• Eyes on the Board - crossing game space


    September 14, 2019 - October 10, 2019

    Opening reception: Thursday, September 19, 6:00-8:00 pm

    Eyes on the Board invites the viewer to experience board games popular in different corners of the world, or from a distant past, while making connections across time and space. The exhibition reenacts first contact with an unknown game by exposing a New York City audience to a set of diverse boards, videos, poetry, and photography documenting the games’ social space.

    Board Games serve as social lubricants, facilitating interaction between different groups of people, as their abstract nature requires little to no cultural appropriation. Unlike other forms of play, they travel largely unchanged across geographic, cultural, linguistic, or even enemy borders. For at least five thousand years they have connected people across generations and disparate regions of the world. None of the game boards and gaming pieces in this exhibition came with a set of playing rules. Even if versions are sold with playing rules in industrialized countries, most board games are learned around the world through observation of others and by trial and error at the playing board; players learn to interact without sharing a language or script, but with sharing a board and a fascination for the game. The five poems in this exhibition provide important historical information that supplements the material evidence available for board games.

    This exhibition highlights the exposure to game worlds that, contrary to today’s game designs, are the result of a long history of a practice that seems both innovative and resistant to change. Although these games may also appeal to children, all examples displayed are mainly or exclusively played by adults.

    Curated by Alex de Voogt

    All objects shown are from the personal collection of Alex de Voogt.  All poetry translations, videos, and photographs are by Alex de Voogt. 

    With thanks to Waverly Wilson (graphic design), Erin Chapman (video-editing), and Kayla Younkin (drawing; photo-editing) for their help in preparing this exhibition. Special thanks to Preeti Gopinath (MFA Textiles, Parsons School of Design) for  financial support and, most importantly, the staff of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, without whose help and insight this project would not have been possible.



    Related public programs:

    4th New York Symposium on Board Game Studies: Eyes on the Board

    In conjunction with the exhibition, the 4th New York Symposium on Board Game Studies will be held at Parsons School of Design at The New School on September 21, 2019.

    Speakers from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Maastricht University, and Parsons will discuss the history and understanding of game boards from archaeological, historical, and game-theoretical perspectives.

    Location: Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Auditorium, 66 Fifth Ave, Ground Floor, New York, NY 10011


    1:30 pm - Opening remarks
    Alex de Voogt, curator, Eyes on the Board: crossing game space

    1:40 pm - Walter Crist, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
    The Digital Ludeme Project: Game Board Data and Ancient Game Reconstruction

    2:20 pm - Alexander King, NYU Game Center, Parsons School of Design, NY
    Kinesthetic Metaphor and the Design Affordances of Game Boards

    3:00 pm - Anne Elizabeth Dunn-Vaturi, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
    Games N’ Rosettes: declination of a playful motif from the Royal Tombs of Ur to the Assyrian palaces

    3:40 pm - Alex de Voogt, Drew University, NJ; Parsons School of Design, NY
    No Board in Sight: from textile to sandbox

    4:20 pm - John Sharp, Parsons School of Design, NY
    Traces of Playfulness: a few thoughts on games in exhibition spaces

    5:00 pm - Final discussion

    For more information on the symposium please contact Alex de Voogt at devoogta[at]newschool[dot]edu.