stephen blaise bingo


Determinism, Chaos and Order.

Opening night: A gallery hosted Bingo game with a stack of bingo card posters on the floor as take-a-ways from the event.

B14...N34...O66! A sharp voice reverberates over the gallery’s PA system as combinations of numbers and letters are called. Playing on one screen in the gallery is a close-up video of numbered balls rotating in a steel cage. On a second screen a hand is efficiently stamping multiple bingo cards as number and letter combinations are called.

Large colorful silk-screen paintings of bingo cards highlighted with fluorescent colors which recreate the artist’s actual game playing, surround the circumference of the gallery. These multi-colored card paintings began as photogram’s made from actual bingo cards that were later enlarged , silk-screen and stamped by the artists. In addition to the card paintings are large circular, resin-cast bingo chips, each painted with specific letter and number combinations.

The grid, a given defined structure, numbers, random selection, order, objects, leisure, social activity and kitsch are all part of the vocabulary used by Stephen Blaise for this installation. A fun and exciting exploration of possibilities through a game of chance.

As a child, the artist first experienced playing bingo in a church hall with his grandmother. They would use heavy board cards with magnetized chips and wands, and neon bottle markers for the paper version. The game took place in a smoke filled auditorium, with row after row of tables primarily filled with eccentric women dressed in vestiges of another era.

When the game began over the loudspeaker, talking ceased and a most concentrated, serious routine began. The women, like seasoned pros with no wasted movements and machine-like efficiency would begin marking their cards. Hyper focus was necessary when playing a dozen or more cards at a time, as there were only seconds before the next number was called.

In the game of Bingo, everyone begins equally, having been given a free space in the middle to start. Awards are won respectively, ‘Five-In-A-Row’, then the ‘X’ or ‘Round Robin’ and lastly, the ‘Cover-All’ for the biggest cash prize.

“God does not play dice,” Einstein famously remarked, but Blaise suggests, “just maybe, God plays BINGO.”

For Blaise, church bingo and the nature of the universe are the same. Both hold uncertain, unpredictable outcomes with the only constant being the process or equation.

The artist continues, “I would later imagine the workings of the universe or God manifested in a Bingo hall as the host calling out the numbers over the microphone. Each number called would result in a multitude of connected actions and effects. Women in horn-rimmed glasses acting as cogs in the wheel of a single determinate system, filtering and recording infinite possible outcomes by marking their cards in unique combinations, while popcorn and drinks were being served at the refreshment stand.