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  • Writer's pictureEmily Coates


During my MFA, I met a wonderfully talented and interesting young artist named Sveta Antonova, who shared my love of text-based art. She was one of the curators for Fringe Arts Bath or FaB as it is known. This is an annual visual arts festival held in the city of Bath, UK with the aim of promoting and celebrating contemporary art. Thanks to Sveta and her team, I was able to take part in the FaB festival and exhibit an installation I created entitled:

The idea of play has always interested me - obviously from the fundamental perspective of being a pianist playing the piano - but also in how the act of play allows a person to become completely immersed in the present moment. One just needs to look at children and see how absorbed they are in whatever activity has captured their attention. This has always been the gift writing and performing music has given to me.

The premise of the installation was inspired by the following insights:

“This is the real secret of life - to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

- Alan W. Watts

“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything, than when we are at play.” Charles E. Schaefer

I wanted to exhibit a performance writing piece using both digital technology and a simple word game. The concept for the installation was based on a technique known as Word Association. This was an early method of Psychoanalysis where upon being presented with any given word, an individual responds with the first word or associate that comes to mind. In simple terms, the thought behind this was that the free association gave insight into peoples' personalities. My idea in using this as a creative technique was to encourage public involvement in the real-time creation of the artwork itself, by asking players to either engage with a word prompt which appeared on a tablet device or a board game and then add a word they associate with the last word appearing there. With the tablet, this was displayed on a larger monitor, so the creation of the work and the word lineage was visible to all present. The exhibit was placed beside a window with the hope that passers-by might be curious enough to stop as they passed by and enter the exhibition space to play.

External Image of Exhibit @ FaB

The word game I used was Scrabble. For me, this form was the most interesting and revealing, not only because of the words added but because of the use of the tiles and the creative designs formed on the board. The word PLAY was placed horizontally on the middle of the board, and again I asked for public participation in the form of word association, where subsequent words could be placed on the board using tiles people could randomly pick from the selection available. Obviously, the added dimension here is that people were required to do this within the rules of the game itself. Below is a collage of the created artwork on the Scrabble boards. Some days there was more contribution than others. You can see that people had fun with the process. My favourite image is the second in the collage, where a person blatantly disregarded the rules of the game spelling out the word "disobedient." Take a look at the images below and see which ones speak to you and maybe even mirror some of your own word associations.


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