The Rembrandt Game

Submitted by root on Mon, 09/17/2012 - 20:54

Self portrait by Judy Bates (now Gough) using polaroid photosTaking the work of Rembrandt as the leading example of what can be achieved in the field of the self- portrait, the Rembrandt Game invites players to create a self-portrait and to carry this out, not in the relative isolation of the traditional artists' studio but in the friendly and helpful context of a participatory game.

Each player is  invited to play a number of games which will reveal to them the degree to which they are balanced: that is the games tested the right hand side of the body and the left hand side of the body. For each game played the player received a card recording the results of their performance in that game: for example, that their right hand has a stronger grip than their left; that they possess an ability to hear a wider range of sounds with their left ear than their right; that their left foot is quicker in it's reflexes than their right etc.

Having established an adequate amount of information about themselves players are then invited to create a self- portrait in the form of a two dimensional work which tells the truth about themselves and based on the information they have gathered.

The Rembrandt Game was first played at the Blackie as a part of the weekly games sessions, it was then played with young people in the sessions, and was subsequently presented at The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool as a week long participatory exhibition.

The pictures below are self portraits were created during the staff games sessions and during the Walker exhibition.  They are exhibited as part of the Games of Art.

Doc's self portrait showing a strong right side and weak left side  Self portrait of JanSelf portrait of Dixie


The actual games or 'tests'  differed considerably based on where the game was played.  At the Blackie and with young people we used what we had available - so we measured the ears ability to hear sound at a distance by having people walk upstairs and checking the left ear's performance against the rights ear's. 

At the Walker Art Gallery there were six games available to be played, leading up to the work of self-portraiture.  Two was the minimum number of games a player might choose to play - and the range of games was designed to include games for players of all ages: those unable to take part in the more energetic games to test stamina or strength had the opportunity to prepare for their self-portrait by testing eyesight, hearing and reflexes.

When ever we played the game we offered players as much variety as possible as to the materials they could use to create their portraits - so paint, crayons, penicils but also collage materials and at the Walker the opportunity to weave or use tapestry.