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In this paper I intend to show how Gabriel Orozco manipulates the run-of-the-mill dullness of common objects to produce something new. These new creations are not only works of art but also contain emergent gameplay that arises once a viewer enters into the space.
Emergent gameplay refers to circumstances in games that emerge from the interaction of a player and the game. A common instance of emergent gameplay in the videogame industry today is real economy interaction in games. Players in massively multiplayer online games will play to acquire enormous quantities of valuable in-game items, then sell them for real-world revenue. This is an example of unintentional emergence because it occurs outside of the intentions of the game designers.
Analyzing a game presents a number of complications. Some view games as a different deviation of traditional narratives and drama. This is true that games often share many fundamentals with stories including situations, characters, sequences of actions, and conclusions. In 1997 Espen Aarseth said: “To claim that there is no difference between games and narratives is to ignore essential qualities of both categories. And yet, as this study tries to show, the difference is not clear-cut, and there is significant overlap between the two.” Even in 1997 when people could never imagine the advancement games might have today, people still understood the connection between narratives and games. However, games present an added dimension for interpretation that traditional narratives do not: ludology.
Ludology refers to the discipline that studies game and play activities. Ludology, as well as its counterpart narratology, is autonomous from the medium that supports the activity. This is all to say that in this paper the conception and gameplay behind two of Gabriel Orozco's sculptures will be analyzed from a ludological standpoint.
Gabriel Orozco takes objects from people's average lives and reformulates them into thought-provoking sculptures. Paul Mattick believes that “contemporary art nevertheless remains flavored by the sentiment of distance from the culture of business, a distance central to the identity of art in its modern sense.” Orozco plays with these concepts of culture and spatial perception in most of his works. He seems to dance around our beliefs of space, adding a new dimension to what we thought we knew.
Orozco focuses on reality in the circumstances of what is happening to him. He tries to rethink and revolutionize what is happening, and tries to transform it. He manipulates reality with its own rules. These new creations allow people to instantaneously identify with them, yet retain the appeal and shock of seeing a frequently encountered object as being something so inspirational.
The sculpture Ping Pond Table is a prime example of Orozco's views of space. A normal ping pong table is comprised of a net that divides two spaces. Orozco opens the space between the two spaces to create a third newer space in-between that did not exist before. He then combined two like tables with the added dimension to create a tri-dimensional space that is now between four spaces.
This new spatial perception, the in-between space, is what interests Orozco. He tries to activate space that often lies dormant. Space that often goes disregarded becomes filled with significance and connections once Orozco is over and done with them. We can identify with these new dimensions and view them as what they are: a new space and time in-between things.
To relate back to Ping Pond Table, Orozco's new in-between space is the new limits, the new boundaries between the spaces. The border has been stretched out and has become tri-dimensional. It is for this intention that Orozco says he made the pond. He said the shape of the table must be round because you must move around the table while waiting for the bounce of the ball between three different tables. Orozco was partial to the notion of using a pond and a lotus for the table. The lotus can be viewed as the creation of the cosmos the same way that this table could be viewed as the foundation of a new game.
Orozco's sculpture Horses Running Endlessly makes use of a familiar media with Chess. The game of chess is not necessarily held in reserve for people with high IQ scores. In fact, chess relies more closely on spatial computation than on cognition and computational skills. The chess board itself may be a symbol of the family circumstances.
Central to chess is the centerpiece of the King. The King in chess is essential, inimitable, all-important and yet weak and requires protection. The King describes specific indispensable characteristics of a character, and would appeal to men who picture themselves as essential, incomparable, and all-important. Such symbolism affords the player an opportunity to deal with their own narcissism. The King also permits a boy to feel on par with their father, giving them the opportunity to say to their father: “Though you may be big and strong, you are still just as weak as I am, and you need just as much protection from harm as I do.”
Keeping with this same string of thought, the Pawns also symbolize children. They can grow up strong when they reach the end of their journey (the other side of the board), but they can never become the King. This emphasizes a rivalry between the father and the boy and discourages the boy becoming like the father. This has a tendency to to create a strong attitude towards authority in a chess player, and an unwillingness to be like their father.
This contrast between the King and Pawn culminates to symbolize the mixed emotions in a player's self-image that is also inherent in the figure of the King itself. The Queen, to keep in the same train of thought, stands for the woman, or motherly-figure. The most powerful assault on the King is supported by the Queen, which is true of most family situations.
Gabriel Orozco removes all other pieces except for the Knight, and instead increases the quantity of them. To him the Knight is the most mesmerizing of pieces because of how it moves. The Knight jumps between squares as a stunning conception of freedom on a bi-dimensional field of black and white while all other pieces can only move diagonally, up and down, et cetera. Horses Running Endlessly is not only a picturesque landscape and battle, but also a science. The Knights are multiplied by four and replace all Queens, Kings, Rooks, Bishops and such. They run endlessly together on an open field. Orozco created a game without rules. How the colors of the board are placed and multiplied by four is the logic of the game itself. The game transforms into something else entirely different but it is still a game.
With the removal of all pieces besides the Knight the symbolism of the game almost shifts entirely. There is no longer any focus on narcissistic self-idealization with the player placing their own egos onto the King. The Queen is no longer present to dictate how the children should behave and to keep the King in check in the sense of the game and in terms of a family. The player no longer uses first and foremost logical defenses. There is nothing to defend against because there are no rules and there is no competition.
His game is an allusion to chess and to scenery and to his own work in terms of playing with reality as a board. The game is connected with reality in terms of the dimension, setting and the assemblage of reality to make it that field of perception, but it is reality in terms of each person's society. Orozco views the chessboard as filled with a societal charge just the same as there is no natural mineral or metal, yet only what we view it as. They are so charged with their culture that we cannot claim there even exists a pure mineral or metal. Everything is determined by the culture that you work in.
These persistent new forms of perception on these run-of-the-mill objects create a void that is only filled when the viewer takes a new perspective on them. The new perceptions and notions are Orozco's legacy that he leaves with each viewer. They challenge the viewer to think in a different way about what they think they know. Space and time seem transformed as Orozco influences the way objects operate. The way an unassuming ping pong table can be divided to create a new tri-dimensional field and the way a chessboard can undergo such an enormous leap from the original game. These new games are Orozco's way of creating new rules for games to grow.
The goals of this paper were twofold. The first goal was to provide understanding into the concepts of ludology and its use in analyzing games. The subsequent and ultimate goal was particular in this case: to apply the conceptions of ludology to Gabriel Orozco's PingPondTable and HorsesRunningEndlessly. Regardless of this, investigating any form of game presents inherent complications in subjectivity. The only way to accurately analyze Gabriel Orozco's creations would be to interact with them in the flesh. As I have only read about and seen them in the virtual sense, my understandings are purely subjective as well. Applying the concepts behind ludology to the investigation of games allows breathing room in its understandings.
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