Volume 21, Issue 4 - On Game Structures
Journal of Performance Research
Deadline: 15 August 2016
"To be or, actually, not two sentences to be, that is the question, combined."
Douglas R. Hofstadter
Entire fields of human endeavour have been subsumed under the term ‘game’—art in the case of Marcel Duchamp, language in the case of Ludwig Wittgenstein, social performance in the case of Pierre Bourdieu. Game structures—recurrent, interactional procedures with semi-predictable results—have appeared in many forms: as methods of communication (inter-species play), as cognitive practices (koans, riddles), as creative procedures (frottage, exquisite corpse), as sensorial titillation (seduction), as a military strategy (game theory), as a form of resistance (culture jamming). Whether referring to spatio-temporally delimited behaviours of specific actants (particles, bees, human beings, inanimate objects), or to complex systems (stock brokering, swarms), game structures are dynamic systems of configuration. They consist of transformation. Within a game structure, every position is an intersection of moves related to other positions. This means that each new move—intended or incidental—creates new configurations that affect all constituent elements.
There is a long tradition of employing game structures to change the way that we perceive the world in spatio-temporal, formational and interactional terms. Duchamp’s Large Glass (1915–23) is a residue of language games, jokes and chance operations. Salvador Dalí’s paranoid-critical method relies on the obsession of paranoia to interpret and ‘reassemble’ everyday life. John Cage’s use of I-Ching reconfigures the sequence and circumference of sensorial perception, as do Luigi Nono’s, Iannis Xenakis’s and Agostino di Scipio’s musical strategies that encompass complex ecosystems. Karl-Martin Holzhäuser, Gottfried Jäger and Walter Steffens have used physical laws—gravity, motion, thermodynamics—to create musical-graphic works. The Fluxus artists have cast existing games—football, chess, table tennis—in the role of dramaturgical ready-mades thus re-conceptualizing social relations. In literature, Alain Robbe-Grillet and William Burroughs have created dechronological novels through the use of mathematical games, translated into narremes. Jorge Borges’s multiply coded and self-referential texts have, for their part, acted as a hall of mirrors where author, character, setting, culture and epoch reflect (on) one another in a ludic way. Philosopher Peter Stuber invented a game—Nomic—whose primary activity is the continual alteration of existing rules. Much conceptual art (for example, Joseph Kosuth’s, Bruce Nauman’s) has derived from mathematical and/or linguistic iteration, which relies on recursive loops.
But game structures have also been used in epistemological lineages. A case in point is Per Bak’s theory of self-organizing criticality (SOC), which combines constitutive materialism with holism in a twist-in-the-tale manner. SOC has been ‘dramaturgically reconfigured’ by Humberto Maturana’s and Francisco Varela’s theory of autopoietic systems (APS) in which internal regulation of mechanisms and programmes (present in SOC) is replaced by self-production. In a similar vein, albeit in very different fields of endeavour, George Bataille (1967), Slavoj Žižek (2006) and Byung-Chul Han (2015) have all engaged with the game structures of social and libidinal economies. Relying on the intricate networks of implicit and explicit rules, Bataille’s theory of general economy mobilized Mauss’s notion of the gift as a dynamic social force. A gift cannot be reciprocated with the same gift, nor can it be reciprocated with a gift of lesser value, which is why gift giving introduces a stake-raising element into social relations. Likewise, Žižek’s analyses of postmodern ideology have relied on the dramaturgy of explicit/implicit moves and countermoves. Byung-Chul Han has similarly theorized the current cultural condition as that of shanzhai. Originally meaning ‘mountain village’, shanzhai refers to the widespread Chinese practice of imitation and reconfiguration of brands, advertising strategies and cultural practices. Not only do these seemingly endless variations resemble Dadaist games, they introduce new recombinant strategies where notions of ‘originals’ and ‘copies’, ‘ownership’ and ‘piracy’ have no currency.
