The IgnoGame

The Ignogame developed from my earliest attempts to formalize the tiling patterns I had begun working with in earnest in the late 1970s. Having once discovered the 32 tiles, I looked for ways of combining them. I eventually settled on creating Latin Squares from 16 tiles at a time. First I tried flipping coins to determine the cards I would use, since the cards could easily be numbered and represented with binary numbers (the numbers could encode the card, its rotation and its reflection). Binary numbers suggested the use of punch cards, where the punched holes could be used to sort the cards into an appropriate order.

Since the cards were a kind of pattern-making solitaire, it occurred to me to involve other people in the process. Instead of flipping coins, I could have a participant select from sets of face-down cards, flipping them over at the end of the process to reveal a pattern formed by the arrangement of the tiles in a Latin Square. Social exchange was becoming an important part of my work anyway, and the game offered me the opportunity to get out of the studio. I had been working with a theatrical group, TET (Taller de Experimentación Teatral, directed by Jaime Silva), at the time. With TET I staged the production of a mural in gallery space (Salón Maricel, Sitges, Spain), using patterns determined by visitors to the gallery.

Participants in the card game suggested that I should read the significance of the pattern for them. It seemed a fair exchange, a bit of theatrical fortunetelling offered for some help in producing my visual work. Encounters with a few people who actually took the reading seriously convinced me that I had to be a dysfunctional fortuneteller, capable only of reading the present, and ready to inform any participant that I was an outright fraud.

When I started working with computers, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1980s, I began to develop programming skills necessary to perform the Ignogame in software. Although it took me 24 hours to get the computer to say "Hello, World!", I did go on from there to write many applications for playing the Ignogame. One of them is linked below. I have also used the game to collect and display media, as in the recent performance and installation "Ignotus the Mage," where the faces and voices of participants are fragmented and collaged in an installation that uses the patterns they generate to display and control multimedia events.

Ignogame Software (requires Shockwave plug-in)
Ignotus the Mage Performance (videos from installations in Boston for Siggraph 2006 and in Chicago for Structural Elements group show)