Mary Flanagan CV. Artist Resume. Interview in American Journal of Play.

Mary Flanagan has a research-based, transdisciplinary practice informed by her methodology “critical play.” She investigates and exploits the seams between technology, play, and human experience to make the unseen perceptible. Interested in the ways technologies can adopt or represent hidden biases, Flanagan uncovers the underpinnings of technological systems to make them apparent. Her approach involves both onscreen space as well as physical spaces, objects, and actions. She sees the computer as a collaborator and pursues collisions with aleatory events, chance operations and glitched code. Flanagan has exhibited internationally at venues such as The Guggenheim New York, Tate Britain, Museu de Arte, Arquitectura e Tecnologia Lisbon, the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing, The Baltimore Museum of Art, NeMe Arts Center, Cyprus, LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, Spain, Museum of Fine Arts Cologne, and the Whitney Biennial of American Art. Her work is featured in public and private collections, including The Whitney Museum and ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien Germany and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Flanagan won the Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica in the Interactive art+ for her work [help me know the truth] and is the recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies Digital Innovation Fellowship, the Thoma Foundation Arts Writing Award in Digital Art, and has been awarded residencies with the Brown Foundation, MacDowell, Bogliasco, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Flanagan has lectured widely including at Oxford, Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, and the Sorbonne. She was a John Paul Getty Museum Scholar, a Senior Scholar in Residence at the Cornell Society for the Humanities, and Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Jackman Humanities Institute, University of Toronto and received an Honoris Causa in Design, Illinois Institute of Technology.

Her work has been supported by commissions and grants including The British Arts Council, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Flanagan has been invited as a cultural leader at the World Economic Forum at Davos. She is also the Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College and lives and works in Hanover NH and the city of Houston TX

Artist Statement

In my work, I explore making the unseen experiential, knowable, visible, audible. To do this, I follow my methodology of “critical play” to explore encounters from the quotidian to the serious. I explore the unseen space of the hard drive, the mysterious ways search engines operate, the unimaginable way that sounds can be visualized in emails, the ways in which every day games might help us experientially come to terms with both the poetic and the indescribable. I am also interested in the ways in which technology is shaped – through language, through biases and cultural contexts, and how in turn these elements reshape our lived world and landscape.

Moving fluidly between theory and praxis has been a defining feature of my career. As an artist, I’ve long been fascinated with how the technologies we develop both reflect and inscribe the world around us, using my critical standpoint to explore ways our technical systems could be more humane and equitable. As an artist, a ‘techie’, and a feminist, I’m interested in revealing the biases within the technosocial systems we design and dismantling the unseen powers that control it.

Our current moment, immersed in counterforces—speed and distraction, connection and alienation, open access and discriminatory practices—has is an unseen force that I hope to explore with new critical play approaches. I am at a juncture in which I recognize that stillness and slowness not merely as a practice but as a politically charged approach to life and to the planet is what most motivates me.

In my studio I also use methods such as chance operations, OULIPO style algorithms, translation, and transmutation to defamiliarize myself with my own unseen perceptions, to be able to observe anew, and confront objects, relations, systems and their inherent world views.

En français:

Dans mon œuvre, je cherche à rendre l’invisible expérimental, connaissable, visible, audible. Pour ce faire, je suis ma méthodologie de « critical play » afin d’explorer des rencontres allant du quotidien au sérieux. J’explore l’espace invisible du disque dur, les modes de fonctionnement mystérieux des moteurs de recherche, la manière inimaginable dont les sons peuvent être visualisés dans les courriels, les façons dont les jeux quotidiens peuvent nous aider à faire l’expérience du poétique et de l’indescriptible. Je m’intéresse également à la manière dont la technologie est façonnée – par le langage, les préjugés et les contextes culturels – et à la façon dont ces éléments remodèlent à leur tour notre monde et notre paysage.

La fluidité entre la théorie et la pratique a été une caractéristique déterminante de ma carrière. En tant qu’artiste, je suis depuis longtemps fascinée par la façon dont les technologies que nous développons reflètent et inscrivent le monde qui nous entoure, et j’utilise mon point de vue critique pour explorer les façons dont nos systèmes techniques pourraient être plus humains et plus équitables. En tant qu’artiste, « technicienne » et féministe, je m’intéresse à la révélation des biais des systèmes technosociaux que nous concevons et au démantèlement des puissances invisibles qui les contrôlent.

Notre époque actuelle, immergée dans des forces contraires – vitesse et distraction, connexion et aliénation, libre accès et pratiques discriminatoires – est une force invisible que j’espère explorer avec de nouvelles approches ludiques critiques. Je suis à un moment où je reconnais que l’immobilité et la lenteur, non seulement en tant que pratique, mais aussi en tant qu’approche politique de la vie et de la planète, sont ce qui me motive le plus.

Dans mon studio, j’utilise également des méthodes telles que les opérations de hasard, les algorithmes de style OULIPO, la traduction et la transmutation pour me défamiliariser avec mes propres perceptions invisibles, pour être capable d’observer à nouveau et de confronter les objets, les relations, les systèmes et leurs visions du monde inhérentes.

Design Statement

My design practice is deeply informed by the 20 years of game research I’ve conducted at the research laboratory I founded, Tiltfactor.org. I design games that innovate yet are accessible to a wide audience. I focus on transformative experiences for players and narrative contexts that are inclusive, diverse, and fun. I started down this path as a digital game designer, and my practice has emerged as open to genre and situation: I create digital games, board games, sports, puzzles, urban games and other experimental games. Some of my games are commercially available; others merge into artworks, slip into books, or are deployed in research. I’m interested in how a “ludic language” emerges from games to pervade other games and everyday situations.