Recent years have seen ceaseless irruptions of economic, political, meteorological, demographic, biological and psychological disorder. However, they have also seen the rise of new semantic, cultural and environmental systems. Examples of this can be found in recombinant multi-sports, in fusion music (noise-fugue-R’n’B) and in genetic engineering—in particular, in transformational hybrids such as plantimals (plants with animal cells), which, in being altered, alter their environment. The aim of this issue is both polemical and creative. By focusing on the relations between the various elements that make up a game we seek to shift the focus away from ‘endgame’ conceptions of failing social scripts and ecological disasters. Purely goal-orientated notions of games inherent in the current economic Darwinism’s foregrounding of game theory as a form of ‘reality-gaming’ is of no interest to us either. Instead, we aim to explore the bio-social, political, cultural, aesthetic and environmental contexts in which game structures cross-pollinate to create transformational epistemological, social and phenomenological matrixes. To this end the issue is divided into three parts:
1 Goals, Rules, Obstacles and Constraints
2 Time and Space
3 Systems and Meta Systems
Within this structure we aim to examine the recombination, configuration and transplantation of artistic, scientific and philosophical procedures/matrixes from one context, field or time to another. However, this issue also aims to address questions like: how do contemporary pluralistic tendencies and hyperculturality (the Internet mix of TV, music, shops, games, banking and communication terminals) create new variations/permutations of acceptability and transgression? What is the role of inverted values/rules (for example, inverted snobbism, toleration as a form of dominance) in the current (global) cultural game? Is the continual proliferation of hybridity radically different from essentialism, or does it merely produce (consumerist) sameness in the place of qualitative difference?
We invite theoretical and scientific examinations, artists’ writings and ludic interventions related (but not limited) to the following topics:
1 Goals, Rules, Obstacles and Constraints:
- Gravity, geometry and value (the ‘natural rules’) in architecture
- Shape, purpose and affordance in design
- Rhetoric, argumentation and ludic dramaturgies
- Excessive, paradoxical and subversive games
- Iteration in conceptual art, performance art, dance, and music
- Intermedial re-combinations
- Fusion cooking
- Language games and bio-technology
- Normativity and transgression
2 Time and Space:
- Pervasive alternate reality games as a form re-inscribing social reality
- Posthumanism and corporeal re-inscription
- Recursive choreographies of (post-)political dissent
- Multiple choice systems, decision trees and digital labyrinths
- The historical migration of social, artistic and scientific game structures and their recombination
3 Systems and Meta Systems:
- The mutation of textual reading games, for example, structuralist and poststructuralist, feminist and queer theories
- Neoliberal systems of production, displacement and recombination
- Games as work in the digital-managerial era
- Globalization as the shanzhai of colonization
- Conceptions of order and disorder in philosophy, religion and science
All proposals, submissions and general enquiries should be sent direct to the journal at email@example.com
Mathias Fuchs pioneered the use of game engines in art installations. He is currently a professor at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg and Director of the Gamification Lab at the Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC) at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg. Mathias’s sound and media installations have been shown in Vienna, London, Mexico City, Tokyo, Helsinki, Stockholm, Norwich, Cairo, Vancouver, Paris and Providence. His work has been commissioned by ISEA94, ISEA2004, resfest, ars electronica, PSi #11, futuresonic, EAST and the Greenwich Millennium Dome.
Natasha Lushetich lectures at the University of Exeter where her specialist areas include intermedia, live art, theories of hegemony, and performance and philosophy. Her recent writings have appeared in Babilonia, Performance Research, TDR, Text and Performance Quarterly and Total Art Journal as well as in a number of edited collections. Natasha is author of Fluxus: The practice of non-duality (Rodopi 2014) and Reformatting Reality: Interdisciplinary performance 1910–2010(forthcoming with Palgrave).
• Proposals: 15 August 2015
• 1st drafts: 15 November 2015
• 2nd drafts: 15 January 2016
• Publication: August 2016
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