janet grau


Das LEBEN SPIELEN. A Social Parlor Game for the Neighborhood

Participatory project, installation, public space, 2021

Das LEBEN SPIELEN (Playing Life) is a social parlor game that emerged through a form of playful (participatory) research, as well as through conversations with project participants about living together in our society, about our values, desires and goals, about forks in the road, and about important decisions we make in our lives.

Over several months, I developed ideas for the new game by playing the classic board game The Game of Life (Hasbro) over and over again with people from Mannheim’s Jungbusch neighborhood. Each time, we thought about what was fun about the game, what the game was missing, what could be improved or changed.

In the process, we discovered that The Game of Life, with its focus on earning money, consumption, marriage and children, ignores many facets of life, and conveys stereotypical life goals that correspond to conventional role models. The new game, Das LEBEN SPIELEN, is clearly different from the classic board game, and also represents the ideas, desires and visions of the neighbors who helped develop this project.

Das LEBEN SPIELEN is simultaneously a medium and an occasion for for conversation and exchange. It exists as an art installation, it’s a large-scale game board with scooters and ramps, with a wheel of fortune and play money.

"Without you guys, I’d be broke."
"It should be possible to get a divorce."
"The game is great, you can have children by accident."
"Who should I choose to compete against?"
"There’s always a winner in the Game of Life."
"More unpredictability."
"You should be able to exchange property with each other."
"It should be possible to be a criminal."
"Something special should happen when you meet."

This work was created in the context of Das Foyer – Vertrauensbildende Maßnahmen, a project by zeitraumexit, Mannheim.

After its time at zeitraumexit, the work was installed for several months at the Abendakademie Mannheim, where many more people were able to play it.

Photos: Janet Grau and Henning Scherf

Many thanks to all who played the game with me and helped me develop the new version, including:

Şanel, Şermin, Veselin, Noah, Anıl, Onur, Arda, Lilly, Andreas, Suna, Vasilena, Elvan, Eren-Gabriel, Falk, Alva, Raphael, Katinka, Philip, Jan, Alexandre, Mathis, Paula, Jakob, Matze, Sarah, Julia, Herr Müller, Ivo, Herr Hoffmann, Herr Schmidt, Herr Popp & Nina.

PDF for Das Foyer — Vertrauensbildende Maßnahmen
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