A laboratory for critical games

Cristina Valero and Isabel García, Cosicosa

Sala ARTJove prize 2019, in the category of Education with the ACVIC's collaboration.

Project realised with fourth year students from El Roser secondary school, in the town of Sant Julià de Vilatorta, and Vedguna-Escorial Vic secondary school, Vic.

«For many game players, games exist for entertainment, for passing the time, for fun. They are a diversionary activity, meant for relaxation or distraction ⎯ a “not-work” space where players are free to engage in fantasy narratives, amazing feats, and rewarding tasks. But what if certain games have become something more? What if some games, and the more general concept of play, not only provide outlets for entertainment but also function as means for creative expression, as instruments for conceptual thinking, or as tools to help examine or work through social issues?»

Flanagan, 2009:1

This project aims to make use of games and the act of playing as tools that allow us to look around from a critical perspective, while at the same time creating spaces for critical reflection. In particular, we have played with art and design in order to identify (and represent) gender stereotypes present in our visual culture, and to mount a critical reflection upon our relationship with them.

The project has been divided into 2 blocks, in which we have combined collective and individual creation, allowing us to develop an intimate look at stereotypes, and to express our subjective experience.

1. The collage:

Gender is an important variable that affects identity and life opportunities from a very young age. Society has tended to narrow the definitions of what it means to be masculine and what it means to be feminine. Society’s narrow definitions, and the expectation created by models regarding the proper behaviours of boys and girls, may impact negatively on both sexes, perpetuating stereotypes that may lead to disparities.

Internalising stereotypes may impact negatively on self-esteem and career paths, and may also limit young people’s potential growth and development, leading to inequalities. Unfortunately, the media and advertising, as agents of socialisation, play an important role in the transmission of gender roles by collaborating in the transmission of sexist messages that prevent a true and egalitarian construction of the image of women.

The aim of this activity is to make a visual collection, using the collage technique, of the images of gender to which we are exposed on a day to day basis.

We started with a short introduction to collage, showing its evolution as a language of social criticism and recognition. We paid special attention to the 70s and to contemporary collages, in which this technique has been used by several artists in order to reclaim feminism and female identity. 

2. Disguise as a medium of artistic expression:

The difficulty of working with issues of gender equity awareness is based on the fact that gender construction is an internalised and structural social belief-system, and also that a general awareness of identification with, and deconstruction of, these concepts upon which we build our identity and relate to our environment, is lacking. The aim of this activity is to make visible, and to mount a critical reflection upon, those gender stereotypes which are present in the imaginations of each one of us.

• Each student received a paper on which was written a profession, a characteristic trait, a hobby and an object. Based on these, each individual imagined and decided upon a person.
• Once they had defined a person, we introduced them to costumery, showing the works of various artists who have experimented with materials and form.
• Students had to imagine what their person might look like, by physically acting out the character, and by creating a costume.
• Once the costume was made, they shared their creation by performing and recording it in a 15-second Reel (an Instagram feature that allows users to create and edit short videos by adding music, text and effects).
• As a closing activity, they played Likes, based on the “Reels” they had made. Likes is a card game that involves guessing other people's tastes. In this case, the participating students had to rely on the "reels" and the costume to guess a character’s likes or dislikes.


This project was realised with fourth year students from El Roser secondary school, in the town of Sant Julià de Vilatorta, and Vedruna-Escorial Vic secondary school, together with Cristina Valero and Isabel García, co-founders of Associació Cosicosa (www.cosicosa.tech), thanks to the Sala ARTJove i ACVIC prize 2019, in the category of Education.

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