Artwork #4 Expression/Experience: Drawin’ Blanks

Drawin’ Blanks

You are college students who have been assigned multiple final projects for the end of the semester. However, after many weeks of rigorous conception, multitasking, and academic heavy lifting, you are now near the end of your motivational rope, and your creative well runs dry. Faced with this frustrating plateau, your task is to “think outside the box” to generate multiple sets of good ideas. Will you slowly build on them over the course of time, or wait until the last minute hoping for inspiration to strike?


  • 4 decks of cards
  • A box
  • A timer
  • 2 players


  • Start a timer for 5 minutes
  • Place decks A and D outside of the box, leave decks B and C inside
  • Players sit adjacent from each other and take turns drawing cards from any pile
  • Each player’s goal is to obtain a set of cards of the same suite/color that add up to 10
  • When such a set is obtained, it is placed face up on the table and an additional card of that color may be placed adjacent, up for grabs by the opponent player should they have a set that requires that card. If such a card is unavailable, choose any other color and place it adjacent to the full suite.
  • The objective is to have the highest number of full sets by the end of the round, getting through all the decks as quickly as possible
  • Each deck has a specific theme/pattern that must be discovered in order to determine the best strategy

Other rules:

  • If you have 2 sets or more you must play at least one
  • Can take multiple aux cards from the opponent’s completed sets if they all complete one of your own set
  • At the end of the game, players can exchange blank cards for 1’s or draw one card for each blank they have, after which any blanks are considered worthless
  • When arranging sets at the end of the timer, players are no longer required to take turns or place down aux cards next to full sets

Deck themes:

  • Slow and steady
  • Last minute pressure
  • Progressive overload
  • The good student

Designer’s Statement

For this game I found myself scratching at the bottom of the barrel in terms of drive, both motivationally and creatively. Perhaps creative exploration within academic confines is not for me. My original idea was going to be a game called “wall jump” based on a singular, fast-paced twitch mechanic that handles movement and combat, but I was hard-pressed to find the time to learn Unity in order to develop it fully.

By my second iteration I had had a conversation with the victim of my previous artwork, Seven Siegel, and expressed to him my inability to think of (or at least give energy to thinking of) truly meaningful great ideas. I told him that I was “drawing blanks” and having trouble “thinking outside of the box”, and that I don’t like to settle for mediocre concepts fo the sake of a grade, usually leaving me either empty-handed or scrambling for inspiration at the last minute. He looked at me with a face that said I had just answered my own question, saying “I dunno drawing blanks, thinking outside the box? Sounds like you got plenty there” and in a moment of inspiration, I figured out how to convey my plight. That night I went home and put an ironic amount of effort into something that was supposed to be and feel half-assed.


The end result was a surrealist expression of different themed approaches to “the crunch” or needing to tap into one’s creative center in general. Sharp mentions conceptual affordances and how they can be manipulated in order to subvert what is and isn’t possible and create something entirely unique and engaging for its own reasons. For this assignment, I dug deep to twist the traditionally accepted conceptual affordances of card games; instead of the assurance that every hand is going to BE something, most hands are quite nothing. This, combined with the overall game-feel is ultimately evocative of an art game that doesn’t feel like a game. It feels like a struggle.

P.S. I have been getting an HTTP error every time I try to upload images to this post. I will try to fix it, but for now here are some imgur links.

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Indie Game Show and Tell: Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars


Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars is the prequel to the now much beloved Rocket League by Psyonix. Originally released on the PS3, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars was a rudimentary first draft that included the bare bones of what is now Rocket League. It was devoid of power-ups, all the modes, cars, customization options, and maps that appear in Rocket League. Nobody played it, but it was still my favorite game at the time. The fact that the studio decided to release such an improvement of a sequel was an absolute joy to me in 2015, never mind its overwhelmingly positive critical reception.

I chose this game because it not only manipulates, but redefines the conceptual affordances of ideas like soccer or even cars themselves. What you can do with both has been vastly expanded upon for the entire medium, standing as a shining example of a game that strikes at the core of what it means to have fun in a video game, doing things we couldn’t possibly dream of achieving in real life.

