What Are the Rules? Festival of play and games


Two days of fun and collective games for everyone who creates games and everyone who plays them.

The idea of the festival of play and games What Are the Rules? is to figure out how we can play together. Its starting point will be the image of a courtyard. This was where we met as children, explored the world, learned its rules, and where we decided how we’d play, for whom and with whom we’d play. Common games differed slightly in each yard — they focused on the special characteristics and needs of the players so that the game would be fun and interesting for everyone. Now it seems that we are less and less sure of how to have fun by ourselves and rely more and more on what the entertainment industry offers. But what if you come up with your own rules again?

Picture by Sofia Korotaeva
When we play, we accept the world exactly as it is, with all its imperfections. After all, in order to walk on the pavement without stepping on the cracks, we first need to recognize that they exist.

— Dmitry Vesnin, co-curator of the Festival of Play and Games

During the festival, the GES-2 House of Culture will turn into a metaphorical yard where we invited famous game designers. A game by James Earl Cox III made especially for the What are the rules? breaks with the traditional idea of winning and losing and explores the possibilities of playing together in the post-pandemic world. Pippin Barr demonstrates a physical version of one of his already existing digital works that in part raises the question of how games can come back to the real world from digital space. A few months before the start of the project, an open competition was held among Russian game creators and artists. The most interesting versions of their performative, verbal and outdoor games can be played by visitors of the GES-2 House of Culture. There will also be a secret game during the festival.

Play and improvisation are the basis of the festival and the project as a whole. They provide the form in which art is created by the audience themselves. Our festival is an opportunity to immerse viewers in performative practices thanks to the tools of games that we all know and can all use. Of course, we know very well the situation we’re living in and use Covid precautions as a topic for some games — in much the same way as a game in the Harry Potter series: A boggart stops being scary when people laugh at it.

— Katya Porutchik, co-curator of the Let’s Pretend programme

Before the festival opens, a workshop will be held by the co-curator of the festival, the game designer Dmitry Vesnin. He’ll show how to breathe a second life into board games that are gathering dust on a shelf after some pieces got lost or we got bored with them. During the festival visitors can also take a mediated tour with a specially designed set of cards available at GES-2 throughout the Santa Barbara season.

The festival’s public programme focuses on the cultural context of the game process, the preservation of courtyard games and their adaptation for exhibition and museum spaces. But visitors will also discuss how modern games (for example, Pokémon Go) are changing the concepts of the street and yard as playgrounds.

Festival co-curator

Dmitry Vеsnin
Game designer. Lecturer at the Institute of Business and Design (B&D) and the Higher School of Economics. Participant of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale (2020-2021) and the 6th Ural Industrial Biennale (2021). Author of the Backtracking telegram channel.

Game creators

Khochu Byt Sokovym (Chelyabinsk)
Art group with an unstable line-up. Mostly they work with street genres, e.g. interventions. The group believe in a careful and ecological approach to the city. They are also drawn to the genres of mockumentary and pseudoscientific knowledge.

James Earl Cox III (Los Angeles, USA)
Experimental artist specializing in interactive media. Works in various formats and genres of games, adapting them for a wide audience. He studied game design at the University of Southern California, and is the co-founder of the Seemingly Pointless film and computer game studio. His works have been shown at the Smithsonian Museum (Washington, D.C.) and the National Art Center (Tokyo).

Michal Stefan Grelewski (Lodz, Poland)
Game designer creating and organising urban games since 2008, mostly in Lodz (Poland). In 2007 he founded the Topography Society, and in 2010 set up Departament Gier (Games Department) with a team that has made over 130 games. A participant of such festivals as You Are Go! (Berlin) and PlayPublik (Berlin) as an author of the game, Let’s Play (Poznan) as an international programme co-ordinator, PlayPublik (Krakow) as a local adviser and an author of the game, Tobacco City Inception (Plovdiv) as an author of the game, Fusion Festiwal (Matera, Plovdiv) as a curator.

Anastasia Galanina and Leonid Prokofiev (Petrozavodsk / Moscow)
The pair create theatrical productions all over Russia, both for festivals and independent venues. In 2021 alone, they have worked in Moscow, Tomsk, Irkutsk and Kaluga. They like to do projects in adjacent formats, for example, city+theatre or museum+theatre, such as the Square of Unbounded Perspectives audioplay on the central square in Petrozavodsk, the Kaluga/Theatre 2.0 staged performance on Teatralnaya Street in Kaluga, and documentary performances at the Onezhsky Tractor Plant.

Jan Grelewski (Lodz, Poland)
Engineer, constructs buildings and designs urban games. Together with the Departament Gier team, created the games Time System, Cardboard Kingdom and several night games on the Encounter network. Scout instructor and traveller; participant in the Good Morning Spitsbergen expedition.

Pippin Barr (Montreal, Canada)
Game designer, lecturer at Concordia University, author of the book How to Play a Computer Game. Considers computer games as performative practices. He created the game The Artist Is Present which reproduces one of the most famous performances by Marina Abramovich — in it, the players, like the actual museum visitors, wait for hours for their turn to sit at the table opposite the artist.

Ekaterina Avgusteniak (Tyumen / St. Petersburg)
Playwright, artist, director. Researches performative and cognitive properties of language, is engaged in interdisciplinary projects. Multiple participant in the Lyubimovka Festival of Young Playwrights, winner of the Brewhouse Stage Prize grant, resident of The Practice of Post Dramaturgy, Peredelkino and other creative laboratories. A finalist at the NOVA ART Contest 2019. Her play DNA Opus was included in the Golden Mask Awards long list for dramaturgy in 2021.

Masha Kechaeva (Moscow)
Interdisciplinary artist and scenographer. Through myth-making and an appeal to folklore, she explores problems of transitional states in society in the epoch of globalisation. Her videos, performances and installations address the themes of memory and rituals that accompany dreams. She has designed productions at leading theatres in Russia and abroad. Resident at the Watermill Summer Theatre School (New York) and participant in the annual Archstoyanie Festival of Art and Architecture.

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