... a suggestion for the perception of LARP as a whole...
A major flaw, and deficiency in nordic larp-theory has been the lack of overview. Theorists has been happy to sit upon their own little patch with a number of cronies and proclaim to all the world that their view is superior and everyone else's is, if not exactly inferior, then at least sub-ordinate or of lesser value. The result? Splits into different 'schools', credos and cliques. And all this in a garden where a multitude of flowers does nothing if not bloom together and create a wondrous place to be. Sometimes they even inter-pollinate.
To counter this I give you: the Armanian Platform, the very first attempt at giving hardened theorists and happy-go-lucky munchkins a common ground on which to meet and understand each other.The Platform is:
The Platform should be perceived as resting upon the swirling mass of Reality, upon Life as it Is. For larp to truly realize its potential, the Platform is necessary, both to distance larp from Real Life, but also to elevate larp from the dregs of Real Life in an attempt to reach for the stars. Larp is above and beyond real life, yet intimately connected to it through influxes from Reality and through ways explained below.
The original text to this Platform was rightly accused of being a bit to flowery, and thus not quite as usable as I claimed it to be. In the (now removed) second version I tried to amend this a bit, this time I've worked a bit more on it. Hopefully the Platform now appears as what I claim it to be: The most potent tool for understanding and working with and within larp as a phenomena.
There are four major pillars that supports the basis. They should be perceived as being placed triangularly, so that without a thorough understanding of one of the pillars, the pillar withers away as a support and the basis topples and falls away broken. The fourth pillar sits in the centre, as the most important support for the basis. Each pillar is thus equally important to anyone wishing to be active in the garden.
Larpers should seek to accept and understand that knowledge and understanding of the following pillars is vitally important to larp as a phenomena. When one these days talk of larp 'coming of age' one should appreciate that growing up in this sense means acceptance of the different Real Life elements that form up the basis for larp. Attempts at distancing larp from Real Life, either by forcible elevating it to highbrow art or by constantly insisting upon its uniqueness will not bring about a maturing of larp.
The centre pillar is the past. This represents simply everything that has happened in the past that relates to larp in one way or another. It should primarily be perceived as a chronicle, with important elements noted along its axis. It is important for anyone attempting to create larps that they understand the past of the phenomena. Why? Unless one isolates oneself from the larp-scene as a global whole, one is bound to encounter various elements that correspond to past larps, and these has to be factored in as a support for how the larp is created, even if the connection to the past should be unknown. This past needs to be collected and presented in an accessible and understandable form to us all. If new entities growing in the garden shall avoid having to make the same faults as the ones before them, the Past needs to be known in the Present - in the Garden.
Currently this pillar is suffering a bit, since most people on the 'inside' of larp still tends to be fairly young and to consider larp as a 'new thing' without a history. Given the fact that larp has been around in its present form more or less since the middle to late eighties, this is bad. Larp has a history of about twenty years (depending on geographical viewpoint) and this is more than enough to warrant the existance of a history. But this history is largely unknown to many of the current elements of this pillar, because many of the 'old-timers' have stopped larping for one reason or another and often taking their knowledge and experience with them. To help strengthen this pillar, 'old-timers' should start publishing their exeriences so that younger larpers can benefit from this and avoid repeating their mistakes. We should in other words start collecting, organizing and present larp's past, larp's history - after all, it's approaching the ripe old age of at least fifteen years, so a 'History of (nordic) LARP' is in order.
Also keep in mind that memories of larps passed are a vital ingredient in this pillar. The many tales that are the result of larps played are perhaps our greatest treasure, as they represent the mental results of what we have done. If we forget, we loose this treasure! Thus collecting and presenting methods and practical advice should be accompanied by collecting stories from larps and Imagery from larps. At present there are lots of pics from larps on the net and elesewhere, but most of these become meaningless in a few years unless the stories are also told and recorded.
With every second this pillar grows taller, as time moves on. Accordingly the other three pillars also grows. There is no limit to this growth, just direction; UP! The other three pillars actually consists of bits and pieces from the past - and is as such only different representations of the centre pillar. Still - if the past is not presented coherently, there is no understanding of what the other three pillars are. Also keep in mind that the other three pillars are equally important.
