Excerpt from "Sausages and Tweezers — A Running Commentary", 1966

A game in its most universal meaning requires only one thing: rules. A player at a slot machine can be a single person, two competing, twenty competing, or twenty playing individually.

My basic interpretation of the concept of a game — and my artistic use of it — is not evolved from the strategy theories of von Neumann, Herman Kahn, etc. I am more inclined to refer to Cage's method of composition, and psychologists such as T. Leary and E. Berne. But above all, the idea of a game for me is a simple, fundamental out look on life, dating back to the time of my Concrete Manifesto (1953).

The most basic rules are the immutability of the magnetic objects in terms of color, size, shape, collapsibility and so on, together with their implied open meaning. Less exact rules apply, as in The Cold War, when for instance the objects consist of pairs, orcompanion pieces — what I do with A has significance for A1, wherever A1 is located. (Model for balance of terror.)

Also in some of the paintings, The Planetarium, Dr. Schweitzer’s Last Mission, Switchboard, Sitting...Dominoes, Roulette, etc., there are rudimentary rules (of the board game type) which in their turn contravene the rules of the magnetic objects’ invariables and the players variables.

The fundamental principle for game-paintings, however,is the confrontation between freedom of variation and the arbitrary immutability of appearance, substance and construction. Hence my interest in signs, i.e. charactersigns, and in forms as silhouettes.

Whatever might go on elsewhere, in the many-thousand-year here-and-now of this planet, the appearance of a hand is immutably something jointed, flat, with five extended parts. Not a sphere. As well as being less interested in nuances and ambiguity when applied to matters concerning life. I am equally unconcerned about whether some hands have four fingers, or whether some hands are larger and others smaller.

The decisive factor is that I as an “artist”, and I and others as “human beings”, are at every moment of our lives coming up against what we see as the absolute rigidity of appearancs, and adjusting our own variation-possibilities accordingly. There is here a fundamental and inexhaustible tension.

Without manipulating works of art one can hardly realize the fantastic freedom of choice and the extreme rigidity in the external appearance of the elements. As far as the magnetic paintings are concerned, the material they are made of — the combination of metal and plastic — makes shapes as strong as axes.

Then after that fundamental fact comes the brittle rigidity of the other rules — like our conventions and agreements: the border between the Congo and Angola, the numbers in the telephone book, the buttoning of jackets. The tension lies in the fact that it is possible to oppose the rigidity — just as it is in my models.

Öyvind Fahlström

"Hotdogs and Tweezers - A Running Commentary". Orginally published as "Korvar och pincetter - en löpande kommentar." Konstrevy (Stockholm) Nr. 4, 174-182, 192.