Recently I attended the opening of Jerwood Open Forest, an exhibition to explore the relationship between art and the environment run in partnership with Forestry Commission England. I was fascinated by a project created by Adam James, a performance artist based in London.
Adam took nine performers for eight days in October to Sherwood Pine Forest in Nottingham where they lived in wooden shelters, isolated from the rest of the world. But this was no ordinary ‘back to nature’ experience. As part of the experiment, the performers were not allowed to communicate in English. Instead they had to make up their own language or communicate using jibberish. And so the performers became the ‘Oller Oller’ people.
You can hear Adam talking about the project at this link (http://vimeo.com/81869204). He describes himself as being like a ‘kooky scientist’, exploring how you invent a language from scratch, looking to see what systems, rituals and hierarchies the group would create organically. His aim was to understand and explore what the Oller Oller tribe has to say about our culture, traditions, relationships, beliefs – “things we have lost, things we have forgotten.”
The project is an intriguing example of a LARP, which stands for ‘Live, Action, Role Playing’, an increasingly popular mass participation activity in Scandinavia, Germany and also now in the UK. LARPS tend to be associated with geeky fictional genres such as dungeons and dragons, science fiction and historical reenactment, usually involving lots of dressing up and play fighting, sometimes with real bruises to show for it.
But imperial wizards aside, there is a huge potential to apply the concept of LARP to team development. While being deprived of language as well as the comforts of a four star hotel for a week might not appeal to some executives, extreme role play of this kind could be used to create an unforgettable experience for a team or organization that really wanted to explore its own ability to innovate, challenge its structures and discover its own capabilities.