Artwork #3 Intervention: Somebody


  • Laptop
  • Bluetooth/wireless speaker
  • Song/meme of your choice


  • Connect your laptop to the speaker and make sure to hide it in a reasonably obscure place
  • When playing the song of your choice, leave the window open in full view and make sure it is no smaller than the video player
  • Your screen brightness has to be no lower than 4 (on a mac)
  • Play the song and only end it if A: you are ratted out by classmates, B: you are questioned by the professor, or C: the source is stopped.

For this  assignment, my goal was to intentionally disrupt an established system/procedure with something that was lighthearted or otherwise inherently meaningless, but familiar and socially relevant enough to be funny. In essence, I wanted to break up the daily monotony of class (especially one that was 3.30 hours long) with a direct injection of laughter and general non-seriousness, relying on a somewhat shared generational sense of humor to optimally make light of a serious moment.

I had originally intended for this project to be competitive, and while I issued an open challenge at the end of my intervention, I am doubtful that many people would be willing to take it up. Class choice was important for this as well; I had to pick a class with a professor who wouldn’t take it too seriously, was full of class mates with a shared culture of media consumption, and had a similar/not too distant sense of humor.

This project most closely resembles some situationists’ tactical interventions, mainly situationist pranks and jests that served to subversively undercut what they considered oppressive establishments, corporate institutions, and top-down media broadcasts. One comparable example is the Notre-Dame Affair that aired on French national television in the 1950s where key members of the radical wing of the Lettrist movement (which has its roots in Dada and surrealism) hijacked an Easter Sunday sermon broadcast, “choosing a quiet moment in the Easter High Mass to climb to the rostrum and declaim before the whole congregation a blasphemous anti-sermon on the death of God, penned by Serge Berna.”

While my intervention was nowhere near as goal-oriented, subversive, or scathing, both instances were wholly disruptive, completely driving attention away from a previous focal point and towards this abrupt, curious interruption. They were both situations where the “soap box” or podium speaker that has harnessed the attention of the crowd was usurped by something entirely foreign to the audience and their setting. However, while the Lettrist intervention probably earned the contempt of many a French church-goer, mine seemed to positively influence the atmosphere of the room, making the experience feel like a transactional performance of sorts whereby I gained the audience’s favor in exchange for a curious happening and a good laugh.




Artwork #2 Appropriation: Go Carrom


  • Two bowls of Go stones
  • A dry-erase game board with targets of any number of rings (depending on desired difficulty)

Artist Statement:

For this assignment, I decided to appropriate the stones and bowls from a classic strategy board-game that predates even chess known as Go. The game board used was the underside of a dry-erase board from a board-game making kit that I’m using for another game in another class.

My goal for this project was to create a short, simple, fun game that retained some of the sensory experiences of its components. Carom alone is the result of decades of play and refinement, while Go is largely considered to be the ultimate strategy game, focused on knowing the mind of the opponent, the sensory and aesthetic experience of playing the game itself, and the creation of a celestial landscape that mirrors the universe itself through the regular procedure of play.

I was pleasantly surprised during play to find that the sensory and aesthetic appeal of both games was retained in this hybrid. Flicking a stone just hard enough for it to land in the perfect spot, knocking your opponent’s stones off of an advantageous position, or even just feeling the the stones click against each other as you reach in the bowl are all experiences that coalesce into a delightful amalgam of the sensory impact afforded by both games.

The original idea for this piece was inspired by Maciunas’ Fluxkits, whereby each item contained within served some aesthetic purpose as a set-piece for preservation and interaction. As such, I had meant to find an adequately appealing game board and some other items that would enhance the experience, but I ended up settling for the dry-erase stand-in from my other game. In doing so, I decided not to place the entire thing in a box or case as it might have been confusing to make sense of these disparate pieces on one’s own. The end result manages to feel like what a Saudi Arabian boy (Carrom is popular in Saudi Arabia, where I was born and raised) might think of doing with a set Go stones he’s never seen before.

