Power Game Online

As part of the festival Broadcast strand, Liliane Lijn will present a new online adaptation of Power Game.

15 May 2011, 3pm - 6pm
Online - URL TBA
Follow: @PowerGameOnline

Power Game is an exploration of the meaning of power and of the prejudices and preconceptions that people attach to words. It has been staged several times since its first staging in 1974 when underground filmmaker Derek Jarman and Middle East commentator Patrick Seale took part in it. Power Game has now been adapted to the digital medium, using Twitter as its platform. 

In its new digital incarnation, Power Game Online will use Twitter feeds, and will be viewable on a specially made web site where registered players and the MC will be represented by their twitter avatars. Power Game Online will no longer use the gambling metaphor as in previous incarnations. Money will not be needed to play the game and its rules have, therefore, been radically altered and transformed, focusing the entire content of the game on exploring the way meaning changes from individual to individual.

Power Game never fails to generate interesting thoughts and debate on the meaning of power; weaving together the perspectives of scientists, writers and artists and an international public.

History of Power Game

Originally staged by Liliane Lijn during the Festival for Chilean Liberation at the Royal College of Art, London in 1974, Power Game was recently staged at the ICA in London, at Baltic in Gateshead, during the AV Festival and in March 2011 at the Arches in Glasgow. Played as an altered game of Chemin de Fer, using a pack of word cards Lijn invented, Power Game is principally concerned with the power of words and how people interpret meaning, depending on their interests and preconceptions. It is both a game and an unrehearsed performance, which investigates the politics of identity and power.

Lijn uses ‘the casino’ as a metaphor for a capitalist democracy, a society in which everyone supposedly has an equal chance to succeed. The idea to base the game on Chemin de Fer, the French casino game preferred by James Bond, looks back to when, at the age of 14, her father would beg her to accompany him to the casino to bring him luck. He would portray the casino to me in a golden light as a place of elegance and dreams. ‘You never know who you’ll meet, he would say and add, I often play against Jack Warner.’ But after just one long night of boredom and anxiety, I knew otherwise. Still, in memory, ambivalence reigns.

For the initial staging of Power Game, Lijn asked the invited players to be prepared to gamble on the meaning of words. Derek Jarman, who was then just beginning to make his super 8 films, had worked all weekend to come with enough cash to play. He came dressed in a white tuxedo. Michael Kustow, then director of the ICA, came as a 4 star general and sat with Patrick Seale, the political commentator and art dealer, at one end of the table. They seemed to dominate the game from the very beginning of the evening. Asking people to gamble with real stakes quickly converted what might superficially appear to be only a game into a very real situation. Although played with real stakes, words are used instead of numbers and the winning word is chosen by a majority vote of the players seated at the table who are not at that time betting. Anyone who has entered the casino can place a bet on a word but the right to vote is given only to the players invited to sit at the gaming table. To enter the casino, it is necessary to exchange money for gambling tokens. On exiting, money is returned in exchange for tokens. Drinks are served at the table by cross-dressed waiters, since those who serve the powerful are not always who they seem.

Power Game enacts some of the restrictions and loopholes inherent in our democratic system. For this reason, each live performance is video-taped from beginning to end. Spot interviews are held with a cross-section of all the people attending the performance. This material is simultaneously broadcast live on the screens both in the casino and in the café bar, where those people not actively participating in Power Game can watch it from a safe distance. The video material from each performance is interwoven with past performances into a continually expanding layered video record of Power Game that is projected during each subsequent performance of the game. In this way, at each performance, the players are part of a spatial and temporal network, the projected video of past games serving as a ‘wormhole’ through which they become connected to past players and past games in an unending web of power.

The players confirmed for this game are:

Hari Kunzru
Mark Stephens
Diana Laurillard
Brian Butterworth
Lizz Winstead
Suzanne Munshower
Cecilia Wee
Shoq Value
Siobhan Downling
Julian Gough
Jamie Allen
Heather Lindsley
Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard
Karen Rizanovich
Remittance Girl
Michael Franks
Anthony Haden-Guest
Kathelin Gray
Rajele Jain
Carolyn Gowdy
Liliane Lijn


Power Game Online is commissioned by Netaudio London. It is part of the festival broacast strand curated by Ed Baxter and presented in partnership with Resoance104.4fm and supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Courtesy Riflemaker Gallery.