to the gallery locked for 45 minutes. When opened a gallery assistant guarded the entrance limiting their welcome to every first and second visitor. The third was received in an austere, severe manner.

    On entering the space the audience found all the works in the show turned off.

    Karen Mirza opened the space by reading an extract from The Aesthetics of Resistance by Peter Weiss:

    Cultural work was Coppis term for the transition from the enclosure in the factory to the openness of the night school class, for getting there was the achievement, it had to succeed, it had to overcome the exhaustion that tried to hold us back. More than half the participants dropped out after the first few sessions. The foreheads striking the desks, beaten down by twelve hours, were made of lead by seven pm. The school system took these casualties into account, the survivors held their eyes open with their fingers, gaped at the blurring blackboards, pinched themselves in the arm, scribbled up their notebooks, and during the final phase more participants dropped out, they only had to lose a week because of apartment hunting, job hunting, because of an accident or simply because of discouragement, and they were yanked out of the class. It would have been presumptuous to try and talk about art without hearing the shuffling as we shoved one foot in front of the other. Every meter toward the painting, the book, was a battle, we crawled, pushed ourselves forward, our eyelids blinked, some times this squinting made us burst out laughing, which helped us forget where we were going. And the thing then shown to us when we viewed a painting was a web of threads, shiny threads, clotting into lumps, flowing apart, shaping into fields of brightnesses, darknesses, and the switch-gears of our optic nerves marshalled the oncoming storm of tiny luminous dots into messages that could be deciphered. We could recall all the circumstances along the road to knowledge because we remained in a constant stage of preparation, because we sometimes never got beyond the start, because nothing was handed to us on a silver platter, because the encounter with a literary, an artistic subject could never be taken for granted.

    This was followed by the Game of Power taken from Augusto Boals Games for Actors and Non-Actors, an arsenal of exercises and games that explore and pursue theories elaborated in The Theatre of the Oppressed. The games in the book investigate the expressivity of the body as emitter and receiver of messages (and images), as well as spatial and bodily expressions of power. These are Boals instructions to the Game of Power:

    A table, six chairs and a bottle. First of all, participants are asked to come up one at a time and arrange the objects so as to make one chair become the most powerful object, in relation to the other chairs, the table and the bottle. Any of the objects can be moved or placed on top of each other, or on their sides, or whatever, but none of the objects can be removed altogether from the space. The group will run through a great number of variations in the arrangement. Then, when a suitable arrangement has been arrived at, an arrangement which the group feels is the most powerful, a participant is asked to enter the space and take up the most powerful position, without moving anything. Once someone is in place, the other members of the group can enter the space and try to place themselves in an even more powerful position, and take away the power the first person established.

    As The Game of Power progressed with the participation facilitated ("Jokered") by Brad Butler, the exhibition works were gradually turned on creating a sound and image discourse between the people being invited to make images with their bodies, the groups collective images and the installed work. Participants were finally encouraged to add aspects of speech to their body images in an attempt to forge an image of the power-relations between the oppressor and the oppressed.

    This Game of Power culminated with the invitation by Karen Mirza to watch Hold Your Ground a work that analyses the performative and gestural use of the body and speech for resistance and protest in relation to the events of the Arab spring. Mirza then discussed actions that took place in Eqypt on the 28th of January 2011 - a big mobilizing movement for the occupation of Tahrir square that had erupted three days earlier. In particular Mirza drew attention to how, on the 28th, women braved the riots and intimidation by pro-Government thugs, joining together and forming the forefront of a series of actions designed to encourage others (other bodies) down into the square to join them.

    After this discussion, Mirza then led people out of the gallery through a different door to watch Kino Beleke a film from 1975 by Lutz Becker. The 16mm black and white film includes verbal statements and performative gestures of the New artistic practice in former Yugoslavia, referring to the role of art in society and re-thinking the concepts of form and autonomy in relation to the economic and political institutionalization of contemporary art.