Nico Ulloa Appropriation Post: Mute Trivia

My appropriation project was a trivia game in which the neither the host nor the audience where allowed to talk and the only way it was permitted to answer questions was using audio clips from the internet. The host would ask a question through a text-to-speech program (Google Translate) and the guests set off searching through the internet to find an audio clip stating the answer– however, they’re not supposed to find an audio clip of the answer itself but of someone saying the answer (e.g: “Who’s the owner of Tesla?” responded by a Rick and Morty clip saying “Elon Musk.”) Additionally, the guests are allowed to stitch together multiple audio clips to answer their question. When a guest is ready to answer they raise their hand, at which point the host selects them and nods or shakes their head to verify the answer.

The initial iteration of the game was simply having to answer with audio clips, but after a couple of rounds I decided to revise it to focus more on the audio since the conversation kept overriding it. As such, the mute part was introduced. The result was a surreal experience where multiple audio clips would overlap each other for about a minute until someone would raise their hand, the room would fall dead quiet, an audio clip would play, and then it would all happen again. It especially became strange when players would stitch together answers or when they’d answer wrong and the cacophony began again– the game felt like it had a strange rhythm. The resulting soundscape felt like something that would not be unusual presented next to Hugo Ball’s Karawane, if only a bit more coherent.

Nico Ulloa Intervention Project – University Hospitality Concierge Something


For my intervention project I set up a little “booth” on the ISEC bridge and put up some parodic posters of the University Health Counseling Services– my booth was the “University Hospitality Concierge Something” and was labeled “the doctor is in! 15 min for $70k.” The purpose of this intervention was to protest the lack of funding for the UHCS and how it affected students, with many rarely being able to schedule any consistent help for more than a couple 15 minute sessions. This seems especially egregious to me considering the incredibly large tuition fees students pay, close to $70k a year , and the University spending millions on other projects, including the ISEC and EXP (ISEC II) project, the former of which cost $225 million. I chose the bridge as the perfect representation of these excesses– it has since come to my attention that the bridge is part of the EXP project and not the original $225 million, but it’s still part of Northeastern’s ludicrous redevelopment master plan that totals at $1.9 billion.

My initial version of the intervention was a booth set up in the middle of the ISEC bridge, with volunteers lining up in front of it down the steps. I thought this would create a staggering visual that would drive the point home but quickly ran into problems when it came to practicality– apparently, the ISEC project has a history with protests, primarily the group DivestNU, which was received incredibly poorly by the university and students alike. This, alongside the nearby NUPD presence, made it very difficult to get volunteers. Other concerns that came up were accessibility issues.

As such, I restructured my project to just be the booth on the side. I stayed there from 1:30 to 3, joined by a couple of friends. The reaction to the booth was varied. Most people looked at our booth and seemed apathetic, others looked at it and seemed confused, a number of people smiled or laughed it, and a few people approached us to talk. While it’s improper to judge on appearances alone, we noticed there were some clear divides in reaction by gender/race. For instance, the preppy white males we saw almost always reacted negatively, and looked visibly upset and international students almost always looked confused. Perhaps most notably all of the people that actually interacted with us were either female or people of color.

Interestingly enough the people that approached us seemed to buy into a “roleplay;” we joked about a $70k IOU and they started venting about their problems, even though we were total strangers. It seemed reminiscent of the Five Day Locker Piece, where people simply felt comfortable talking about their lives because of the redefined context of interaction, even if the person was just a random artist (C. Carr, On Edge). I feel these couple of interactions would have been impossible with the large line I originally intended, and so I think that having to restructure the piece made it more successful in the end.

Nico Ulloa Experience Project – Editorial Board: The Paradoxical Ecstasy of Meaningless Subjectivity

My final project is a game card/board game about analyzing news “stories” and creating headlines to sell (and often spin) said stories. The game was largely inspired by my growing interest over the years in how money and other agendas can absolutely warp coverage and shape policy– a couple notable examples being the consistently empathetic coverage of billionaires and the recent Splinter news debacle. The game seeks to highlight the seemingly arbitrary and completely dishonest way basic facts can be distorted while maintaining the humorous and parodic nature of Dadaist work.