One pillar is called Creativity. Larp is an acitivity relying upon strong and unbound creativity. This pillar should thus be perceived as the collective creative ability of any single individual or group of people that take part in larp. To a greater or lesser extent, everyone adds to this pillar, some by writing enormous amounts of fiction, theory or other things, others by making a simple gesture no one else has ever done during a single small larp. Inspiration drawn from other media and from life itself is also part of this Pillar. Every little bit is important and should be recognized as part of this pillar.
You're sitting on the bus on your way to work/school. Suddenly an idea pops into your mind; What if this bus was carrying soldiers en route to a battle in a distant future. What would go through the minds of the pople on board? Would the driver be happy not to join the fighting? Who would the enemy be? Is this happening in Jämtland or in Uruguay? Is it 2004? 2271? 1942? Before you know it, a number of ideas have popped into your mind, and since you're lucky enough to work on the internet, you post all these ideas to three or four friends, and you start planning a larp. Your inspired creativity has caused a larp, you've added to the pillar of creativity.
One pillar is called People. Over the years many people has come and walked upon the larp-stage. Everyone has contributed to larp in greater or smaller ways. Some have played a monster for fifteen minutes and nothing else, others has lost count of how many larps they've played and are now considered dinosaurs. Without the pople, and the many varieties of size, age, ability, apperance, gender and acting there would never have been larp. Incidently; As larp grows older, the pool of People becomes more diversified - the sons & daughters of the first larpers are approaching maturity!
To benefit from this vast pool of people, we need to stay in touch with each other. Larpers are VERY GOOD at using the net, and thus one should think that the pool is maintained as a singular body. Unfortunately contact over the net is not enough. One has to meet and hear each others real voices and display our great and/or crazy ideas to each other. Knutepunkt is the right forum for this, so it should be expanded from a playground of theoreticians and artists to become the Grand Festival of larpers in the Nordic Countries.
One Pillar is called Practical. This Pillar represents the many practical sollutions engendered by the People by using their Creativity. Some of the Practicalities has gone from being experimental stabs at innovation to become ever-present standards. Other practicalities has been tried out once, but then abandonned, or stashed away for revisions later. Both the standards and the abandonned practical sollutions should be remembered and considered, as they serve as lessons to future larpers and as inspiration to finding new sollutions. But most of all they are the how-to-skills needed to creat larps.
This pillar suffers a bit in the same way as the other two pillars in the corners from the ill-treatment of the Centre Pillar - The Past. All the great inventions and sollutions become lost unless they are recorded and taken care of. We need to exchange and present our practical sollutions in an understandable way to each other.
Between these four pillars there is a constant and complex interaction, forming supporting beams underneath the greater structure. Whenever something new is Created by some People, and the new thing is implemented in a Practical way, this becomes part of the Past as soon as it has been done. Whenever People meet to discuss, they wind up Creating something or finding Practical sollutions that will become part of the Past as soon as the process is over.
The pillars Creativity and People may appear to be one and the same, but creativity is an abstract that is considered an important element in its own right and should be perceived as something separate from the pool of people. Likewise Practicalities are separate from the others because it represent tangible elements and simple how-to-methods, not abstracts.
The Basis is a constantly growing and expanding platform that contains precisely formulated results of the interaction going on between the four Pillars. Products of the interaction between the Pillars both recides "below''as supporting beams between the four pillars, and as identifiable entities in the Platform. This is where the manifests are found, this is where the many practical and theoretical texts can be found. Each and every little bit of firmly formulated and thouroghly thought-out concept should be percieved as being part of this Platform, even if many of these state complete opposition and even antagonism towards other parts.
The Key Manifesto and The Turku School, the sestian statements and the outrage of table-top gamers, the fates of Amor Fati and the stories of Allfirda is all part of this, as is virtually every other written, drawn or photographed representation pertaining to larp. This is the soil and concrete upon which the garden is built. But this concrete is fluid and what you find if you dig down through the garden to see which parts of the Platform your 'larp' - your 'flower', rests upon, you will find fluctuation. The many elements of the Platform interlaces with each other, so that at some places in the garden, you'll find a multitude of bases for the larp, and other places you'll find the larp staying firmly upon a single or just a couple of the written bases. The only clarification you can expect is the written materiélle presented to you by the organizers/authors/artists behind the larp.
It is important to accept and recognize the many written, drawn and photographed works about larp as being part of something that makes a whole, not as fragments of a shattered looking-glass. No 'school' or 'theorem', no compendium or 'world presentation' is possible without the works of others either as direct inspiration or as a perceived 'enemy'. It's yin and yang - one can not be without the other, and they balance each other.
