"SOMETIMES WHEN YOU'RE IN LOVE, YOU'RE NOT, AND OTHER LESSONS IN LOVE FROM THE MRI-BASED CARNIVAL ART OF BRENT HOFF"
- FAST COMPANY
Symbiosis Gathering Festival, Sept, 2016.
Twenty thousand Mad Max extras keeping the Burning Man spirit alive in a hot dust bowl reservoir outside Oakdale Ca. Took us two hours just to get into Barter Town, but it was worth it.
Two surprise observations:
1: The be-glittered, hot Apocalyptonites chose overwhelmingly to compete in competitions of FEAR and RAGE. With tantric yoga / Haka circles everywhere, healing essential oil stands, and a small one man Sally-from-Charlie-Brown-esque tent pithily-titled, "Put It In Your Butt," it was surprising and refreshing to see how many were eager to explore and express their darker emotions. Bottom line: Many Symbiosis Festival attendees are really mad at their moms.
2: After 4 hours we had only given away 6 prizes from the Shikantaza Prize Pool...The presumed take-a-way being that people on drugs have a REAL hard time letting go of their desire to win a small toy dinosaur. I understand completely!
Play to Win, Win w/ Feeling
Two years ago several strangers agreed to participate in an artistic experiment, the worlds first "Love Competition." Facilitated by Stanford neuroscientists, we placed seven contestants in fMRI machines and gave them five minutes to "love someone as hard as they can." From the 72-year-old man loving his wife of 50 years, to the 10-year-old boy who chose to love his new baby cousin, everyone emerged surprised and moved by the experience. It seemed the mere act of choosing to feel, and knowing those feelings are being "seen," free us. One heartbroken contestant, who walked into the lab believing to the point of tears he was in love with his ex-girlfriend, came out arms raised above his head having realized to his shock and ours, he was totally over her.
The work raised questions into identity, consciousness, and for me at least, even our most prideful descriptor, humanity. Emotions are the fabric of perceptual existence and I began to wonder how deeply patterns of emotional regulation and suppression affect our self-awareness? I mean, what are we if not our feelings?
As public displays of emotion are increasingly shunned (in schools where minor tantrums are treated as signs of neurological weakness to be medicated) or criminalized ( in airport security lines where reacting to the institutionalized frottage can result in arrest), we are being acculturated into a state of emotional repression by a society that increasingly rewards compliant silence over honest expression.
And so to further explore these questions, I began working with my artistic partner-in-arms Alex Reben to create a portable and engaging interactive installation more people could explore for themselves. The Emotional Arcade.
The Emotional Arcade is an introspective obstacle course where experiencers engage in competitive games using their emotions.
The Arcade games measure feeling to create a liberating space for exploration. Because there should be at least one place on the planet where unrestrained expression is celebrated. And because it is fun.
And new questions arise:
If you were offered the chance to be in an emotional competition, “What emotion would you choose to feel?”
“What can make you feel the most?”
And “Who exactly will be feeling this emotion?”
“What exactly are the measurers measuring?”
“Can we ever really know our emotions anyway?”
“Who do I love?”
"What do I hate?
"Where is my bliss?"
“What is the Emotional Arcade?”
In these games, there are no losers, only questions and revelations.
The only way to win is to feel. And everyone who plays gets a lollypop.
- Brent Hoff