Last year, during a media obsession with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s antics, critics exclaimed that too much attention was being paid to what he was doing and saying and not on the issues themselves. Two activist artists, Emilia Yang and Tonia Beglari, tried to address this last April with their interactive game “#Time2Escalate.”
The goal of the game is to turn off all the televisions showing Trump by touching them, but the only way to beat the game is to work with others. The game demonstrates that in order for activists to reach their goals, there needs to be collaboration.
Now that candidate Trump is President Trump, we checked in with Yang and Belgari to find out more about the project and what they’ve done with it since. They answered our questions as a team via email.
Where did the idea for #Time2Escalate come from?
Emilia did a first iteration of another piece called “To Trump Trump’s wall,” a mock-up wall where participants could project their own stop-motion animations responding to Trump’s idea to build a wall using an animation booth. One of the lessons of that iteration was that people wanted to touch/break the wall.
At the time (early 2016), we saw how media was already hyping Trump’s every move. So, talking to Tonia, we came up with the idea of creating a multiplayer interactive game installation that utilizes guerilla materials and physical computing to invite players to work together so love conquers hate. We used the mechanic of a memory game to show what people should do to shut him down (unite and work together) and we decided that we wanted to “visibilize” what activists were doing.
The title itself is a play on the mega-movement that inspired this game. We found out and were deeply inspired by #Time2Escalate — a call to action hashtag signed by the Black Lives Matter movement — the anti-deportation campaign Mijente (#Not1More), and the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (which works on global issues including climate change) creating a “movement of movements” to disrupt Trump’s hate in order for allies to join and take a stance.
So basically, the game goal is to work together to change the conversation. You first see 16 channels of Trump, and whenever you touch one, the channel flips and you see an activist we are highlighting. You have to match them with your teammates. Because of its spatial dimension and rules, the game cannot be won alone. When matches are found, underdog winning scenes play. When all matches are found, there is finally a period of calm. Inevitably the Trumps trickle back in, since we acknowledge that resistance is an ongoing process. Our installation highlights activists, veterans and artists who are working to empower those most at risk under the Trump/Pence administration (but only if players work together to elevate them).
How many hours of television did you have to watch to find the clips that you use?
Hours and hours. Luckily we have been alive for over 219,000 hours each!
How does the technology work?
When a player touches one of our projection-mapped panels, they are completing a circuit which is registered by a microchip sending information into a computer that wirelessly controls the projection. The structure is made of cardboard which we covered with conductive spray-paint and individually wired to the chip. Players stand on a conductive floor which allows each player to trigger the animations with their bare hands.
What did you learn from the piece?
We learned a lot about designing for a cooperative experience and in testing it. Ideally, we could upgrade the structural concept for a permanent installation where we periodically update the content! It would also be nice to think about a piece that can have a more mobile guerilla cooperative installation without relying on ceiling projectors, speakers, etc. that we could pop up in public places.
Will it be featured in future exhibits?
We have showed the piece twice, and have applied for it to be shown again in a space. #Time2Escalate works resurfacing the coverage and critique of social ills that are often drowned out of discussion. Now that Trump is the President, we are polishing the installation to expand the reach of our message of teamwork to elevate the efforts of activists working to respect the humanity of every dreamer that doesn’t fit the white nationalist mold.