Into the Basis flows streams coming from outside the Platform - from the Rest of the World, the Rest of Reality. These streams irrigate the soil and makes it possible for things to grow in it. The streams consists of things that flows through the soil, leaving important elements, and eventually flowing down into and becoming part of the supporting pillars. As new people, new ideas, new practical sollutions flows into the soil, the Platform expands, and the Pillars grow.
The Garden is on top of the Platform and is the place where larp is. Every character is a flower, every organizer or author is a gardener, every larp is a flower-bed or a tree. As in every other garden there are growths with thorns to be found, thorns that may sting and teach a valuable lesson. There are sweet-smelling flowers that makes your head buzz with delectable notions and there are weeds that may either be cultivated into useful plants or up-rooted and cast out. There are trees that yield edible fruits and some fruits or berries that cause hallucinations. Different larps yield different experiences.
Now, before I get lost in my own metafores, the Platform should be perceived as all the things that goes on in the 'larp-scene', and an attempt at illustrating the current variations present in active larping. When I scan various web-pages of different groups or 'schools' I am struck by the multitude of different approaches, and the constant appearance of new inventions. This facetted and fascinating multitude should not be a battle-ground for warring tribes, but a 'Playground of the Minds' in which one can expand ones horizons and have experiences impossible in Real Life, together with others of the same disposition.
In addition to the various patches of growth, there are 'greenhouses' in the garden. In these houses larpers may enter and experience singular and more coherent notions of what larp is. The many opposing '-ists' and '-isms' of larp has their houses here; The Arthouse, The Historical House, The Dragoneers House, The Kitsch House, The National Houses and so on. Each house features collections of more narrowingly defining styles or approaches to larp. Some larps may be perceived as going on completely inside one house, other larps may not fit into any house.
The many different styles of playing should be perceieved as gusts of wind sweeping the garden now and then. Some of the plants in the garden will sway in the breeze for as long as it goes on, thus addapting to the 'trendy' style, other plants stubbornly recist the trends and growths in any direction they like, and some plants or flowers do both. There is no prevailing wind across the Platform, but sometimes when the doors to the greenhouses are opened, drafts from these causes a number of plants to sway in the direction of one house.
What does the larper do when he is in the garden? During play, the larper has rooted himself somewhere in the garden. He becomes part of a patch of flowers or one of the shining apples in a tree for the duration of the larp. Together with other larpers, he makes a growth that flourishes, becomes beautiful, then withers and dies, only to become part of the soil, and eventually make up one bit of the Pillars. The organizers, authors, or whatever they call themselves, may be part of the plant, or they may be gardeners standing outside tending it. But the activity of the organizers can be perceived as engendering a seed, planting it, and making sure it sprouts and becomes a plant.
I hereby renounce every 'vow', and refute every absolutist attempt at 'defining larp'. The 'liberation' of larp from ... whatever, will not come about from trying to force strict disciplines upon anyone. Banning certain things or strictly demanding other things causes estrangement and antagonism. I for one have given up trying to structure all this into a single model. Even if The Armanian Platform may seem as an attempt at doing just that, it is NOT.
Other texts in Morigel may appear as being just the opposite of what I proclaim with the Armanian Platform; old-fashioned trench warfare on other theorists. I hereby issue this disclaimer; If I fall into this derelict frame of mind, warn me and let me know - I WILL reconsider if I go wrong and unconciously try to shatter the Platform. If there is anything I'd like to shatter, it's the Ivory Towers of certain live-theorists... ;)
The Armanian Platform is a suggestion - I suggest a way of perceiving larp as a whole, not as a collection of splintered groups and standpoints. It is my firm beleif that unless larp as a 'scene' realizes the benefits to be had from everyone sharing the same perception of what they are doing, larp will die out as a coherent phenomena, and fragment into pieces so small as to be virtually undetectable, and of no significance to anyone.
In addition to being a suggestion, The Armanian Platform is a call to assemble, a call to present ones works to each other, a call to abandon old thought-patterns of how larp works and a call to add to the total sum of what larp is in a non-judgmental and non-prejudiced fashion. By accepting, learning and knowing, we can grow.
The Armanian Platform is the only working model that makes it possible to truly understand how larp works, and what every larper's contribution to larp is. The Future is bright, but only if we create it together!