Ed Fornieles, Cel, 2019 (still). Courtesy the artist
Please join Rhizome, the New Museum’s born-digital affiliate, for a screening of artist Ed Fornieles’s Cel (2019) and clips from Cel-Debrief (2019), followed by a conversation with the artist moderated by Rhizome’s Aria Dean.
With Cel, Fornieles aims to explore the ideologies that influence aggressive expressions of masculinity and provide an effective framework for their dismantling. The film documents a seventy-two-hour immersive role-play performance in which ten participants navigate a fictional, embodied simulation of an extremist online community, largely populated by white men.
Fornieles worked with LARP (live action role-play) designer Nina Runa Essendrop to develop a set of protocols allowing participants to improvise and freely navigate the space as their character. The first stage of Cel is governed by the rule “you must always have someone lower than yourself,” creating a precarious environment in which no bond or connection can be enjoyed or relied on for too long. In the second half, this rule was lifted, allowing for the processing of past experiences and the emergence of alternative patterns of behavior. Throughout the performance, participants’ words and actions were recorded using CCTV and body cameras.
The group trained for weeks before entering the simulation and employed LARP techniques to ensure their well-being throughout the process. For instance, they used signals like the “ok symbol,” or safe words like cut or break to communicate their level of comfort with a particular action. In Cel-Debrief, participants are filmed as they reflect on the experience and their emotional responses to it.
In the debriefing process, the participants noted that they experienced an unsettling identification with characters and their situations in the LARP, and experienced actual emotional distress during the exercise. This slippage between reality and fiction in a gamified simulation such as Cel endows it with a power to address real issues like the reification of white-hetero-patriarchy. Cel acknowledges participants’ various identifications and complicities in that structure, and models alternative strategies for existing within it.
This program contains violence and profanity, and may not be appropriate for children.
Ed Fornieles (1983, Petersfield, UK) is an artist living and working in London. His most recent project Cel (2019) uses immersive role-play to investigate the effects of hierarchical structures and how the psychology of extremist views feed off each other and negatively impact the world in which we live. Fornieles’s work focuses on exploring alternative tools and patterns of behavior through role play. He has exhibited at The Serpentine Gallery, Chisenhale Gallery, Martin Gropius Bau, among other institutions and galleries. Fornieles earned an MA in Sculpture from Royal College of Art, London, in 2011; a BA in Fine Art from the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University in 2005; and was the recipient of the Cunliffe Prize in 2003.