Emotional Arcade

Gallery 9–7pm
  • Regular FREE

Interactive Installation – Brent Hoff w/ Alex Reben


Two years ago I asked several strangers to participate in an artistic experiment, the worlds first "Love Competition." Facilitated by Stanford neuroscientists, we placed seven contestants in fMRI machines and gave them five minutes to "love someone as hard as they can." From the 72-year-old man loving his wife of 50 years, to the 10-year-old boy who chose to love his new baby cousin, everyone emerged surprised and moved by the experience. It seemed the mere act of choosing to feel, and knowing those feelings are being "seen," free us. One heartbroken contestant, who walked into the lab believing to the point of tears he was in love with his ex-girlfriend, came out arms raised above his head having realized to his shock and ours, he was totally over her. 

The work raised questions into identity, consciousness, and for me at least, even our most prideful descriptor, humanity. Emotions are the fabric of perceptual existence and I began to wonder how deeply patterns of emotional regulation and suppression affect our self-awareness? I mean, what are we if not our feelings? 

As public displays of emotion are increasingly shunned (in schools where minor tantrums are treated as signs of neurological weakness to be medicated) or criminalized ( in airport security lines where reacting to the institutionalized frottage can result in arrest), we are being acculturated into a state of emotional repression by a society that increasingly rewards compliant silence over honest expression.

 And so to further explore these questions, I began working with my artistic partner-in-arms Alex Reben to create a portable, and engaging installation more people could explore for themselves. The Emotional Arcade.

The Emotional Arcade allows people to engage in competitive games using their own emotions.  The Arcade is an attempt to provide at least one space on the planet where unrestrained emotional outbursts are honored, and celebrated. 

And new questions arise: 

The Game Master asks: “What emotion will you choose to feel?” 
The Contestant asks: “What will make me feel the most?”
The Philosopher asks, “Who will be feeling this emotion?”
The Priest asks, “Are we more than this emotion?”
The cognitive scientist asks,“What are we really measuring?”
The psychologist asks, “Can we ever really know our emotions anyway?”
And the Child asks: “Who should I love?”

Everyone wonders, “What is the Emotional Arcade?”


In these games, there are no losers, only questions and revelations. 

The only way to win is to feel. And everyone who plays gets a lollypop. 

Come play.

Brent Hoff 

– Brent Hoff 


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