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Gabriola artist’s ‘Game of Immunity’ pandemic board game offers ‘glimpse into the absurd’

Fran Usher’s art installation showing at the Gabriola Arts Council this weekend
Artist Fran Usher will present an art installation at the Gabriola Art Council on South Road based on a board game created in response to observed human behaviour during the COVID pandemic. Community members are invited to observe the installation, or play the game, Feb. 4-5. (Submitted photo)

A Gabriola artist has created a board game, and soon-to-be art installation, in response to observed human behavior during the COVID pandemic.

Frances Usher started the basics for the wood-frame board game, called The Game of Immunity, approximately 18 months ago “when we all had some practice at what life’s new norms would look like.”

“Human behaviour, already a fascinating area of study for me, was soon to be eclipsed by human behaviour in forced transition,” said Usher.

The Game of Immunity debuted at Usher’s studio during last year’s Gabriola Island Thanksgiving Studio Tour where players were briefed on the game’s concept and play-through.

The artist said the game mirrors human condition, “the ugly and the sublime,” where realization is half the battle to recovery and that stresses of conditions are sometimes beyond one’s control.

The Game of Immunity objective is to move pegs around the frame from ‘quarantine’ to ‘immunity’ and to help your ‘social bubble’ partner across the board do the same. It incorporates language and solution-oriented activities introduced since the start of the pandemic.

The art installation, described as a “moving abstract tableau,” is multifaceted, interactive and “offers a glimpse into the absurd” by use of aesthetic licence and creative metaphors.

Conceptual art based on human behaviour is new to Usher, and “can be a hard sell” at times. She said her goal with the installation is to provide a prospective outlook for the future to those able to attend.

“This art offering has allowed me to give back to my community. Someone said ‘the power of art is its ability to communicate complex things in simple terms for all to understand.’ This is probably why our community awareness is so strong,” she said. “The interactive art installation is an attempt to encapsulate, in one space, the polarized emotions of this journey for me… Not only is the inclusion of a themed board game a metaphor for the various social behaviours we have all witnessed by those around us through this journey, but the game also offers co-operative solutions. The game simply mirrors the human condition; the ugly and the sublime. Realization is half the battle to recovery.”

The public is welcome to walk through the installation, or play a game if possible, at the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre on South Road, on Feb. 4 at 10 a.m. and again on Feb. 5 at 5 p.m. Game sessions start at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on both days.

READ MORE: Gabriola Island Thanksgiving Studio Tour to feature more than 60 artists

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About the Author: Nanaimo Bulletin News Staff

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