For the Copenhagen Interart Symposium on ‘How to do things with academia’ organized by the University of Copenhagen on 16-19 June 2011 , the organizers had an extraordinary call for manuals instead of papers!
Scrabble-a-manual involves around new ways of producing knowledge. Academia evolves and revolves around a textual word. Different knowledge, on nature, on art works, on human behaviour is described and analysed by a text. We wanted to test a production of meaning based on a visual language and at the same time challenge what knowledge is. Can knowledge for example derive from an invented mythical device and the ways to construct it?
Scrabble-a-manual also reflects on the way academic texts are constructed, they are not tabula rasa but are acceptable once based on notions already proved by other academics. Plus the academic ‘speech’ has to form a logic sequence, which might be a traditional logic or something completely new and inventive, but the logic behind the sequence should always be justified.
Scrabble-a-manual is a collaborative action, both in its conception and in its realisation. The participants have to negotiate the ‘logic’ behind their manuals and can add or expand the manual of one of their fellow players.
The typical manual is a way to instruct someone to produce/assemble/montage/construct/do something that already exists. Furthermore the way it should be constructed/delivered/etc it is already known to the person who is writing the manual. Scrabble-a-manual on the contrary calls for open-ended manuals, where the final outcome is not known before and can be altered on the way. It is more dependable on the existing tools (cards/pictograms) than a final close-ended product.
Scrabble-a-manual aims at producing fantastic/impressive/impossible notions but the interest is mainly on the process (the manual, and the way the manual is constructed by playing).
Scrabble-a-manual draws inspiration by the ways an academic text is produced (using notions of others, logic sequence, open end) but it calls for larger collaborations, creativity and most importantly, amusement. Won’t we all learn more by playing?
The activity proposed is to play a custom-made scrabble; instead of the word-building game, the participants would be involved in a manual-building game where the letters of the original game will be replaced by pictograms extracted from different manuals (these will vary from Ikea assembly manuals to instructive manuals on how to build a house, how to kill a rat, amongst others).
The participants will be divided in teams (of approximately three people so they will not have to wait too long for their turn to play). All teams will be given the same amount of identical cards.
In each team, the players will be allowed the same amount of cards- picked randomly from the bag; the players will take their turn to play one by one placing their cards on the provided board. The player’s aim is to get rid of their cards by constructing a sequence on the board or by attaching their card to another player’s sequence; the aim of the game is to produce a manual.
The manuals produced will have to be named during the process of the game to the rest of the players. The participants can construct an absurd or incoherent manual sequence as long as they can provide an argument that explain it to their fellow players which in their turn can choose to accept the ‘logic’ of it, or not.
So far, the rules of the game are very similar a game of scrabble. However, since we would like the participants to concentrate in creating inventive manuals we would not like to insert a point system in the game.
Scrabble-a-manual is a call for different manuals that at the end of the game or at the end of the symposium can be used as scripts for movies, for performances, for PhD methodologies, for imaginary devices, for art objects.
When there are no more cards to be placed on the board or when the players decide to end the game (whichever comes first), a player from each team will present the list of the manuals to the rest of the teams and he /she will write a set of instructions as a result from the experience of playing or inspired by one of the manuals on the board. At the end we will have a long list of different manuals and a smaller list of sets of instructions to accompany some of the visual cards/pictograms.