Chapter VII.

What is Within? (a Proposal)

  A group of Gleemen and Gleemaidens, members of the Kibbo Kift Kinship - 1929, United Kingdom - photography by Angus McBean. Stanley Dixon collection, courtesy of Tim Turner.

A group of Gleemen and Gleemaidens, members of the Kibbo Kift Kinship - 1929, United Kingdom
- photography by Angus McBean. Stanley Dixon collection, courtesy of Tim Turner.

 

‘What is Within?’ (working title) is a publication-in-making that explores Ludic Societies through the practice of Transformation Games. Using my artistic practice and a previously untold story about a lineage of Hungarian children’s camps as departure points, ‘What is Within?’ is a publication that invites the reader to engage with it on an experiential level, becoming more of an instruction for participation, rather than classic forms of fiction or non-fiction literature. Tapping into the fields of role-playing, autonomous societies, rituals and playing, and the statement ‘Art is Politics’ as its foundational manifesto, ‘What is Within?’ is a manual to experience and create worlds within our world, through the communing experience of reading (of the publication).

I really want you to understand, but I only have words and images.

To understand is to be with.
It is a state of communion, where the object/subject polarity dissolves
into a dynamic synergy of being.

 

To understand Ludic Societies is to experience them, to be with them, to become them. To be within the Magic Circle. This understanding cannot be interpreted, represented, or illustrated. Thus, the form of the publication has to be a Transformation Game. The ‘reading’ of the publication happens through the ‘practice’ of itself. In this way, the publication becomes the facility of an experience - ceases to be removed from the reader and vice versa. In this sense, the publication itself takes the role of the Facilitator, becoming an organic extension the material. Or to put it in other words: the publication invites the reader to read it, while also teaching and conditioning the reader in how to do so - much like a tutorial or a manual.

  Participant playing ' Paticence ', a Transformation Game by Áron Birtalan - 2016, EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, NL

Participant playing 'Paticence', a Transformation Game by Áron Birtalan - 2016, EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, NL

The urgency of an experiential form came from the dead-ends I met when trying to translate the essence of the Pipecland lineage or my works to an outside reader. Despite my best attempts, I could only go as far as to scratch the surface of what is truly at hand, leaving the reader in a state of confusion or coming off as Esoteric (possessing some sort of indecipherable knowledge, one that could only be marveled from afar). This goes head-against the inclusiveness of experiencing Ludic Societies in the flesh. If the material becomes inaccessible, one is only left with the compensatory narratives of interpretation, adaptation, and reflection. These could only act as mere pointers, as mere tag-lines ‘about it’, rather than ‘being it’. It creates a divide between object and subject, between the reader and the material.


The 2016 Transformation Game 'Patience' can be seen as a prototype for such a way of 'reading'. Patience is an experimental game that uses the framework of a guided single-player card game to create a chain of mental events with intense variations each time the game is played. The artwork itself thus becomes the ephemeral and unrepeatable experience that happens when the reader communes with the materials at hand. Revoking traditions of fortune-telling and Tarot, the experience of Patience is within the 'event' of the reading. The encounter, in which the two endpoints (the material and the reader) dissolve is what ignites Patience itself.
However, without a properly facilitated experience (without the proper conditioning), the encounter never happens and the work remains distant, unreadable, esoteric - silent. 

Video recording of a Participant playing ‘Partience’, a Transformation Game by Áron Birtalan - 2016, Amsterdam, NL

The responsibility of undoing such divide is up to both the reader and the material – because as we will see, we are conditioned to divide and to point, rather than to commune. For the lack of better words, let’s call these polarising vantage points interpretations.

Interpretation is compulsive (visceral, comes from conditioning) not deliberate or premeditated. We are conditioned to interpret. To dissect everything into the object/subject in the same impulsive manner we hush mosquitos.

Susan Sontag puts it beautifully in ‘Against Interpretation’, and I can’t help to see every word of this paragraph resonating with Ludic Societies:

[Interpretation] is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world—in order to set up a shadow world of “meanings.” It is to turn the world into this world. (“This world”! As if there were any other.) The world, our world, is depleted, impoverished enough. Away with all duplicates of it, until we again experience more immediately what we have.

If interpretation is the result of conditioning, then the unlearning and undoing of it should also be done as such. How can the access to a publication be immediate (first-hand, non-mediated and real-time), can be experiential? This is a question I’d like to explore in the following two years