July 14, 2015

Andy Malone @ Essay’d

On the game board shelf in Andrew Malone’s living room, stuck in between Castle Blast and Where in Space is Carmen Sandiego?, is a nondescript wooden box containing a game of his own creation, called X+ (Ex-Cross). Players line up two-sided wooden game pieces, each embedded with the eponymous X on one side and + on the other, along the back row of a modified checkerboard. In three-movement turns, players navigate the board, trying to capture each other along diagonals for X and orthogonal for +. Each piece can, at any time in a turn, flip to alter its capacity to move. Malone used this game as an opportunity to discuss with his daughter, Julia, the opposing philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and those of Malcolm X. As Malone sees it, each of these civil rights leaders was locked into a singular kind of movement, but ultimately an individual has better options when able to think flexibly.

This microcosmic example contains all the hallmarks of Malone’s artistic practice: intricately hand-crafted woodworks, kinetic movement, analog technologies, didactic games with open-ended outcomes, a thoughtful practice of viewer engagement, and deft sugar-coating to serious subjects. His work is poised between generations, using games and engineering as an outlet for an artistic practice that was both inherited from and inhibited by his father’s career as a painter, but also a tool for communication and learning with his own children. Increasingly, science recognizes the importance of games as method of developing and reinforcing neural plasticity, and Malone is endlessly engaged in a practice of leveraging their ability to change thinking, in himself and others. His current piece, Quatern (working title), acts as an attempt to disrupt Malone’s self-reported tendency for “analysis paralysis,” by having players take turns simultaneously, the action forced along by a motorized mechanism. It sits on the workbench in his home-studio—a garage replete with hanging wooden gears and clockworks stashed in the rafters, salvaged from old projects and recycled into new ones.

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