Where? For how long? How many people?
All of these characteristics are in constant change. So far, we held Lotteries that lasted from three to a dozen hours, holding ten to seventy participants, in spaces that included private apartments, underground pubs, lecture rooms and an art gallery.
Is there any documentation?
Absolutely not. We do not allow the usage of cameras of any kind during The Lottery.
Once a camera is present in an artistic event, it begins to exist for an imagined future and not for the present, and as the focus shifts to some other place, the participants become means rather than ends. It is important for us to avoid this. Even texts written by the participants during The Lottery, whether as results of orders given to them or voluntarily, do not get out.
The only external documentation of The Lottery is produced in retrospect: in our blog we occasionally publish posts written by the participants of previous lotteries, who describe their experience, and which ideas, questions and blasphemies had occurred to them because of it.
Who is in charge to ensure the orders are followed?
The only people present during The Lottery are the active participants, so there is no external, authoritative supervisor. While there is some mutual supervising randomly induced by the mechanism, the basic reason people follow the orders is because that is what they came for, and because of the charismatic authority of the computer.
How can one become a participant?
First-time participants have to go through a performative short interview with a representative of the Lottery Committee. The interview mixes bureaucratic, personal questions, moral, playful and impossible questions, in order to give the future participant a taste of the lottery situation and to let us estimate their response to it. This method allows us create an interesting mixture of participants in each group, or, in extreme cases, exclude participants we feel might be dangerous to others or to themselves.
Why do you call The Lottery “a performance”?
The Lottery doesn’t have an external audience; its participants are both actors and audience for each other. More than anything else, we see it as furthering the idea of traditional narrative theatre. While in traditional theatre actors are enacting fictional characters, and their actions enact a fictional plot – The Lottery is an enactment, by real people doing real things, of a fictional world, invented by Borges in his story The Lottery in Babylon.
Why do you call The Lottery “an experiment”? Where will the results be published?
The Lottery is an experiment designed solely for its participants, and it doesn’t have any academic “results” (or a “research question”).
When we describe it as a “social experiment” we are not thinking about mice imprisoned in laboratories, and not even about experiments in social psychology such as Zimbardo’s, but about real experimentation in artificial social structures, such as the kibbutz. The Lottery, too, is in our eyes an experimentation in a new kind of social structure.
So it is similar to the Big Brother reality show?
There are two significant differences – the lack of documentation (see above) and the lack of a director. Big Brother is meant to be exciting and interesting for a crowd of spectators, and therefore it is manipulated by the production team to contain events that are considered to be moving and suspenseful. In The Lottery, the situation is completely random, it is not intended for external audiences, and there are no editors. The only authority is the computer’s random mechanism.
So it is a sophisticated “truth or dare”?
“Truth or dare” is a very interesting exercise in group dynamics, based on the exertion of group power over the individual; a single participant, a different one each time, deals with an order chosen for her by another participant in front of a group of spectators. In The Lottery, on the other hand, the orders are random, are given to everyone at the same time, and are dealt with in private. Tasks given in truth or dare games tend to test limits of embarrassment. The Lottery system has embarrassing orders, but they are only a small component of the situation. Most of the orders deal with different kinds of communication between participants, with small and meaningless actions, with changes of identity, and also with the usage of space.
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