I recently spoke at the Making the City Playable Conference about the link between play and danger. I began my talk by showing this picture of two young polar bears play-fighting. One is biting the other playfully on the snout.
In his book The Genesis of Animal Play, Gordon M. Burghardt talks about the playful bite as “the bite that isn’t a bite”. For a play-bite to work both the animals playing must understand that it is playful biting rather than real biting. This requires a high level of understanding of the mind of the other animal. Play requires mindreading.
But this kind of mindreading isn’t a disembodied psychic power, it is far more interesting than that.
The mindreading of play uses the whole body, to feel the pressure of the play-bite, the push and pull of the other player, the rough and tumble of the play. It is a complex and delicate form of embodied cognition, more like a dance than a magic trick.
Since 2012, I’ve been exploring the potential of embodied mindreading through exploratory workshops, gallery work, and both interactive and collaborative performances. I am now ready to undertake a large-scale project.
At the conference, I launched One Thousand Mindreaders.
In 2018 I will be working with a broad range of venues and participants to train One Thousand Mindreaders from a rich variety of backgrounds in order to investigate the different ways we think about mindreading. I aim to capture how, using touch alone, we create the intimate, playful, and delicately embodied acts of drawing together and of finding lost objects together.
One Thousand Mindreaders will explore the science behind muscle reading, ideomotor responses, embodied cognition.
Initially, I’m looking for more organisations to host training sessions throughout 2018.
Later, I’ll be looking for places to stage the exhibition in 2019.
Please help spread the word through your social media networks.
The hosts so far include Universities, theatres, dance companies, art venues, hacker spaces, game design companies, sports organisations, conference and events organisers, magic circles, and the W.I.
To date, there are One Thousand Mindreaders sessions planned in London, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Newcastle, Plymouth, Helsinki, Brighton, Bath, LA, Las Vegas, Edinburgh, Lima, and Manchester.
If you know of any groups in any of those places that might be interested in playing while I’m there then please let me know.
I’m also keen to fund sessions for less advantaged groups and to further the research into the potential of muscle reading in physical therapy that I began last year with NHS Research Northwest. To that end, I’m using a Pay It Forward model where groups that can pay fund those that can’t.
I’m very excited by this project. The people I’ve trained as I’ve been researching and developing have been astounded when they discover they can to read each other’s minds.
If the job of a magician is to astonish people then this is the best magic I’ve ever done.