The Lottery

Imagine a world with a parallel social reality; a world in which every role and every action is determined by random, blind fate; where everything is given and nothing known; a world dominated by an all-consuming Lottery.

This is the kingdom explored in J. L. Borges’ short story The Lottery in Babylon, conducting one of his famous thought experiments. And this is the situation we try to recreate in the social experiment: The Lottery.

The Lottery is a performance with no performers and no director, run by a computer; it is a new species of social structure, where personal identity is constantly being rebuilt, and the meanings of authority, responsibility and free will are put to question.

When one enters the site of the Lottery, she agrees to take upon herself, together with the other participants, the authority of a computer running a special software developed by the Lottery Committee. The computer constantly gives orders to all of the participants: orders that are randomly chosen in real time from a large database, encompassing all imaginable kinds of actions. Most orders are scheduled for five to twenty minutes, and are then replaced by new ones; some are more long-lasting. Most of the orders are personal and discreet; some aren’t. Thus the computer constantly regulates the actions, interactions and hierarchy in the ad hoc community. Due to its discreet nature, one cannot tell which part of the situation is the outcome of computer-given-orders, and which is not. The constant external intervention of the computer complicates the relations between deed and doer, and blurs the distinction between the private and the public spheres.

The Lottery has taken place 30 times so far, in different sites and circumstances, including the Under the Mountain Festival for New Public Art in Jaffa 23 gallery (Jerusalem), and in The Israel Museum. We constantly develop new adaptations and possible structures for the experiment. One rule is solid: the Lottery will never be documented. It is a social experiment ment to allow the participants to investigate themselves and their connection to others, art and life.

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