Eyes on the Board – crossing game space


September 14, 2019 - October 10, 2019

Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 19, 6:00 pm - 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.