The Box Game

The Box Game is very much in the tradition of Surrealist automatism, for it is a game that is used to select materials, establish dimensions, and determine the number of kerfs in the construction of wooden boxes. First, two dice are rolled to determine a type of wood to use. Twelve types of wood were numbered I through XII. The number on the dice corresponds to a type of wood. If the roll includes the number one, then wood type I is used, as well as the type of wood that corresponds to the sum of the dice. For example, if a one and a four are rolled, wood types I and V are used. If doubles are rolled the player my use two types of wood, the first being the sum of the first roll and the sum of the second roll. Second players roll two dice to determine the type of wood to insert into the kerfs. Third, players roll two dice three times to determine the height, width and depth of the box. Forth, players roll one dice four times to determine how many kerfs are used on each edge of the box. Fifth, players must make a lid from the remaining woods to fit the width and depth of the box. The box is then titled using the numbers rolled. Chance acts as a guide, and the rules, I discovered, are surprisingly freeing, allowing the maker to focus on the process not the design.

With this method I created two boxes, box #8, 12, 11, 11, 8, 7, 2, 6, 2, 2, 1 and box # 6, 11, 5, 7, 12, 2, 4, 3, 6. I put a unique set of holes in the lids of each box, encoding how and who could open them. With box #8, 12, 11, 11, 8, 7, 2, 6, 2, 2, 1 five holes were laid out so that the fingers of a typical adult's right hand could slip into the lid allowing it to be lifted off. With box # 6, 11, 5, 7, 12, 2, 4, 3, 6, four holes were added, two on either side of the lid, allowing a child's index fingers and thumb to slip inside the box to lift off the lid. The holes are intended to capture a viewer's curiosity, and when the boxes are displayed, viewers were observed reaching out and removing the lids of the boxes. Their fingers act like a key; if their fingers do not fit, the contents of the box remains a mystery.