Psychologist kickstarts mesmerizing art book: "Dice – Rendezvous with Randomness"

THE entire media world is looking for new ways to tell stories. The emotions created, lessons learned and self-discovery that occurs as we engage in a strong narrative are very real. They change us. Predictions for the death of the written word are now regularly being belched out into the Internet as we attempt to answer the question, “As technologies continue to evolve, how will we create, share, and experience the most fundamental unit of human culture—the story?

One project, The Future of StoryTelling (FoST), aims to answer this question by bringing together leaders in media, technology and communications to explore how stories are changing in the digital age. However, too often in our excitement about new tech, we forget the power of old tech.

Archaeologists are still searching for the oldest dice in the world: the great randomizer, the simple pieces of tech that have changed the fortunes of so many people, real and make-believe. These pieces of technology, powered by the limitless imagination of the human mind, drive an entire realm of storytelling that is vivid, engaging and exactly what so many tech companies and entrepreneurs are trying to re-create with modern technology: role playing games (RPGs).

In an ode to the ultimate symbol of table-top and role-playing-game culture Mans Danneman, a 37-year-old psychologist and RPG tester, has launched an art book dedicated to dice as a Kickstarter project: Dice – Rendezvous with Randomness.

“Starting with the color, form and function, I let the dice inspire me. Random chance, luck and probability have even permeated my approach to photography. The work has aroused thoughts on matters of order and chaos, determinism and free will. These subjects too will be a common thread throughout the book. What, of our reality, is just a consequence of a billiard game of atoms and planets following the Big Bang, and what can we actually influence and control? Dice are so much more than just small pieces of plastic. Each set is a work of art and this book will attempt to show that to the world,” he writes as he drums up support for the project.

Role playing fanatics come from all walks of life, from an American suburban middle-class kid enamored with swords to a troubled youth whose failure doesn’t seem inevitable as he rolls a 20-sided die.

Danneman was neither of these. The Swede grew up on an ecological farm, with his parents trying to make a living on the production of goat cheese.

“They had moved out from busy Stockholm and wanted an alternative life. Pretty different start in life I guess, if you compare it to most people in Sweden. I think I got another point of view of life due to that; made me able to see things from different perspectives. Maybe that had an influence on me turning to RPGs. Of course, I was also a Tolkien fan, like many other kids, and that had a huge impact,” Danneman told Dice Travels (DT).

And play RPG Danneman did. He also took it a step further, briefly entering the world of The Dice Man – Luke Rhinehart.

“I spent some time when I was younger letting the dice decide things – pretty fun actually. I find it interesting how much of human decision-making actually has a part of randomness, or rather is riddled with systematic mistakes.

“What actually are our own choices? What is due to our learning history? What is due to random events in life? How much is predetermined? In a totally deterministic view, all that happens is just a consequence of what started with the Big Bang. Even each dice roll would just be a result of earlier atomic events too complex for us to grasp. I’ve spent a lot time thinking about this. I don’t answer any of these in the book, but I hope to get people thinking.

A game tester for the established, Swedish RPG magazine Fenix, Danneman’s childhood wish to play RPGs came true in a very big way, whether that was by cosmic design or dumb luck is a bit harder to determine.

Either way, the catalyst for Dice – Rendezvous with Randomness came in the form of just a few images in the magazine, which inspired the editorial team to create an entire book dedicated to the beauty of dice. So now, six months and hundreds of hours of photography later Danneman is ready for print.

Aesthetically, Danneman’s favorite die is the silver hundred sided Zocchihedron – which is in the collection, but not seen in the KickStarter preview. However, with that many sides it seems just shy of being a ball, which explains why it “doesn’t stop when you roll it.

“For gaming [dice], I’m a fan of Festive series from Chessex, especially when you look really close at them,” said Danneman. However, for photography the green-black “Dishwater Dragon” takes the prize. “When you see it in high resolution every bubble is interesting. Also, it looks like a dragon if you look at it for a while.

Danneman confesses that the dice themselves have influenced the photos and the book itself; the designs and themes of the dice sometimes dictating the setting of the photos.

“Some dice have themes. The step it takes to go from a set of forest themed dice into the woods is pretty short. Other sets I’ve just let the color and form inspire,” he says. “The most interesting [photos came from] using randomness in the shooting: dropping dice down in water, blowing soap bubbles, shooting them in sparkling water.

“I have control to some extent, but the final result is often surprising. For me, as a photographer, I kind of like not knowing how the picture will turn out. The drawback is that it takes a lot of shots, because I get hungry for more variation. Quite often I get lost in it and end up with a couple hundred pictures.

With the KickStart project ending in less than a week, Danneman can only hope that the Big Bang burst in such a way that gives him the chance to bring his incredible collection of dice images to the public. To support the project, click here.

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