Games and Ritual


A Game of Chance

These photographs by mabel Odessey are of the spectre of play, ghostly traces of children’s games performed for the camera. They are made using a camera obscura, a light tight box with a simple pinhole; its aperture is made by pushing the tip of a needle through  thin metal sheet the process takes time. Raw light , untrained by the contorting curves of glass; leaches through the opening slowly exposing the film. Static objects in front of this pinprick lens hold firm appearing as fixed points while movement is recorded as a trace smear across the pictures surface.

The games that are played out for her camera are universal and have been performed like a baton charge across history by waves of generations since the time of early civilisation. The roots of these original games are thought to be the ritualised performance of rights of passage; the assumption of fertility; the struggle between good and evil; the mastery of the random, the acceptance of the inevitable and the final ascension to heaven or a higher plane. It is as if they have been structured to encode a map by which children might learn to navigate the hazards and uncertainties of human life.

Roger Hargreaves,

National Portrait Gallery London  9/2000

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