Exhibition (graduate thesis)
Instructions for play, envelopes, alphabet stamps, MDF, wood stain, sawhorse
Graduate Media Design Studio (Pasadena, CA)
Play has the power to transform existing social relations and invert hierarchy, control and power, and design can potentially create playful avenues for non-institutional actors to negotiate greater spatial agency in institutional spaces.
Using play to transform the existing social relations that determine creative agency based on seniority, the Media Design Practices studio space became a testing ground for a playful activity. A series of instructions were designed, organized, and enclosed in individual envelopes, and people in the graduate studio took one of these envelopes depending on their rank of seniority (from youngest to oldest: dev, concept, thesis, advisor, faculty, coordinator, director, and chair).
The instructions were specifically designed in a way so that it could challenge and invert the system of seniority, a hierarchical system embedded in my studio that privileges the spatial agency of older actors than those who are younger. Mobilizing the people in the studio space as the medium for spatial organization (much like how I have done with the museum guards), the instructions commanded each of the actors to move in a way that allowed dev students to have the best access to the works, or the most viewing privilege, and the department chair to have the least.
Each set of instructions had 2 variables: one about how much time you will be distracted away from the show by having to do something else; the other, forcing you to take alternative spatial relationships, making it harder for you to move freely - for instance, the chair had to stand 10 feet away from all dev students to allow them to have the best viewing experience.
To further maintain the authority of the dev students for the duration of the game, extra rules were enforced. People who were not dev students needed to get their authorization in the form of a signature to negotiate any alterations to their instructions, and the dev students were instructed not to pass on this tool of power - the pencil - to other members of the studio.
This activity was a site-specific extension of some things I observed a few days earlier in Museo Tamayo, when attending the premiere of Germán Venegas show. Upon interacting with the museum guards during and after the show (the people who watch us watch the show), I realized how much viewing privilege and freedom I had over them upon hearing them lamentably mentioning how they would have loved to see the works longer. The museum guards’ agency in the space of the museum is controlled by institutional actors, and their ability to see the works (how, when and to what extent) is dependent on others’ movements in the space (see diagrams below the photos).
The next step is to feed this idea of spatial negotiation back into the museum, and construct arrangements that will allow for the museum guards to gain greater spatial agency. There are works in progress (here and here) where I’m trying this out with different spaces and actors.