In 2019 I was commissioned by Exposed Arts Projects, via artist and writer Llew Watkins, to create a piece of work which would form part of an exhibition called 'Companion Voyages', a response to Exposed Art's 2020 theme 'Intelligence Debiased'.
The work I made for the brief was Loving Allness, a board game about collective storytelling using visual language. The digital version can be played online here: LOVING ALLNESS.
Having recently read 'Red Shift' by Alan Garner, 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth and 'Riddley Walker' by Russell Hoban, I was interested in the link between language alteration and ecological / environmental change. My original concept was to have three distinct world states which a player would have to navigate using a picture alphabet in place of conventional language:
A world in which love, and the language we use to communicate it, is slipping out of memory.
A world in which there is an excess of unmitigated feeling, but no way of using language to contain it.
A world in which we no longer exist. Instead all the elements of the natural world - tides, seasons, extinctions and so on - express their inner and outer lives outside of language.
The decision to use pictograms, or a visual language, derived from audience response to the graphic icons on the names badges created for 'Productive Futures'. They were part of the conference's visual identity, but delegates wanted to know what they meant. Without an index, they began to read the symbols and construct their own interpretations and translations.
With Loving Allness I wanted to focus on this quality of reading visually, creating a set of pictorial tiles which the players could communicate their ideas through, and speak to each other with, in an unconventional way.
To help create the final version of the game I consulted with Raphael Kabo, who had experience creating games and rules systems. We wanted the game to encourage players to contribute to each other's ideas about world building and for them to create future possibilities collaboratively.
The exhibition was due to take place in Summer 2020, and so was interrupted by the global pandemic. I came up with the concept of developing it as an online space, and designed website skins to represent the different rooms in the gallery for each of the contributors to exhibit their work in. Raphael Kabo created the Loving Allness website so that the game could be played digitally.
EXPOSED ARTS PROJECTS is a London-based exhibition space and think-and-do-tank, with an emphasis on arts-based research. Each year they establish a research question as a point of departure, and bring together a diverse group of researchers and practitioners to produce exhibitions that engage with this discourse.
Their exhibition space in South Kensington was formerly an old Jaguar dealership, retaining many of its original features such as the mirrored lobby and the repair pits.
The final full set of 30 tile designs. Above are the physical play pieces, made by Daniel Stebbings. They were cut out of birch plywood using a CNC machine.
Below are some of the earlier iterations. All the designs were hand drawn and inked before being scanned and then converted to digital files.
This one's like the wilderness without the world
'I'll Still Destroy You', The National
Much of the original premise and backstory for Loving Allness came about during a visit to Deal and a long walk along the coastline towards Dover. It was November so the beaches and their stony forests were mostly deserted. The mysterious landscape was furthered by the incongruity of trees, bushes and mushrooms growing out of the shingle. Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 film 'Stalker', an adaptation of the science fiction novel 'Roadside Picnic' by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, is never very far from my mind; the Zone is a dangerous and alien space, but it's also one of possibility and transformation. Deal's coast is a much less extreme environment but offered similar visual and emotional stimulation.