[-empyre-] rules and games

Josephine Bosma jesis at xs4all.nl
Wed Mar 26 02:00:59 EST 2008

I must admit that I am only reading Empyre with one eye while doing  
other things, but today I bumped into a piece of text that might  
somehow be interesting in a discussion on gaming in art. I hope it  
does not fall out with the rest of the exchanges too much. best  
wishes, JB.

(excerpt from: Generative Design - Asli Serbest and Mona Mahall)


Coming from kinetic art and from cybernetics, the French ‘Groupe de  
recherche d’art
visuel’ (GRAV), founded in 1960, worked on game theory, on  
information theory, and
combinatory analyses, in order to reform their artistic strategies.  
Vera Molnar, co-
founder and member of GRAV, explored heuristic methods and problem- 
techniques for her artistic interventions. She is stated to work in a  
series of small
probing steps, analog to our description of software programming  
above. After the
evaluation of one step, Molnar went on in varying only one parameter  
for the next
step, and thus developed an artwork step by step. Stripping the  
content away from
the visual image, she focused on seeing and perceiving.

In thus adopting scientific research techniques, and in quitting  
intuition for
rationalism, GRAV changed their self-conception as artists, and  
changed what is
called work organization. Cooperation and the presentation as a group  
replaced the
solo work and the single designation. Interesting to us, they opened  
up the object-
oriented works to create situations including the viewer in some sort  
of event or
happening. It was about to create game situations and game  
arrangements, so that
the viewer or player could take part at works like  
‘labyrinths’ (1963) or ‘Une journée
dans la rue’ (1966). It was about the search of possibilities to  
involve the viewer in a
spatial composition that we could call the playground. Thus the main  
theme for
GRAV was to arrange game situations.

It seems to us a Lyotard comment before Lyotard, when Francois  
Morellet, co-
founder and member of GRAV declared:
»Art for me only exhibits a social function when it is demystified,  
when it gives the
possibility to the viewer, to actively participate, to strip the  
mechanisms, to discover
the rules and finally to perform«

Actually it was Lyotard who reintroduced the topic of game, more  
precisely: the topic
of Wittgenstein’s ‘language games’ to describe communication beyond  
the ‘grand
narratives’ of the modern era. He stated the aspects of play to be  
central to forms of
pragmatic communication like questioning, promising, literary  
describing or narrating:
There is no game without rules. There has to be a set of rules  
determining the use of
the different communicative statements. In doing so, the rules have  
to be agreed on
by the players, who should contribute all statements as moves, and  
who should not
give statements hitting the level of rules.

If we look back to where we began, we realize that it is the  
achievement of John von
Neumann and Marcel Duchamp to emphasize and to formalize (within  
and within arts) the separation of the rule (description) from the  
move (object). In this
way they both somehow introduced the strategic game to their fields.

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