Cally Trench: Board Games

Cally Trench's homepage

Cally Trench's board games are both original playable games and one-off works of art that are animated and completed by people playing them; other visitors become engaged by watching the progress of play.

Cally Trench writes: These games do not pretend to make intellectual statements about economic or political problems. Just as musicals often confront topics such as war, revolution, and poverty, I believe that board games are a way for people to engage with what distresses us. In general, players willingly suspend disbelief and play in earnest; board games seem to bypass the intellect and engage people directly at an emotional level. My board games highlight moral and ethical problems while not suggesting solutions. Players are not invited to make up their minds; instead they have to live with the choices that they make or cope with the events thrust upon them.

Cally Trench: Gravestones and Dry Bones Gravestones
Dry Bones

Cally Trench: Whirlpools and Lifebelts Whirlpools

Cally Trench: I've brought you back a baby dragon I've brought
you back a
baby dragon

Cally Trench: Shopping Spree Shopping

Cally Trench: Vegetable Thieves Vegetable

Cally Trench: Danger Money Danger

Cally Trench: Board Game Board

Cally Trench: Hitched Hitched

Cally Trench's games are multi-layered: they seem sweet and benign, but more sinister and challenging aspects emerge. The games are fun, but they also make overt the competitiveness implicit in most conventional board games. They have been described as 'subversive' and 'ethically confusing'. They explore people's capacities to follow rules even while engaging (in play at least) in competitive and unsociable actions. People play these board games intensely and seriously, identifying with the roles assigned to them by chance, and trying to keep control of their 'lives' in the game.

Cally Trench's board games (each for 2-4 players) last 5-20 minutes and have accessible rules. When Cally devises her games she makes prototypes and tests them on friends and family to make sure that the rules work.

"Cally Trench uses the board-game format in 'Shopping Spree' (2012) and 'I've brought you back a baby dragon' (2013), evoking long rainy afternoons cooped up indoors. Rule-bound and offering players a god-like view of their fabricated worlds, these games are a sunny echo of the Reception with its barked rules and surveillance TV. They are an invented world within the invented world of the B&B, and of the gallery itself." (Review by Billy Tilley in this is tomorrow, 29/7/13, of Be Our Guest at Oriel Davies Gallery, 2013)
"absurdist board game" (The Guardian Guide, 6/7/13)
"highly entertaining as well as thought provoking" (Fringe Arts Bath, 2016)
"The games are beautifully constructed and are intriguing to play. With themes that expose the less pleasant sides of human behaviour, selfishness, competitiveness, greed and excessive consumption and the ruthlessness of strategy that is needed to be a winner. They are also great fun to play." (Clare Carswell, 2017)

One or more of these board games have been played at various events and exhibitions, including in Passing Time at Sherborne House in 2004; South Hill Park (Bracknell) and Penny School Gallery (Kingston) in 2007; and at Liquid Studios during the Hackney Wicked Festival in 2009. Three games were played on 4th November 2009 as part of The Home Delivery, an event organised by ArtWash in Oxford.

In 2010, some of the games were played during the Games of Money and Death salon as part of the This Is Not A Gateway (TINAG) festival; in At Play 2 at South Hill Park; and at the Beyond the Dustheaps Christmas Party at the Charles Dickens Museum, London. In 2011, they were played in The Effort Presents a Puzzle at The Windmill live music venue in Brixton; in Rubik's Cube at the Joiners' Arms, Hackney; at the Port Mahon pub, Oxford for an OVADA Stammtisch; and in At Play 3 at South Hill Park, Bracknell. The games were also played at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford in 2011, and a series of photographs of the games was exhibited in the Link Gallery at the hospital.

In 2012, Vegetable Thieves was played during Floraphilia at Vestry House Museum, Walthamstow in 2012; and some of the games were played in At Play 2012 at South Hill Park, Bracknell, OVADA, Oxford and the New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham. Four of the games were played during In Dialogue at Primary, Nottingham, 4th October 2014.

Whirlpools and Lifebelts (2016) was played at Homunculus, an exhibition in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by mass migration, at Asylum, London, on 17th January 2016. Also in 2016, Shopping Spree was played in Austerity (curated by Margaret Godel) in Fringe Arts Bath. FAB Austerity

Six of the games were played at an OVADA Stammtisch at Joe Perks & Co., Oxford on 24th November 2016, including Gravestones and Dry Bones for the first time. All eight games were played at the Rising Sun Arts Centre, Reading on 4th February 2017. Six of the games were played on 10th June 2017 during Festal Favours, curated by Clare Carswell, as part of Charlbury Festival.

Rising Sun poster for Cally Trench's Board Games
Poster for Cally Trench's Board Games
at Rising Sun Arts Centre
designed by Neile Wright, 2017
Cally Trench's Board Games
Cally Trench
at Cally Trench's Board Games
Rising Sun Arts Centre, 4th February 2017
Cally Trench's Board Games at Festal Favours
Cally Trench's Board Games
at Festal Favours, 10th June 2017
Photograph: Clare Carswell
Poster for Cally Trench's Board Games at Festal Favours, Charlbury
Poster for Cally Trench's Board Games
at Festal Favours, Charlbury, 2017
Photograph: Clare Carswell

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