Archetype Game – Transnational and postnational practices manual

Sonia Nikitin, Université Lyon 2

Tags: Ludic, Collective

This method is a prototype of tarot cards helping individuals or collectives thinking and exchanging about experiences and practices of working internationally in the arts. To counter the issues within (im)mobile artistic practices, five senses that could be tools in leading the way for changing transnational practices in the arts have been identified: sense of Place, sense of Multiplicity, sense of Connection, sense of Generosity, and sense of Break. Each of these senses responds to a particular problem and is linked to several Archetypes and is addressed through several Rituals. Both the Archetypes and the Rituals are imagined as tools for artists and artworkers, to use as means to shift focus in their daily life and work. The tools are designed to be
adapted depending on the setting of the practice (on an individual or institutional level).

Archetypes are presented in the same order as in the Rider-Waite or Marseille tarot deck. The Major Arcana is split into two approaches, one focusing on the individual position, and one focusing on collective governance. These two journeys meet up in one set of cards. The Archetypes and tarot are developed as a tool to ask yourself questions about your own practice or
organisation. Or to look at your work from a different perspective. There are different ways of using this proposal. You can take the card descriptions and the questions we have proposed as an inspiration, but remember that it is your own reading that will be important to your situation. Look at the archetypes we propose and let them speak to you, make them your own.

Some ways of reading and some spreads for the cards, inspired by some classic tarot spreads are proposed and can be experimented with. Spreads can be done on your own, or as a group. When reading as a group, pay attention that everyone can bring their view to the table. In general, tarot works best when you formulate an open question about your practice or your organisation. Think of a place where you are stuck, or a practice you would like to change. What is bothering you in the situation, what are you doubting about? Put both the context and the issue into an open question; meaning a question that cannot be answered by a simple yes or no.

When reading a card, before looking at the explanation, study the image. What do you notice first? What does it remind you of? How could that reflection be related to your practice? What else is there that you did not see right away? What associations do you make with the image, or with the explanation?

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How is this method alternative?

For many art workers, working across borders is an essential part of the job. Many travel or collaborate across the globe. While working beyond and despite borders, art workers are not necessarily working ‘inter’-nationally; meaning using nation states to define themselves. But rather ‘trans-’ or ‘post-’ nationally; queering or diminishing the importance of national borders by placing the similarities and differences elsewhere than in national identity.

The urge to travel, to constantly meet ‘the new’ or ‘the other’ can become an unsustainable practice reproducing destructive tendencies in our society, in the light of climate change, in the light of personal stability and sense of place and connection. In the process of designing this tool, following risks have been identified: Self-congratulatory hypermobility / The lure of othering and exoticism / Exclusion of those who cannot or choose not to be mobile / Ecological neglect / tendency of conforming.

Rather than pushing towards international collaboration, this perspective and tool questions contemporary international collaboration and focuses on awareness, empathy, and inspiration. The authors chose to work with senses in an attempt to follow feeling and bodily experience over cognitive processes, and move away from the moral or judgmental connotations of values or principles. With the introduction of Rituals they propose playful ways to bring the five senses and the proposals of the Archetypes into our daily lives and work environments.

In which context was the method developed?

This “method” has been developed in an European collaboration project, inviting artists and activists (Martinka Bobrikova & Oscar de Carmen, Pau Cata, Petr Dlouhy, Heba el-Cheikh, Gjorgje Jovanovik, Marta Keil, Dominika Święcicka, Marine Thévenet, Ingrid Vranken) to think about transnational and postnational practices in the arts. The main motivation of creating this prototype was to “reshape the journey not only to include highways but also footpaths, detours, and alternative routes” and “to work on tools that can guide us towards making connection rather than movement central in our work”.

The following questions lead the reflection

  • What are the dialogues and non-dialogues between nomadic artists and the temporary communities they inhabit? In our search for the other, how can a true encounter be achieved?
  • How is travel affecting our personal life and our sense of connection?
  • How to recognise dynamics of othering?
  • How can travel or exchange increase diversity of practices and understanding, rather than promoting a homogenisation of artistic practice or the establishment of a new canon coming from a specific Western or European gaze?
  • Who are given the possibility to travel? Who are not invited?
  • How are people traveling and to what extent is the ecological impact of these choices taken into account?
  • What actions can be regenerative, on a human and ecological level?
  • What is increasing the pressure to act in a certain way?
  • In this shifting and unpredictable context, how do we reconnect to each other from a place of isolation?
  • How do we extend solidarity when we can’t physically meet?
  • How do we create and inhabit spaces of dissonance, where different voices can be heard?
  • And how do we develop artistic practices when one of the core premises – that of humans gathering to experience something unknown – is no longer possible?

Settings and participants the method is best suited for

The tools are designed to be adapted depending on the setting of the practice (on an individual or institutional level). Some uses are suggested, but they are first and foremost an invitation to play and observe.