Appropriation Show and Tell

My example of appropriation is the following 40ish second video/sound clip originally titled “I like the it”, the addition of “you want eat food in america having been made when it was uploaded to YouTube.  It is considered inspired by/related to “wurds”, a series of image macros containing intentional typographical errors meant to be read phonetically as if they were spoken with an exaggerated speech impediment. The soundclip does this with the names and “catch phrases” of 9 different popular american fast food franchises, effectively playing on popular knowledge of many established entities. Such a stark subversion of every-day set pieces results in a surprising amount of hilarity. This is why I chose this example; it presents an exceptional example of the power of the “remix” or even just a different perspective can have on one’s perception of even the smallest amounts of the world.

Artwork #1: Score

Sky Piece:

Find a Tall Roof

Look Over The Edge

Count the Cars

Fall Upwards

Count the Stars

Tend to the Light at the End of the Tunnel

From its inception, Sky Piece was intended to be a contemplative homage to some of Yoko Ono’s most open-ended and perhaps more existentially geared scores. In particular, I was inspired by much of her more metaphorical work in Grapefruit that didn’t seem performable or would yield no material results but could bestow a particular insight and motivate reflection or introspection. I originally considered having readers actually perform the piece, finding a tall roof at which they would find the next line, and so on. However, there seemed to many variables and safety concerns to this, so I compensated for that sense of adventure/discovery by placing all of the lines in a box once they had been packaged. The main inspiration for this was the kind of childlike wonder that Flux kits seemed to evoke. There is no underestimating the mystery and excitement that comes with the prospect of a sealed box, even one as dilapidated and worn out as the one I decided to use.

The state of the box, of course, was chosen to contrast with its contents and to prove the prior point about how eager we are to resolve the uncertain even when hidden by the poorest, least attractive means. Inside the box performers would find six envelopes, all numbered, increasing in aesthetic complexity as each line is unpacked, opened, read, and then unpacked in the performer’s mind before moving on to the next line. The decision to place each line in an envelope was motivated by a need for progression and pacing. Each package introduces a new element or combination of materials usually found on decorated envelopes, increasing in quality and complexity until the very last one. Each envelope is trying to convey something to the performer, just as each line of the score they contain. Similarly, the progression of the envelopes mirrors the progression of the score’s themes and perspectives, reaching death via the commodification by the last card which is a cheesy Hallmark birthday card that contains the line about “the light at the end of the tunnel”.

The score itself is meant to be a a sort of call to perspective. Many of us desire progression/ascension in our daily lives (take climbing the corporate ladder for example) but often fail to place ourselves above the hustle and bustle of daily life. I had originally wanted performers to seek out that height literally by asking them to find a tall roof, but figured everyone has at least once and should be able to recall the perspective it gave them. Regardless, finding a tall roof is simply to look upon/consider the rat race from the top down. The card this line is on is not colored, as the others are, to represent the beginning of a new journey/endeavor.

“Look over the edge” asks of the performer to either do something they are not inclined to (perhaps out of fear) or to do what logically comes next (depending on how you feel about roofs). Regardless of the positioning granted by the previous line, one must peer into the void if they are to discern its contents. This line is an explicit call to action, the application of which, made implicit by the first line, could be easily ignored. The card this line is on is therefore painted yellow, a color often associated with fear and trepidation and something that I wanted to use to guide the contemplative performer’s sensory experience into the state of mind of the literal performer. This is a recurring theme among the cards.

