Janken

“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life.
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit
fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.
They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it
again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong
enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough
to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning,
“Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.”

G.K Chesterton

Evan Thomas’ Janken takes the game of rock-paper-scissors, substituting for the traditional hand gestures symbolic representations of the four natural elements: fire, air, earth and water. Using these four symbols, we are shown the sixteen possible pairs that can be made from them.
Janken takes a simple game, and a simple form, to ask questions about balances, decisions and cycles. At once naive and profound, the images float precisely into view, an authored random selection of pairs. There is a lightness and irreverence about the images, they seem pleasing in their repetition, but their symbolic simplicity and effortless elegance belies the complexity of the film’s meaning.

No one element beats another in this game, there is no decision made at any point – each of these sixteen options presents us with further options. Water and fire can become steam if boiled, or smoke if extinguished. And water here is represented by a swan, frantically paddling under the surface of the calm water it glides through.

So, from a seemingly arbitrary selection of figures we can decipher a message which is at once anxious and calming. No one wins here, but perhaps in the balance of these sixteen, leading us on to ever more complex but balanced pairs and sets, there is an order, a monotony even, which if we are able to accept, whether we understand it or not, may just become exulting. We may ask, even after all of the combinations are spent “Do it again”.

Text by David Grinly
HDV transfer to DVD, video double projection, B&W, silent, 3mins (2009)