Matthew Visyak's Domain

Stereopoly - Mixed Media


The artwork discussed on this page contains many aspects that some viewers might find disturbing and racially charged. This work was made as a counter stance to racism and stereotyping by presenting both current stereotyped views on the subject as well as alternative views to get the audience engaged within the work. These art works were developed through the guidance of highly educated faculty members and the works were deemed successful in their intended outcomes. The racial and stereotypical views displayed in these works are not the personal views of the artist or the faculty members who served as advisors.

This was an art project created to satisfy the requirements for my Studio Art Senior seminar class. This is the class that is designed to get an Allegheny College student prepared for the senior comp by having you create a smaller body of work.

I was on the theme of exploring racism through art and games. On this premise, I decided to make a game entitled, "Stereopoly", that would explore conflicting stereotypes. I choose a board game as the forum because the very nature of a game is to invite people into a virtual world of interactive play. Here they would be faced with the conflicting messages and explore their own prejudice by playing the game.

The game itself plays like the normal monopoly board game with the players rolling dice to advance, buy property, and try to force the other players into liquidation. The board itself was designed to portray one side of racism with the property plots illustrating the negative stereotype of races. Here the expensive property belonged to the white neighborhood and the cheaper property (all colors except blue and green) belonged to the other races. The board's various property purchasing mechanisms would only be accessible to certain types of player pieces enhancing the stereotyped messages and imagery placed on the spaces themselves.

The property cards become available when a player purchases property. On the deed itself they were able to see the opposite side of the stereotype, beyond the initial overpowering offensive theme of the board. For example a cheap piece of property might belong to an African American demographic and might have the property picture showing a run down low income housing project. However, on the back of the card the player would be able to see the opposite side of the stereotype where a young male is getting good grades and obtains a scholarship to go to a university because he is studying hard, despite the current living hardship.

Another example of opposing stereotypes on the property cards is a wealthy white neighborhood where everyone is rich and the internal community is segregated from any other ethic groups. The flip side of the coin is that the man in charge is arrested for federal drug and corporate ethic crimes. He is being hauled away from the money by the police without anyone trying to help him.

The piece's presentation was completed by establishing a comfortable setting for people, who wanted to play and interact with the game. I had a table with the game laid out ready for playing, added a table cloth to make it seem more home-like. I placed four chairs were people could sit down, to concentrate more on the game than the fatigue of standing.

This work was a success during the showing. I stood at a distance to see how people would react. At first most were appalled by the outward stereotype portrayed by the game board. Then, as the people began to explore the property and the community chest cards, they understood the meaning of the work as a thought provoking exploration of their internal views and seemed satisfied with their individual experiences.