“Count the cars” and “Count the stars” are two very similar lines with very similar interpretations, but they mirror each other (both in rhyme and symbolism) because the ideal performative (and contemplative) outcome is to gaze down at a sea of cars and then look up to find a similarly thorough spattering of gaseous balls of fire across the sky. This is, of course, impossible because the emissions made by automobiles make it impossible to see stars, and so wherever there are plenty stars there are usually much fewer cars. The juxtaposition is a handy insight into the influence of our technological progression on our ability to keep the stars in sight and all that entails (health concerns over greenhouse gasses as well as the fact that no city kid can ever look up at the stars and imagine a universe ripe for adventure). This theme itself stands in contrast to the grandiosity implied by the contemplative outcome of being told to count the cars and then count the stars. Ideally, the performer in this scenario would draw a connection between the number of cars and the number of visible stars in the sky. In doing so, I want the performer to consider our place in the universe, whether we are truly alone, and whether that really even matters. It is reasonable to consider that, even though we may be totally alone in the universe, our existence has still managed to proliferate thoroughly and will likely continue to do so such that we echo the presence of our very own cosmic background; such that we occupy so many cars on our worlds as there are visible stars in the sky (the dust of which it is often said humans are composed of). The “Count the cars” card is painted green for nature and Earth in irony of the message it contains about loud, polluting machines. They may be cold, sterile machines, but they are of the earth and unto the earth they will return. “Count the stars” is painted a fiery red/orange for the actual color of stars as they burn in the vacuum of space and for the color that penetrates our eyelids when we close our eyes in the sun.

“Fall upwards” mediates both “count the cars” and “count the stars”. Upon visiting a roof, one’s first thoughts are often of the height they are at, of falling and what that would be like; the wind rushing past you at unimaginable speeds as the narrow becomes wide and the pavement rises up to meet you. Will I hit a car? Would I fall on somebody? I wanted to subvert this commonality and observe its effects on the performer. How would they envision it? Would it be a simple floating or would a similar rush inevitably come to mind? There is no floor at the top so how would it feel to cross the layers of the atmosphere? Would you ever reach a star falling upwards as easily as you would reach a car? In a lot of ways, “look over the edge” and “fall upwards” are the same line, but the former carries an implication explicit in the latter, while the latter is a more direct catalyst for the imagination. The card this line is on is blue for the color of the sky that will inevitably surround you on your ascent.

The final line, “tend to the light at the end of the tunnel” is a reference to the fact that all things end in death regardless of the perspective or meaning that they have conjured, been confronted with, or otherwise maintained. Whether you fall off the edge as is implied in “look over the edge” or you “fall upwards” into the vacuum of space, the only certainty is that death awaits. Furthermore, regardless of what you discover in life, you can discover nothing beyond the true final frontier that is death. There is no plane that supersedes the one we occupy to our knowledge, and there is no knowledge that seems to apply to the death-state. We can only guess at the game we are playing as we hurtle towards an uncertain end, the nature of which we may never truly grasp, and so we wait by the door, letting the anxiety and uncertainty that it incites occupy our state of mind. We “tend to the light at the end of the tunnel” in a way no other creature does. This card is white, because rather than paint it black and imply nothingness, I wanted the endless possibility implied by the first card to bookend the performer’s experience and provide an optimistic outlook on the nature of death and its implications for the human soul.

The card itself is a cheesy hallmark birthday card with the inscription “You are so easy to celebrate” written on the inside. I found this interesting because, while the final card is supposed to represent the death of art through commodification, the inscription it came with was similarly a capitalist nail in the coffin for the very meaning I wanted the score to attribute to the experiences of the individual. Yes, you are supposed to be easy to celebrate, but its one thing when I suggest that its because you are a miraculous expression of the universe’s will in an attempt to experience itself and another thing entirely when your aunt carol buys you this card and calls it a year.

This stands in stark contrast to the point made by the other cards. Just as I wanted the performer to have an aesthetic experience in reading the score itself, I wanted the aesthetics of the presentation to promote an italicization of experience; for the performer to feel every untying of a ribbon or string, the snap of a wax seal as it comes off the envelope, and the smell of each distinct perfume in the latter three envelopes. Each card built on or explored a possibility presented by the last, mirroring the journey of discovery implied by the score, until the performer’s arrival at an overdone, wonky mess of a last card that seemed more ornate but less deliberate; a product rather than a labor of love.