Assemble Your Vote

This is an interactive art piece done at the University of Buffalo on January 16th. Posters were hung to days before vaguely advertising that something was happening on the 16th. There were 17 pieces scattered throughout the atrium (a lounge area in the arts building) with very simple tags on them. On one side it read: and on the other it told people where they should take the piece. The completed puzzles were about 5' x 7'.

I chose to use images of Clinton and Guiliani because politics are a "hot" topic right now and since the university is in New York most people would recognize their faces. I created large masks out of newsprint and used spray paint to create the artwork. There are some images mid-process along with other pictures in the Gallery. This made the pieces sort of feel like graffiti and the "blurring" from any spray paint mist made it feel like participants needed to get farther away to fully understand what was going on.

I am really interested in this system of having two equally viable images where only one can be complete at a time. It forces people to make decisions and potentially talk or interact with others about the visuals involved. I think many different topics could be used with this system as long it is interesting to the people who will come in contact with it.

Currently, I am planning a much larger version of this where how the puzzle is assembled changes the story that it tells. The pieces would also be scattered over a wider area and potentially be made from different materials.


Other applications

I would like to further explore this mechanic, but have yet to have the time or opportunity. Various different topics could be applied, it could take place in a more public venue, and could be extremely large.

I may include this mechanic in the street game I am beginning to develop.

Analysis of Assemble Your Vote

Name: Assemble Your Vote

Objective: to test engagement with a play object in public place, to see how groups of people make a decision, to see reactions of non-players, to create a game that does not have a perceivable time limit, to see if players will interact beyond the initial gameplay

Importance: I needed to see how much information potential players needed to get involved and stay involved. I needed to test this line because I want to involve people in games with as little persuasion as possible so that they feel more like an active member of the game. I also wanted to see how a group or individual with handle a decision that had two viable options.

Method/Gameplay: I used an interchangeable foam flooring material for the pieces. An image of Hillary Clinton appeared on one side and Rudy Guiliani on the other; both images had an American flag banner in the background and a banner with “President” in it on the bottom. These images were chosen because of their local relevance to the political environment at the time. They were meant to create a conversation between players.

The day before the pieces were put in a public space, posters were hung around the Center for the Arts at UB. These posters had images of Guiliani and Clinton facing opposite directions. Each had speech bubbles that said, “Vote 4 me!” I hung most of the posters myself and gave the rest to other student to hang any way they wanted. The pieces were scattered throughout the atrium of the Center for the Arts. This is a public area where students and faculty eat and congregate between classes. Each piece had a tag attached to it with instructions that stated, “Take these yellow pieces to the North End of the Atrium by the lake and assemble your vote.” The opposite side of the tag had an email address and “Be part of something.”

Strategies/Technologies: I posted the posters about the “game” the day before to hopefully create some buzz about the event. I used 17 bright colored yellow foam pieces and contrasting spray paint so that each piece would stand out against the drab gray and white background of the atrium. The pieces were either a foot square or two feet square. I also hoped that the texture and thickness of the pieces would draw passer bys to touch and potentially interact with the puzzle.

The interlocking pieces were smooth on one side and had a texture on the other. They were only interchangeable if the same side, textured or smooth, was facing up. The pieces would fit together no matter which side was facing up, but the outer edges would not line up. For this reason, each image needed to have it’s own frame.

There was very little technology used for this project. I drew the stencils in Adobe Illustrator and then used an opaque projector to make them the proper size on newsprint. I did videotape the area where the frames for the puzzles were located, but I was not able to videotape any interactions with the individual pieces outside of this camera’s view.

Outcome: The Hillary Clinton side of the puzzle was completed by three people before 10:30 am and the pieces were set out at 7am, well before classes started. The first person that took interest in the frames got one piece from somewhere in the atrium and then returned it when he could not find a place to put it. He then returned with a different piece and attached it to part of the Rudy Guiliani frame. Later a set of male students took interest in the puzzle and brought a couple pieces back to the frames’ location. They then gathered the remaining pieces and started trying to assemble the puzzle. Initially, the students did not seem to realize that only one of the puzzles could be made, but eventually realized this and assembled the Hillary Clinton image. None of the passer bys removed any pieces after the Clinton image was completed.

I reset the puzzle by disassembling it and placing the pieces all over the atrium again so that a class could interact with it. It was very interesting to watch a group of about twenty people interact with the puzzle, but this time participants knew that something was expected of them. The democrats in the class were louder and more aggressive about which image should be assembled so the Clinton image was completed. The students that had started assembling Guiliani became more submissive and allowed the Clinton image to be completed instead of their preferred choice.

I returned at the end of the day to take down the project and found the Guiliani image assembled. The videotape ran out so I have no information about how it transpired, but someone disassembled the Clinton image so that they could complete Guiliani’s image.

No one sent any emails to the address I included on the pieces. There was no guarantee of any reward and I am guessing that the purpose of the email was to vague to encourage anyone to send it a message.

I would like to try this mechanic again with changes in theme, size, and location.

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