[EI] Play, Draw, Point – Final Write-up

‘Let’s Play Stranger Art is a collaborative performance inspired by the works of Blast Theory, a UK-based performance group that creates interactive performances that engage the public community in site-specific locations. Participants of ‘Let’s Play Stranger Art’ are to pick a random slip of paper with a description of a facial feature and draw that specific feature on a piece of paper. They will then hold up the drawing to their face and a photograph will be taken. This photograph will then be uploaded onto the performance’s Instagram account as a means of documentation. For the performance to continue, at the end of their turn, participants will point to another stranger who will partake in this performance, and the cycle repeats. At the end of every round, when the drawing is completed with all the necessary facial features, a final participant will be tasked to guess who the drawing resembles. Through Instagram, players will be able to see the step-by-step progress of their drawings and how each feature contributes to the resemblance of a person or character. The incentive that these participants get is that they will become part of the performance as co-artists, creating a collaborative art piece, hence creating a sense of shared experience and community.

NTU was the site chosen for this performance. Since the exam period is just around the corner, many students are either busy studying or queueing for the schools’ welfare pack. We hope to involve the students in this performance as a means of stress-relief for them during this busy period. During the execution, together with Zhen Qi, my primary role was to document the reactions of the players through videography. As the videographer, I had to remain vigilant and ensure that I manage to capture the initial and raw reactions of the players in a clear and aesthetically pleasing manner. My secondary role was to assist my group with the explanation and objective of this performance to the participants.

‘Let’s Play Stranger Art’ is a mash-up of the different principles that we learned in Experimental Interaction throughout the course of this semester. Firstly, as mentioned at the beginning, this performance is heavily influenced by Blast Theory’s works. Blast Theory is famous for turning an ordinary situation into something extraordinary. In this case, the simple act of drawing a portrait has been turned into a collaborative game with unpredictable outcomes. Secondly, this performance is also influenced by Furtherfield as it encompasses the spirit of ‘Do It With Others’ (DIWO), since the outcome of the artwork is dependent on the contributions of every single player. Since the slips of paper are picked at random, the probability of a completed artwork being identical to another is impossible. Hence, the element of surprise plays a big part in this performance since nobody can predict the outcome of the performance, making ‘Let’s Play Stranger Art’ an exciting performance. Thirdly, Annie Abrahams’ philosophy of embracing glitch was also incorporated into this performance. Instead of being discouraged by the rejections that we faced, we incorporated them into the collaborative Instagram collage by inserting a blank image to represent the glitch. Lastly, we were inspired by Yoko Onno’s ‘Cut Piece’ performance art, where roles of the artists and audience were reversed. In ‘Let’s Play Stranger Things’, the audiences became the artists, and us, the artists, were the audience instead.

Today, art is no longer just about artists creating works and the audience passively consuming the works. ‘Let’s Play Stranger Art’ may a simple performance art piece, the audience play an active role since the performance can only be achieved with their participation. Moreover, it was through the participation of the audience from different experience and backgrounds that make the final artworks quirky and unique. If the audiences for this performance were to be art students only, I am confident that the results would be much more polished and less spontaneous than what we currently have. Through this performance, the artist community has been opened and expanded to include the audience as well.

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