Friday, April 9, 2004

Allan McCollum and Matt Mullican, Your Fate, 2004. Drawings, pencil on paper; imprinted dice; and felt-covered gaming table.

Allan McCollum and Matt Mullican
'Your Fate'
Christine Burgin
243 West 18th Street, Chelsea
Through April 24

collaborative venture by Allan McCollum and Matt Mullican, "Your Fate," is a conceptual artwork in the form of a surprisingly engaging fortune-telling game. Conceived along the lines of the I Ching, Tarot cards and other divinatory systems, it consists of two dozen dice, one solid red and the others imprinted on one or two sides with one or another of Mr. Mullican's distinctive modern icons.

Your Fate (detail)
Shaken in a black velvet bag and dumped onto a felt-covered octagonal table, the dice turn up a mix of symbols and blanks. You read the symbols in order of proximity to the red cube, which represents you, the inquirer. A booklet provides interpretations: the star stands for social status; the cracked goblet means fragility; the heart refers to emotional relationships; the padlock is about being stuck or being focused; and so on. However this may sound on paper, in practice it has a hair-raisingly oracular effect.

The exhibition also includes a set of neat graphite drawings of all the symbols and another set that has each image hidden behind a square of black felt, to be removed only by the purchaser.

But it's the game that provokes thought. You could read it, for example, as a mock commodity, commenting on the frequent convergence of spiritualism and consumerism in modern society. You can also imagine the game being successfully mass-marketed as a genuine entertainment commodity. Its inventors could make a fortune.

—Ken Johnson