Lottery Variations

In its most basic format, the Lottery is a 3-5 hours event, shared by a pre-fixed group of participants (usually 15-20 participants) in one closed space. However, we keep experimenting with variations on this format, trying to create special Lotteries to suit specific sites and circumstances, and to amplify different aspects of the experiment. Such special Lotteries have much enriched our concept of the Lottery and our understanding of its potential and limits. Here are some of the special variations we’ve tried so far:

Lottery at the Under the Mountain Festival for New Public Art

On this festival, we challenged ourselves to create a lottery that would work on a gallery format: the Lottery took place not with a pre-fixed group of pre-interviewed participants and for a pre-determined period of time. Instead, the Yaffo 23 gallery in Jerusalem turned into a whole-night lasting Lottery-space, which people could get in and out of.  

The interview process was integrated into the space and the event itself: in an outer hall, a large bureaucratic system including ten interviewers and two hosts welcomed the audience. After the interview, each participant was directed to one of two separated parts of the gallery hall, each consisting of an independent Lottery.

Before leaving, after a minimum stay of one hour, the participants had to ask the computer for permission to leave, which was given as an order after a random period of up to half an hour; other participants were randomly expelled while still wanting to stay. The whole event lasted from 7 PM to 3 AM, with the audience constantly changing (close to 200 participants attended that event)

Analysis The “gallery format” of the Lottery is quite different than the “regular” one, since the performative road leading one towards the Lottery takes a major part in shaping the event itself. In this case, the bureaucratic system was extremely powerful, blending instant-intimacy (of the interviews) with mass audience. But this blend was a unique one, different to the one usually created in the Lottery. A larger emphasis was given to the experience towards the new social order and the computer’s part in it on the one hand, but it lacked some of the interesting continuing relations between different participants (since the constant change of people in the hall). 

Multiple Locations Lottery

On the Quintaple Lottery, held first on November 2011 and again during 2013, five different lotteries had been conducted simultaneously in different locations in central Tel Aviv. The locations where varied in size and in type, including both private and public closed spaces, all situated in walking distance from each other. And our sixty-odd participants where originally randomly divided up among them, in groups sized to suit each location, and the first hour of the Lottery was carried as usual in each of them seperately; afterwards, the computer began to randomly order some of the participants to leave their Lottery and join another Lottery held on another location, thus turning the five lotteries, in a sense, into one disjoint event, while also keeping their separateness.

Analysis This experiment had some unexpected results. Firstly, the Lottery was generally experienced by veteran participants as “very different”even before the population transfers. The very knowledge that there are other Lotteries going around at the same time – some of the participants had come with friends or spouses that had been positioned by the computer in another location – had moved the center of attention from the concrete event into a fantasy about the ideal Lottery, both in the everyday sense (something better which just might be happening somewhere else right now) and in the platonic sense. This was intensified when people began to move between Lotteries, gossip about things that happened in other places, which turned quite mythical at surprising speed, began to flow. This result was very interesting for us because this tension between the actual and the ideal Lottery is something we constantly explore. Secondly, the experience of moving between lotteries itself has been described by some as very powerful, especially since the order to get to another location was usually joined by something to be done on the way (such as “beg for money” or “look at the sky a lot”). Thus, transmuting time was turned into a part of the Lottery, but one carried on in open space and between non-participants, and therefore, a hybrid creature testing the borders between the performative and the real.

All-Night Lottery

On this experiment, held during the Lottery’s early days, a lottery was conducted in an apartment and lasted for twelve hours, from 9 PM to 9 AM. Five of the twelve hours were dedicated to sleep, at a time and location chosen for each participant randomly by the computer. The computer also randomly chose night watchers and the time for the general wake-up call. After wake-up, the lottery had continued with a different set of probabilites (for details about the machinery read How It Works), which included relatively high probabilites for ordinary morning chores, randomly sending some of the participants to make breakfast for everybody or wash their teeth.

While our original inspiration was simply a thought of “let’s see where the Lottery can get when we allow it to last longer”, the aspect experienced most strongly by most of the participants was not the length itself (actually, the morning period had felt as a ‘second Lottery’ to many of them, rather than as a continuation of the nightly period), but the encompassing of regular daily routine into the Lottery framework – and especially those part of the routine usually experienced as ‘private’, that is, not part of the social play, and not ‘interesting’, not ‘story materias’.

Thus, turning the Lottery into a total instituation, even for a very short time, has both made it powerful and blurred its limits. This effect is somewhat similar to the experience people had when moving between Lotteries on the Multiple Locations event, but also very different, since the main blurring here was between the private and the public, the formless and the story-material, rather between ‘art’s fiction’ and the ‘real world’.

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