Awardee: Li Sumpter

Primary Artistic Medium: Multidisciplinary



“We have been facing climate apocalypse for some time now.”
“We’ve increased our exposure to all the suffering and struggle in the world without increasing our capacity to handle it.” – adrienne maree brown

How do we defend ourselves and our communities against a perfect storm of structural violence, domestic terrorism and natural/unnatural disaster? How do we ease our fears and heal our trauma so we can take action towards public safety, readiness and resilience?

The Art of Survival + Immersive Storytelling

A “cozy catastrophe” is a trope in science fiction that refers to the “small band of survivors” confined to a limited safe space presented by a life-threatening, typically apocalyptic, scenario. Often these survivors are unlikely comrades forced to depend on the skills, stamina and sense of humanity of total strangers for their survival.

Cozy Catastrophe: Illadelph 2045 is a story-based, multi-site gaming installation inviting players to explore the “art of survival” through a unique “modular” escape room experience. To exit the game world “alive” and “victorious” players must successfully advance through a series of scenarios experienced by characters from Graffiti in the Grass—an afro-apocalyptic epic set in future Philadelphia. The story of Graffiti in the Grass is designed to center the lives and voices of communities of color often overlooked and underserved in response and relief efforts in social, economic and environmental crises. As a trauma-informed project, Cozy Catastrophe also considers the needs of victims and survivors of violence of any kind as well as those suffering with anxiety and PTSD rooted in our own fears and nightmares about the future.

This speculative story that inspires the CC gaming experience is designed to be “immersive” and “transmedial” in that the narrative engages community via multiple platforms that connect to the escape room including speculative artifacts like the Escape Artist Mixtape zine and digital playlists to Chronicles of Asylum—a land-based audio-story designed for mobile app produced by SWIM PONY (submitted sample). In Chronicles of Asylum (a prologue chapter of Graffiti in the Grass), participants are guided on an immersive journey along Bartram’s Mile following in the footsteps of savvy young journalist, Liliquoi Brown. For Cozy Catastrophe, instead, participants will follow the path of Graffiti in the Grass protagonist, Roxi RedMoon (infamous graffiti writer), on her journey of survival and self-discovery.

In theory and design, Cozy Catastrophe is informed by a thematic art and myth-based curriculum grounded in creative and critical objectives to cultivate 1) embodied awareness of existential threats, 2) radical imagination and hope for the future, and 3) practical survival skills sets that can be applied to daily life in the 21st century and beyond.

The original gallery and museum-based installation plan for this project has been re-imagined as a non-local, multi-site installation that engages different neighborhoods and partners across the city. It can be experienced as a single module, one-stop gaming destination or a multi-module gaming adventure that encourages participants to commit to experiencing all site-specific gaming challenges.

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