Pervasive Production – Notes from the canalside

Wed 01 Apr 2015

As part of a residency with AND on the Rochdale canal, Mexican artist collective TRES are developing a new pervasive game ‘Rough Fish’ in which players receive points for fishing the floating detritus out of the canal and writing creative stories about the things they find. Players will be kitted out with a day-glo trash fishing uniform and issued with fishing equipment and a mobile app. The app will be used to document their finds, write stories about them and keep up to date with the ever changing point value of different types of trash on the games trash stock exchange.

Although there are points to be won, this game goes far beyond gamified litter picking. TRES explore waste as an archaeological subject. They have a fascination with the things we throw away and what they say about us. Previously this has led them to take DNA and test samples of urine left on the American/Mexican border and to create archaeological displays of trash in art galleries. The artists talk about waste, rubbish or litter as being stuff that is labelled by social groups as being ‘out of place’ and as something that is useful to open up conversations about things we might not normally discuss. This game, like the canal will challenge people to slow down, for a strange and thoughtful experience examining the materials that end up out of place in Manchester.

Items fished during TRES' Research Residency, October 2014
Items fished during TRES’ Research Residency, October 2014

TRES are working closely with The Garden to develop the Rough Fish game technology, which will feature GPS enabled floating beacons, made to be thrown into the canal and tracked by the custom mobile app. The app will feature player profiles, dynamic maps and a range of other opportunities for players to interact and communicate through materials picked out of the canal. Rules for the game are being fine tuned through paper prototyping sessions, with miniature canals, running across the floor of the AND office most weeks.

Getting competitive, game prototyping in the AND Office
Getting competitive, game prototyping in the AND Office

Walking up and down the Canal with John Stopp, volunteer coordinator at the Canal and Rivers Trust tells me about his time showing TRES up and down the canal. “It’s fascinating to me that this group of people are walking up and down the canal, getting really excited about exactly the things that other people try and ignore or avoid.”

I was talking through this project with my friend and artist Chiz Turnross the other day. He said that it reminded him of a long English tradition on the British Isles of making art by bastardizing established cultural forms and examining base and everyday things. “Spain gives us Picasso, we give them Francis Bacon, America gives us Chuck Berry, we give them the Kinks, they give us the Ramones and we send back the Sex Pistols.” He riffed.

Sondico Football found in the Rochdale Canal.
Sondico Football found in the Rochdale Canal.

Having never had a classical cultural renaissance period like the Italians or the French, we English have a long tradition of making great art by bastardizing established cultural forms and examining base and everyday things. Even our most hallowed storyteller, Shakespeare, was criticised at the time for writing dramas that were too concerned with depravity, according to leading thinkers of the day. Arch classicist Voltaire famously claimed that Shakespeare had dirtied himself having “swum in the gutter” to bring his “heaps of revolting absurdity” to the stage.

Thinking of this, makes me really curious to see what filthy stories will people drag from Manchester’s canals in 2015.

Neil Winterburn, Rough Fish Producer

Find out more about Rough Fish or Sign up to play.


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