Áron Birtalan

Áron Birtalan is a Hungarian-born artist who makes games and rituals in everyday environments. Working together with participants and their imagination as an artistic medium, he explores the nature of human interaction by facilitating collaborative experiences, called Transformation Games. Through his work, Áron encourages people to tap into a playful territory, where art, games and magic mingle. His work draws upon the history of transformation through playing and, as a whole playfulness’ role in society.
He currently lives in The Netherlands, running the experimental platform Secret Fiction.

With a background in music, writing and role-playing, Áron is interested in delivering his practice outside of the conventional realms of art and into alternative platforms of politics and education. He is also active as a musician and co-runs a three-week children's fantasy camp in rural Hungary.

'Transformation Games - a practice of social playing as an autonomous form of art and as a tool for political agency.'
by Áron Birtalan

Artist statement

In my practice, I facilitate playful experiences where art, magic and everyday life mingle. I call these experiences Transformation Games.

In playing a game, one is introduced to a fictional world, within our world, where the structures are the rules of the game. Conversely, the rules, roles and structures of the outside world are temporarily suspended, inviting the participants of the game to step outside of their everyday reality. The rules of any game are purely functional: they encourage different ways of seeing, thinking and behaving from the player, in order for them to undergo an experience where they truly embody the act of playing.

This leads to an understanding of playing as both an artistic and a political practice, since the creative potential of any playful activity leads to experiences that would not happen otherwise.

On one hand, embodying playing allows us to undergo experiences that are beyond the mundane norms. On the other hand, stepping into the artificially created structure of a game also points back at the artificially created structure of one’s everyday life.
Through playing, we can understand that our daily social and political structures are no different than the arbitrary structure of a game. And through this understanding, we gain the agency to re-imagine it, to change it, to transform it.

Participants Playing ‘Inside Looking Out’, a Transformation Game by Áron Birtalan 2016 - Secret Fiction Lab, The Hague, NL
Participants Playing ‘SEE’, a Transformation Game by Áron Birtalan photo by Julia Willis 2017 - Frascati, Amsterdam, NL
Children playing in a suburban park (detail) photo by David Seymour 1948 - Budapest, Hungary
Participants Playing ‘Covenant, a Transformation Game by Áron Birtalan photo by Jesus Iglesias 2017 - DNR, The Hague, NL
Master Wizard (right) teaching his apprentice in his own practice of magic. photo by Gyöngyi Barta 2017 - Children’s Kingdom of Caer Cadarn, Hungary
Master Wizard (right) teaching his apprentice in his own practice of magic. photo by Gyöngyi Barta 2017 - Children’s Kingdom of Caer Cadarn, Hungary
Playing, Transformation, Social, Embodied, Analog

Transformation games

Transformation Games is an artistic and political practice that attempts to re-imagine the world around us through playful social experiences. Transformation Games blend techniques of live role-playing, rituals, movement practices, storytelling and everyday routines into a new, embodied form of experience. It happens in real life, involving real people. This is important because the Games operate through the temporary rearrangement of social systems and constructions that govern our everyday life.

Proposing to facilitate ‘collaborative’ experiences, Transformation Games points to an understanding of art, that precedes the division between maker, performer and spectator.
Instead, the artist becomes the facilitator for participants, through creating the conditions of the game and guiding them through it. The rest of the experience is created by the participants, making each event unscripted, unique and unrepeatable.

There is no-one to ‘perform to’, no external gaze through the eyes of an audience. This allows an intimate place where the artwork is not the spectacle (how does it look from the outside), but the participant’s experience (how is it to be within).

What is Within?

What is Within? is a publication-in-the-making that explores playing and playfulness both as an autonomous form of art and as a tool for political transformation.
Taking Áron Birtalan’s own practice of Transformation Games and its roots found in a Hungarian counter-cultural tradition, ‘What is Within?’ sets out to reintroduce playing as the active social agent it is, in exercising autonomous thinking and behaving.
Furthermore, the publication is meant to act as a manual, in how to create and recreate new structures, new systems, new ways of seeing and understanding - all through the act of playing.
The first draft of the publication is scheduled to be introduced in June 2018 and further developed in the two years to follow. 

The publication is a collaboration between artist Áron Birtalan and graphic designer Márton Kabai, with the support of AHK Amsterdam, STROOM Den Haag, and Fonds Kwadraat.