Tiny revolutions

Laetitia Wilson, PVI, Deviator

Deviator, PVI, photo courtesy the company

Deviator, PVI, photo courtesy the company

The latest game-based interactive project devised by Perth-based PVI Collective demands physical agility, cunning, courage and tactical manoeuvring. Premiered in Glasgow, refined in Perth and set to invade the Sydney streets for ISEA 2013, Deviator is a site-based intervention enabled via mobile phone and augmented reality.

Players are cast in the role of Deviators, equipped with smart phone and headphones, briefed and set loose on the urbanscape. Game instructions are relayed over the headphones, interspersed with an atmospheric city soundscape that coalesces with the actual sound in the player’s immediate surrounds. Once a game destination is reached, a QR code is scanned and the game begins. Performers dubbed Motherfuckers are dispersed throughout the space to help, play with and coerce players. There are 12 games in total, most of which tap into the collective childhood psyche by being appropriations or detournements of familiar games. They include Sack Races, Kiss Chase, Follow the Leader and Twister. This element of play is folded into more political concerns with the aim for participants to take part in small gestures of resistance to the dominant order and hence counter the potentially stifling routine, alienation and monotony of city life. Each game refers to the theme of revolution by compelling players to be aberrant bodies acting contrary to normative social expectations.

This game-playing approach draws inspiration from the 20th century predominantly French political-artistic movement, the Situationist International. This group had aims to change the world through actions counter to commercialisation, spectacle, apathy, alienation and consumption. They developed techniques and philosophies toward different ways of being within urban space that would agitate the sterility and oppression of the ruling systems of the day. One of their key drives was to draw everyday life into more game-like situations and to this end they devised ideas based on organised play as an essential design tool for moving culture away from mass spectacle and toward more meaningful collective participation.

For tactical media artists such as PVI, games are one of the key means to slip between the gaps of officialdom, to subversively invert the status quo, to be pranksters with an agenda. Deviator is safe play, it will not trigger a revolution but it does bring elements of obscurity and difference into the urban fabric. It is not every day that you see people blowing up balloons until they pop in their faces, or being chased by deranged clowns hell bent on kissing them. For participants then, the game logic is seductive and the desire to accumulate points becomes so strong that some players literally run, or others, such as code-name ‘Butt-Fractal’ who deviated from the game itself, hacked the system to rig the high score, pushing his colourful moniker straight to the top of the list.

Like the Situationist International before them, PVI desire to recapture and transform everyday life into a creative and inspiring experience, drawing together art, the social, the everyday and the political. The writer Hakim Bey described what he called “Temporary Autonomous Zones” as “a microcosm of that ‘anarchist dream’ of a free culture, free from excessive controls on freedom, choice, mobility and agency.” Deviator activates Temporary Autonomous Zones, encourages ‘tiny revolutions’ and so grants permission for greater mobility and diversity of choice of action within public space, playfully re-defining relations therein.

PVI, Deviator, PICA, Perth, 19-24 March; ISEA and Performance Space, 11-16 June, National Art School, Darlinghurst, tickets from Performance Space, http://www.performancespace.com.au/

RealTime issue #115 June-July 2013 pg. 27

© Laetitia Wilson; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

6 June 2013