Exercise no.9


Pack of 45 split into two, and shuffled so that all three colours of card are integrated within each other.

Two participants, sat next to each other.

The two have to have a conversation/tell a story by taking it in turns to use the card on the top of their pile to respond to one another.


‘Ok so in this one think less conversation and more, we’ve come here to tell a tale.’

  • They support their story heavily with their hand movements - ‘this way’ and ‘that way.’

  • They set up lines for each other, lay down the basis for the next response with their response. It’s almost like they are implementing their own rules for each other as they go along - in addition to the rules that I have already set them. ‘And that’s when I discovered something really incredible.’

  • Replies are almost always instant, usually within a couple of seconds. This was not what what I was expecting : I was prepared for periods of thought and deliberation between responses, and I suppose this outcome just means that the responses they were giving were more instinctive.

  • They often use their turn to respond, the card they are using as an opportunity to correct each other, to point out what sounded incorrect about the last response of their partner.

  • I was disappointed that the words were mainly used by just slipping them into the sentence as they were, although I’m not sure what else I should have expected. I think maybe I was hoping that they words would dictate the theme of the sentence they were saying, having an overarching effect rather than just slipping in conveniently. Although when this worked - it really worked.

  • Something that became an issue as we repeated the exercise was the participants’ increasing familiarity with the material, which made the activity much more difficult as we went along. This was due to the fact that neither of the participants wanted to repeat themselves, they felt that each time they saw a card they had to represent it in a different way.

  • In one respect I like that it becomes more challenging, as they have to calculate a response rather than allowing it just to come to them. But I also appreciate the importance of their intuitive responses, these are more revealing of what the participant naturally associates with each card.

  • I think that the most interesting parts of this game happen when one of the participants tries to make it difficult for the other to carry on their part of the story, by challenging what they have said, whilst still incorporating their own card. They are two people telling the same story but at these points it becomes apparent that they have different agendas, they are not always acting to facilitate one another. This is notable because at no point did I request that they make the exercise more challenging for the other - this is an element which that added in themselves. The game starts to become formed by them.

  • They seemed to each have a different idea, intention for the plot in their head. So sometimes, if they words of the other does not match with their plan for the story they will adjust their idea, but sometimes they will challenge the other instead.

  • You can sometimes see them being pleasantly surprised by how easily their next card will help along the story - moments of serendipity.

  • Quite a balanced mixture of figurative and literal interpretation of the cards.

  • Notation was generally used to describe the directions in which things and people were moving.

Conversation time

  • The first activity I have facilitated involving the card game and speech.

  • Involved the classic routine of ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing’, then as soon as the participants have started, they understand, they don’t have to ask any more questions.

  • I believe that the embarrassment they experience initially is due to their perception of the activity as MY activity. Their confidence increases as they begin to view it as their activity.

  • Their lack of confidence at the beginning is indicated by the way that they keep referencing the game itself - they use this as a safety net : ‘I can’t really express that in the next reply’ ‘I guess that must mean that you’re not that comfortable with the game’ ‘yes but I do think that it is a very beautiful piece of work.’ They stop doing this as the exercise progresses. I am relieved.

  • NO QUESTIONS BEING ASKED. This was a tool that I 100% thought would be used. But that doesn’t mean that a back and forth isn’t happening.

  • Images used for metaphors - ‘it’s opening lots of doors to like, different conversations’

  • Sometimes the participants are unsuccessful in making the conversation flow - ‘um, I had to cross the road to come here.’ Sometimes they get so stuck that they can’t actually form a sentence ‘well…that would…be the dog.’

  • LAUGHTER THROUGHOUT. Especially in initial tests.

  • With the notation - are detailed. So the participants can pick an element of it and talk about that - ‘their whiskers are like arrows.’

  • Nods to the camera sometimes, acknowledging that there is a third party.

  • Sometimes using the words/images just as they are makes the whole thing stuttered and uncomfortable to listen to. But sometimes it actually flows really well - ‘I think I actually saw it on the TV once.’

  • Correction of themselves as they come up with a better response - ‘stairs’ ‘cats aren’t that great at going up stairs.’

  • The incorporation of real anecdotes into the conversation - makes it feel like a real one.

It felt important to me to do an exercise using the cards which incorporated speech, as I have been working with stimuli including words. As I have constructed exercises completely centred around the movement side of things, it felt necessary to construct one centred around the text element - an exercise weighted on these words. I wanted the exercise to demonstrate the translation of notation into words instead of words into movement (the two versions working alongside each other and also counteracting each other). However, I am not that eager to continue this process, as I don’t think the cards are stimulating enough to creat full, flowing conversation.

I think that these exercises were able to work more instantly, with little to no discussion beforehand, because the participants weren’t working with combinations (unlike in the role play activity), only singular components. So the exercises were less complex in this sense. However, there was a calculative process in the connections which were actively being made, as the individuals attempted to construct a phrase which responded sensibly to the phrase before.

It would be interesting to see the effect of removing the visuals - just having the work as a sound piece, so that the audience cannot see the cards, they are not aware of them, they don’t know what the speech is in response. It could be in response to anything. At the moment we can’t see exactly what the participants are responding to, but we know that they are responding to something. I would also like to see the effect that increasing the number of people would have on the exercise, splitting the set of cards between more individuals, potentially increasing variety in the kinds of responses and approaches. This also may be interesting as instead of taking it in turns, individuals could respond when they felt they had a card which would allow a suitable response to the last statement. Perhaps, in turn, the conversation would happen more organically.

This exercise exhibited the recurring theme of all the exercises I have encouraged so far - initial hesitation, followed by complete relaxation and exploration. I really believe that the work always come into fruition when the participants begin to view it as their own project instead of mine, when they lose sight of me as director.