Players: 2 players
Duration: 5 minutes/round
Nim (from the imperative form of the German verb “nehmen,” “nimm”—take) is an ancient strategy game, probably of Chinese origin, with minimalist rules for two players. Because of its simplicity, in 1940 Nim became one of the first computer games to be presented to the world: the purpose-built Nimatron played Nim against human opponents, so well that it hardly ever lost. This symbolized a new step for the relationship between humans and machines: suddenly computers were not just calculating but seemed to demonstrate more vivid abilities—playfulness, but also the capacity for competition. A relationship that had supposedly been only based on rationality and logic started to turn emotional.
The evolution of computers has pushed that development much further and led to the emergence of artificial intelligence, digital assistants, and ever-more capable robots. As more and more aspects of our social and intimate lives are guided by and shaped by complex algorithms, will we eventually fall in love with machines, with intelligent robots or the software that helps us through the day? So far it is mostly a somewhat morbid fascination, driven by a mixture of curiosity and fear, for a kind of love that is not considered real. But is love not always the encounter with an Other, someone both similar to oneself and different? Opposites are said to attract, and when it comes to their skill at certain games, machines and humans differ wildly.
In Take That Loving Grace, aspects of love such as the similarities and differences between parties and the power struggles put into play can be explored in a pointed way. One player follows in the footsteps of the Nimatron. This means they are extremely hard to beat: if the other player makes one tiny mistake, the game is decided. Their competence comes at a price though, because the machine cannot decide what to do on its own; it has to follow predetermined instructions. Playing as the human is much more fickle, but if they do everything right the machine will go down. Two opposites meet, the power balance is off—the basis of a love-hate relationship?
Philip Ullrich is a German-born artist who lives and works in Zurich and Bern. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from Zurich University of the Arts and a diploma in photography from Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany. A lifelong passion for games has led him to deal with topics of rules, models, language and digitality in his work. His works have been shown in solo and group exhibitions at Henri-Dunant-Museum (Heiden), Aloïse (Basel), AEdT (Düsseldorf), Hamlet (Zurich), bb15 (Linz), Helmhaus (Zurich) and De Brakke Ground (Amsterdam). Besides his artistic practice, he has been active as a curator as part of the group “Digital Narrations” and the project space “Raum::Station” in Zurich.