playing with fire

In truth I did not proceed directly onto this study of the matchsticks. My first instinct was to lunge at the eclectic inventory of dollar-shop purchases that cluttered the shelves of my studio. Surely this was the best way forward, to stick with the material process of making. It had taken me so long to arrive at a fluid response to the moment — I worried that if I stopped to think the magic would evaporate.

But as I began to pull various items from the shelves I realised that I was already thinking. What might I do with this? What else should I maybe go out and buy? It was no good — the magic had already dried up.

If I was going to think, then, I could at least follow the lead that the matchsticks had provided. I could think in a directed way. How did the matchsticks — and the way in which I had altered them — relate to my interests in ambiguity, possibility and the real?

To begin with there was the idea of risk, still fresh in my mind from confirmation. The risk that my panel had referred to was that of failure: the risk of working in conditions that are unstable, both materially and relationally. But the risk that I was more interested in was that of consequence: the risk of working with conditions that may also be unstable, but are primarily ambiguous. This was the risk of Neurocam, which withheld any indication of whether it should be taken as real. It was also the magic of Neurocam, for this ambiguity allowed participants to create their own liminal reality. Blast Theory projects like Uncle Roy All Around You offer a fleeting taste of this liminality as well, through contextual ambiguities that deliberately confuse the spatial, temporal and/or social boundaries (Montola 2009) of the experience. What are the consequences of play that slips in and out of contact with the real?

As I contemplated these aspects of risk, I had two encounters that helped me to connect my thinking with the matchsticks.  Each of these encounters touched on a concept with which I was already familiar, and which I was starting to see as relevant to The Parallaxis.