Wrap Up

It’s been over a week now since my return to Sydney and I’ve had ample time to steep in the aftermath of Modelling Play. It was honestly such a pleasure to present that work-in-progress show to such lovely audiences. The feedback that we received was very constructive, and I’m looking forward to the next development of this project.

During the final week I started reading this thesis paper on the impact of music in gaming.

PLAY ALONG: VIDEO GAME MUSIC AS METAPHOR AND METONYMY.

By ZACHARY NATHAN WHALEN

I was searching for something like it because we were selecting the music that would accompany our Music Festival games. What kind of music would best suit this game, provoke a sense of time running out, help the player concentrate, etc? I’m going to keep looking into it because I think it’s a really interesting and important component of the experience an audience is part of in Modelling Play.

And so now we let Modelling Play rest for a while, until we can find the right time and place for the next phase. If you saw any version of the show and want to talk to us about it, please do. We’d love to hear from you.

– Rachel

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Breathe. For now.

IMG_0793

I’ve been back in Australia about a week now and I’m just about adjusted (though I went for a run this morning and oh wow what is this heat I don’t remember this).

When friends and family have asked about what I did in London, I’ve told them we made an “interactive-board-games-style-lecture-where-people-play-games-to-build-and-manage-a-music-festival-and-through-doing-so-learn-about-complex-systems.” I don’t even use ‘the M word’ anymore. Not unless they ask more questions. And lo, people completely understand what I’m talking about. From my point of view, at least, I think a lot of our communication problems have eased a bit now that we’ve seen (and recorded) the show in action.

When they’ve asked me how it went, I’ve said “incredibly well.” The pre-BAC showing at the Environment Institute left us all really excited and confident that we could make it work. Because of that, we got to spend most of the BAC week making the scratch polished (relatively), slick, and full of as much material as we could fit in. It was lovely to spend our last week doing that rather than trying to force something broken to work. Obviously there’s a lot more to be done, but I think we showed (to ourselves more than anyone, perhaps) that this mode of performance can absolutely work to get across the kind of messages we want to share, through the kind of interactions we’ve been interested in.

Which brings us to the future. I’m very excited about giving this some time to breathe, and coming back with fresh ideas to keep developing it, with an eye on the excellent feedback we’ve received from our scratches.

It’s been a thoroughly exciting process so far. We’ve achieved a lot of the goals we set ourselves at the end of September but there’s so much more we can do. Meeting and working with all the people we’ve had involved has been absolutely fantastic, and for my own creative practice, hugely enriching.

And when my friends and family have asked what exactly I mean by eighteen excited people driving little wooden rubbish trucks around a felt-covered music festival, I’ve showed them this video. See you soon, Modelling Play.

-Nathan

Thankyou and Goodnight.

Coming to you from KL airport. It’s warm, it’s humid, and now I know I’m on my way back to Aus.

Our last week in the UK was spent at Battersea Arts Centre working on our sell out Scratch, developing and refining it, and most importantly trying it out on a few different audiences.

IMG_1422The festival grounds after a flood takes out the third stage and a kebab stall. 

After the showing at UCL we found ourselves in a good place with our games and the structure of the performance prepared, and so were able to spend the weekend and part of our week at BAC luxuriantly scripting and developing character text. This was further than I thought we would get, and lovely to be able to put a level of detail into it – to give an idea of how a story and characters within the festival can be used to support, clarify and focus the impacts of the changing system upon the individuals who interact with it – and illuminate the science further. So our characters Val Kaye – a terse but accomplished production manager and festival veteran-, Liz Hausman – a local aspiring singer/songwriter who comes to wow the smaller crowds and finds herself on bigger stages-, and Eliot Bulson – an enthusiastic and naive teenager out to get everything he can out of his festival experience-, had some script scripted and got themselves a makeover (we found some Marvel models cheap, quietly proud of our casting however) and became a much more integral part of the festival experience. It was also really rewarding to test the interaction of the performance out on our audiences. It’s so easy when working in a rehearsal room to forget about that. For ease of working through the technical, and writing aspects it is necessary but it is always the most interesting moment when the audience comes back in and deals with everything you have cleverly planned out in a completely different manner. This piece has so much explaining in it, with all of the science, and then all of the game rules and instructions, and watching and learning how to pace that explanation, and how to get everyone engaged and comprehending quickly and easily was fascinating. We learnt that about halfway through it all gets a little heavy and a fun truck driving game  is required to get everyone moving again, so we threw that in for our last scratch and it worked a treat.

IMG_0866Our participatory rubbish trucks ready for service/racing.  

On Saturday we got to grips with the mammoth task of putting together our notes, photos, video footage and completing acquittals. To an extent I think we achieved what we set out to do. On our first day of this process we identified the cognitive attitudes that we wanted our audience to experience and perhaps even to become aware of using. That actions can have unpredictable side effects, Modelling makes the simple complex and the complex simple, that all models are wrong – some are useful and that complex systems are interconnected. We identified that we wanted to play with board game mechanisms to demonstrate some of the systems operations and that we wanted to use narrative and characters to support the science that we assumed would be a part of the process. We set out to make ‘an interactive tabletop performance’ about scientific modeling, how it is used, why it is important and why it is both informative and fallible and we went some way towards understanding how to do that at least.

IMG_0818Attempting to explain our festival flowchart. 

At the end of this development I have a better grip on what we are trying to explain and some of the mechanisms that are appropriate to do this through. I understand a little better our process of systems analysis and how it is useful.  And as with the end of any good development I have more questions than answers. Is a music festival the best context to explain modelling? There are many audiences that could engage with this material, but I think each audience would demand a slightly different show depending upon their focus. We had a largely teenage audience for one of the scratches who seemed to get very excited about it all so that is one audience avenue but are there others? and  how do we remake it for two performers and with a touring aim in mind?

All questions for another development, hopefully not too far in the future. But for now, it’s been fun and I am looking forward to giving the whole thing some breathing time.

– Nikki

Last night in London

T-shirts: Nathan wears a Kanye, Rachel wears Rihanna, Nikki wears the Rolling Stones and mine just says GIRLS ROCK

Right, this is it! My last night in London, Nathan and Rachel are currently en route to the airport, Nikki leaves on Monday, this is IT.

It has been a big week. We moved in to the Battersea Arts Centre on Monday and lived there until Friday night. We presented three  scratches to the general public, all three sold out. We had three amazing audiences who gave us heaps of constructive criticism, and we’ve had the chance to really dig into the practicalities of presenting the work pretty seriously.

The overall outcome has been, for me at least, that the show has potential. It has a long way to go, but all the people giving us feedback have pointed out things that they thought were positive, as well as things that we need to address and develop. The science is not overwhelming. The games are not terrible. The story and the setting are not embarrassing. There is something here.

So now the question is, where to from here? Well first of all, we need to take a step back and give it some space. It will be healthy to get a little distance from this thing we’ve been working on full-time for over two months now. But then it would be great to get our teeth back into it before too long. And to do that, we need to organise funding, support, figure out which direction we want to take it in and where we might start looking for opportunities.

If anyone’s reading this blog and has any thoughts on places and/or people who might be interested in hosting the next stage of development for a tabletop interactive performance exploring concepts from systems modelling, please drop us a line. I’m sure there are heaps of people out there – but who are they and what do they look like?

These are questions for the next few weeks. But for now, we’re tallying up our experience and digging in to the feedback we’ve been kindly provided by our audiences these last few days. I’d like to say thank you heaps to everyone who’s come along and taken part or been involved in this stage of the project – it’s been radical and we’re really grateful to have had this time and space to explore this stuff.

More from us soon, I’m sure.

– David F