In the game players draw a card from a “story” deck which usually outlines an event, its participants, the location, and other relevant information. Players then go on to submit a “headline” to a judge,  who selects a winner and awards a point. The winner then becomes the next judge and so on. In initial iterations, this was the main focus of the game and it worked successfully to create a humorous dynamic not dissimilar to Cards Against Humanity. Some highlights that made me and others laugh include:

  • “Dukey Buys Chinese Children” – From a story about a “fake” rapper “Dukey North” creating a new clothing line that was made using sweatshop labor.
  • “Boomer Has Never Seen A Woman” – From a story about a male film director sharing a negative opinion about blockbuster movies which feature female superheroes.
  • “Chicken Is Now the Apex Predator” – From a story about a fight over a sold out chicken sandwich.

While the dynamic worked, after some thought I realized it wasn’t quite what I intended; the game still missed the agenda-making context I was looking for and so I implemented a mechanic where alongside the “Story” card, players draw a “Publisher” card and try to create their headline around that. Some of the publishers I selected were;

  • The Daily Stormer (Online Neo-Nazi Publication)
  • Breitbart (Online Alt-Right Publication)
  • Fox News (Multimedia Right Wing Publication)
  • CNN (Multimedia Center Publication)
  • New York Times (Online/Print Center-Left Publication)
  • The Guardian (Multimedia Left Wing Publication)
  • The Daily Kos (Online Socialist Publication)

To be noted, I have a left wing-bias myself and my classification of these is very rough and lacks full nuance. However I selected these because I thought it would be more accessible to have more recognizable publications for an audience.

The results of this was fascinating, because even while I gave it new depth the result remained humorous. I play-tested with my parents over Thanksgiving and their own bias immediately became present as they made caricatures of the publications they disagreed with, while they were more respectful and even stylistically professional with those they appreciated. I think then the game began embodying the fluxus attitude of “helping us practice life” as outlined in “Fluxus and The Essential  Questions of Life”; while supposedly playing a game critiquing bias and players themselves began showing (and playing with) their own implicit bias. I think a fascinating step if I were to take this project further would be to test with people with right wing views and see what results that yields.

At first I had the idea that players would write their answers on whiteboard/erasable cards that they could reuse. But after playing a couple of times I started realizing more and more how earlier headlines, even great ones, became forgotten. As such I opted instead to introduce an endgame mechanic where players compile all of their headlines into an “editorial board.” The result is a strange, almost nonsensical mismatch, a weird large mess with strangely coherent parts – a written word Exquisite Corpse. I think in this way the game could also be a way of art-making, should the players choose to keep the editorial board.

Recommended Daily Health Tips

Drink 8.4 ounces of water to start your day. Drink another 58.8 ounces throughout the day. Do not drink any more or any less. If you do, force yourself to regurgitate, measure its volume, and replenish only the correct amount. 

Ingest exactly 2000 calories. Ingest only fatty fish, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and eggs. If you fail to comply, pump your stomach and start over.

Vigorously exercise for 60 minutes. Do not take breaks. Do not stop. If your weak body passes out, get help, catch your breath, and then finish the remaining minutes of exercise. 

Sleep exactly 9 hours. If you are having trouble falling asleep it is acceptable to use a tranquilizer. If you are having trouble waking up, sleep on an off-balance chair and create a complex rig to tip you over at the right time. 

Repeat the following day. 

Artist Statement

My score was inspired by the modern idea of a perfect “healthy” lifestyle. I sought to subvert the idea of not only an exact, unmoving, empirically proven standard for “health” by rigidly sticking to commonly accepted, ideal recommendations to the point that it’s obviously ridiculous. Obviously, nobody measures their water intake in ounces and calorie labels are inherently unspecific and variable– by focusing on complete precision it’s obvious that one would have to go to extreme ends to even fulfill the score. For many people it would even be reactively dangerous to attempt it: people with nut allergies, diabetes, or low blood pressure, for example.

Moreover, I think a lot of these recommendations also fail to acknowledge ethnic and cultural differences. They’re often researched by, on, and commanded forward by white people; framing these as universal matrixes uphold a euro-centric white supremacist worldview. Additionally, a lot of these health recommendations both not cisgendered and differently abled people– the idea of an average “healthy” weight, BMI, height, etc. (especially when divided by sex) marginalizes a lot of people for it would simply be impossible to maintain said standards.

In the language of the writing itself I chose an authoritarian, overbearing tone– I find that the social pressure to maintain these healthy lifestyle is often presented in a way that shames and attacks people that can’t or don’t want to follow it. Following authoritarian tactics, the score barks orders and then disproportionately punishes the failure to follow them. My own experiences with authoritarianism has also taught me that incredibly often totalitarian governments will also maintain ironically inefficient, nationalist or sectionalist policies– I tried to mimic this with the chair rig suggestion.