That’s the game!
20th century avant-garde made us think of artists as omnipotent creators and art as the most sophisticated domain of humankind. That doesn't necessarily mean that works of art cannot be made out of a simple chair or bicycle wheel, and that artists cannot decide to escape the art world and choose a different life path like, say, becoming a carpenter or a chess player. Yes, a chess player. In fact, playing chess is way more interesting than making art. Black and white fields, a limited number of figures and a bunch of rules make this old game an endless source of excitement, where artists are even more omnipotent and the art itself becomes an ultimate outcome of creation, a checkmate that allows you to win.
Rudolf Samohejl's project focuses on the idea of the creation of a new game-system. Floating parallel to the realm of reality, a game doesn’t necessarily relate to reality, nor does it neglect its rules, opening up a new field for the artist’s experimentation. The interest that pushed Rudolf to work on game-creating may be understood as a need to go over reality as we know it and establish a new rule-set. The rule-set might eventually become more exciting than the game itself.
In case of the The Zone, I wanted to shift the focus; similar to, “when you play chess, you usually don’t think about the tree that the figures are made from” to put it your way. However, in the game I want the player to experience being an inseparable part of the represented system. Not being passive, but also not being on top of things, having an overview and being in full control.
What is thrilling in game production is that you are responsible for it in the same way God was responsible for creating planet Earth. Well maybe in a slightly smaller scale, especially when the level of complexity in the game is as perplexing as tic-tac-toe. You can either be a trickster appearing in a scenario in order to cause some mess and destroy the order established by other players, or simply take the role of a demiurge, powerful but silent. You can also play, genuinely absorbing the rules and forgetting about creation for the sake of victory. It's not such a bad idea.
In my practice, I wish to reveal the mechanisms which seek to control and delimit historical and natural space. In this project I was looking for an option, how to temporarily inhabit such model situations. The way I did it is through the development of a board-game-like sculptural situation, which I titled The Zone.
P/ Space. As an artist you often work with space. What was your idea of the space where the game should be taking place and how did you arrange the board that the players will be using? Is it linked to your art practice? Can you specify the connection?
R/ At the start of the game, the player stands in front of a piece of circular black satin fabric lying on the ground. On top of this fabric they can see ten hexagon tiles made out of porcelain with inscribed geometric lines.
With The Zone I am trying to create unstable, unresolved chains of reference to provide room for productive accidents that may direct the player toward unexpected outcomes regarding the secret life of space around us.
Or to answer your question just from the practical point of view; I`ve been working on the game while freely crossing the borders on the bus not having much space to work with, and lot of abstract in-between-space.
That brings me to speak about the methods I feel familiar with. Basically works of art that function at least on four different levels of interpretation have always deeply satisfied me. Both from ¨the production and consumption point of view¨.
P/ Time. Can you specify the sense of time in The Zone? What was your approach toward time frames such as the beginning and the end of the game? How did you solve turns, and last but not least, at what time will players be exterminated from the game?
R/ The player is supposed to wear headphones during the game-play with recorded sound escalating throughout the game-play. The duration of tracks differs so you have approximately fifteen minutes before the whole system collapses/repairs. That depends on the point of view.
The game starts when the player places their representational figure in the centre of the game board and presses play on the player.
If you are playing within The Zone you are generating scenario cards, which instruct you on what to do, but they do not tell you how to do it. While crossing the game board borders you trigger accidents. This is represented by your progressive solidification. On top of that, of course there are a few more ways to get exterminated from the game before you run out of time.
The increasing amount of time we stay displaced from reality every day is becoming natural.
(Sometimes it is better to be reductive; sometimes it helps when there is too much of time. It depends on the situation. The different time in the Zone makes its notion flexible.
When speaking about time, I have to add materiality. There are places where you lack quality of time as well as space, but still these places are as real as so-called reality.
P/ Action. Did you want to base your game on any particular scenario, the story of knights and dungeons? Or rather you wanted to keep it simple and more about the game itself? The twists, swings and change of positions it contains?
R/ The representation of the player; a ¨figure¨ is placed in the middle of the game board. Then you press play on the player. You can either listen to the sound and wait until the game ends, or start moving with the figure, which triggers different counteractions by Artificial Intelligence represented by instructions written on the card.
The function of AI in the game is the hidden scenario within the game. I like the idea of a “hidden transcript” that lies within the layout of the game and that the player is gradually revealing what might be the objective of Artificial Intelligence within the game, the hidden transcript of the Intelligence.
To speak about this project, I wanted to leave the amount of specificity, or let's say “story” open. There are some similarities with game themes like adventure or Artificial Intelligence, but I would like to keep it as it is without offering further interpretations. Also, I still feel that the game needs more beta testing to figure out what is the adequate amount of revealing and what should remain unsaid. This can differ in alternate situations, determined by cultural background.
P/ Reality. While working on the project you have also been experimenting on a so-called city game, which took place in the public realm. What is the relationship between The Zone and reality? Will your game merge with reality?
R/ One of the first tests took place in the city environment about one month ago, and was more about the spectators being confronted with the rules implemented into specific places within the city. I was interested in how the spectators, acting as one connected body, would be shaped, moulded, twisted - simply how they could function in a sculptural way. The outside of the game, that is reality, kicked in when the visitors decided to take responsibility for parts of the game and decided to actively create the rules themselves. I took it as important lesson when making the game.
This helped me to understand my responsibility towards the players as well as being an important lesson in development of the rules of the Zone.
With the game I simply wanted to question the idea of the timeless and the space-less. The Zone eliminates the notion of a goal. The satisfaction that can be obtained by winning or reaching the intended function is not present in the game. Thus the practical or functional layer dissolves, allowing the players to find their own relation to the game and undergo a specific walk through the game-play, experiencing the very architecture of the game.
The player can only decide what they are doing by taking part in playing The Zone. Enjoy!
(The Cursive paragraphs in the text are excerpts from the rules 1.2 of The Zone.)