Creative Time

It’s Here! The Privilege of Escape, Our Inaugural Open Call Project by Risa Puno Opens

July 18th, 2019

Creative Time is excited to present The Privilege of Escape, Risa Puno’s largest and most ambitious installation to date. The public art project will be on view at Onassis USA in New York City from July 18 – August 11, 2019. Referencing escape rooms—immersive environments where groups solve a series of hands-on puzzles against the clock—this project distills the complexity of the term privilege by examining it within the context of a thrilling game.

Upon arrival, attendees find themselves cast as subjects in a study conducted by a cutting-edge institute. In the experiment, groups will race against the clock to solve a series of interactive, sculptural puzzles designed by the artist that resemble popular board games. Each successfully solved puzzle will unlock a new clue to help attendees advance. Puno’s aim is to use this disarmingly playful environment to create pathways of exchange and understanding around the topic of social inequity, making space for open-minded dialogue about what privilege is and how it plays a role in our lives.

“Playing an escape room can elicit surprisingly real emotions—even though it’s just for fun without anything at stake. You really do feel visceral highs and lows during the course of the game,” said Risa Puno. “It’s been exciting (and challenging) to explore how to use this format to create an experiential metaphor for serious social issues that still manages to be fun.”

Subverting the format of this popular group pastime, Puno has constructed an experience that encourages participants to think about how privilege functions in society – and to what end. The term “privilege” is loaded and confusing for many, often triggering strong emotions that undermine constructive conversations. Inspired by the game of life, where societal rules are often arbitrary, fixed, and unfair, The Privilege of Escape showcases Puno’s ability to introduce complex social issues through play, innovative game design, and puzzle logic.

Risa Puno was selected from over 600 applicants from Creative Time’s inaugural open call for New York-based emerging artists — the first initiative of its kind in Creative Time’s 40+ year history, created by the organization’s new executive director Justine Ludwig. This is Ludwig’s first time at the helm of a Creative Time public art project.

“Risa’s project speaks beautifully to Creative Time’s history and mission. This project relies on its public in order to be fully realized, challenges the traditional boundaries of art, and poses pressing questions about the world we live in, said Creative Time Executive Director Justine Ludwig. “It has been inspiring to
work with an artist earlier in her career to accomplish what is truly a dream project. We wanted to flip the script by supporting the future of the field.”

This is the first time Creative Time has partnered with Onassis USA, the New York-based cultural foundation. “Onassis USA is thrilled and honoured to be hosting and supporting Risa Puno and Creative Time to make a new work in our space,” said Onassis USA’s Artistic Executive Director Vallejo Gantner. “Creative Time’s remarkable vision of access to art at the highest levels is an inspiration to our own practice and organisation. We’re humbled they’ve chosen to work with us.”

Risa Puno is a sculpture and installation artist who uses interactivity and play to understand how we relate to one another. Often taking a whimsical form, Puno’s work creates accessible spaces to explore universal human conundrums. Emblematic of Puno’s practice is her 2013-2014 work The Course of Emotions: A Mini-Golf Experience, a fully-functioning course with 9 holes featuring different emotional obstacles like “Insecurity,” where players had to putt while standing on a wobbly seesaw platform. In
keeping with Puno’s body of work, the project transformed a lighthearted, widely appealing pastime into a means of collectively confronting difficult human experiences.

In her 2018 piece, Year of the Dog Park in Boston, visitors were invited to interact with the piece, constructing new meanings and stories based on
the characters that appear. Featuring a series of blocks engraved with traditional Chinese characters and excerpts of stories collected from the community, the act of spinning the block created poetic connections that would otherwise be impossible to describe in the English language.

Puno has exhibited at national and international venues, including: The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, El Museo del Barrio, NURTUREart, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, SPACES in Cleveland, OH, Galerie Stefan Röpke in Cologne, Germany, and MMX Open Art Venue in Berlin, Germany. Puno is the recipient of multiple awards and residencies, including the UNIQLO Park Expressions Grant through the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Puno’s work has been featured across radio and print, including NPR, Forbes, The New Yorker, Hyperallergic, ProPublica, and The
Boston Globe. Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Puno studied art and medicine at Brown University and earned her MFA from New York University.

Onassis USA is an organization which for over 19 years, in collaboration with Onassis Stegi in Athens, has been dedicated to culture, community, and education, with projects that can effectively inspire social change and justice across borders.

Lead project support for the first installment of Creative Time’s annual open call, The Privilege of Escape, is generously provided by Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Suzanne and Bob Cochran, an anonymous donor, and our countless Kickstarter backers.

Thank you to our consultants and team.
Brian Aldous, Lighting Designer
Marcelo Anez, Sound Designer
Rachel Elizabeth Cargle, Consultant
Avi Dobkin, Lighting Assistant
Dave Jones, Set Fabricator
Brett Kuehner, Puzzle and Technical Consultant
Tyler McKay, Puzzle Fabricator
The SHISANWU, Puzzle Fabricator
Brett G. Stoudt, PhD, Consultant
Ran Xia, Playwright and Director