Preview: At PLAY Parlour, artist turns junk into fresh take on classic arcade games in Lawrenceville
Artist Adam Shreckhise created PLAY Parlour, an arcade and art installation in which the artist aspires to take something old and make it new and exciting.
Dart boards from the arcade.
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"I'm, uh, 38? And if I'm not 38 now, I will be in a couple months," says sculptor Adam Shreckhise, creator of the new PLAY Parlour game room and lounge.
Mr. Shreckhise can't accurately tell you how old he is, but if his latest interactive installation art project is any indication, he's a young soul trapped in a grown-up's body.
PLAY Parlour is on Butler Street in Lawrenceville, its electric blue doors perking up an old storefront. Inside, the place looks like a Brooklyn apartment on a budget -- couches of all sorts of patterns and colors, lamps of varying shapes, and a modest carpet of deep burgundy. It's comfy and subdued, just like its creator, who is clad in pajama pants with ruffled hair, sans shoes.
It could be Mr. Shreckhise's living room -- anyone's living room, for that matter -- save for the fantastical putt-putt course and makeshift skee ball machine nestled in the corner.
PLAY Parlour is a metaphor for Mr. Shreckhise's artistic ambitions -- take something old and make it new and exciting, even if it might be considered unsightly upon first glance.
"PLAY Parlour is the alternative to going out to a bar. I wanted to give people something a little bit outside of the ordinary all in the realm of games," he says.
"My problem with going to a bar is there seems to be nothing to interact with strangers around. If you're gonna be here and meeting people, you're provided with a structure with which to start talking to someone that you don't know."
The public will get its first look at Mr. Shreckhise's fresh take on classic arcade games at an open house and fundraiser (donations accepted) from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday. He had hoped to open soon after but problems with the city zoning board pushed back the opening to next spring.
In addition to mini-golf and skee ball, games include a noise-making dart board, a chess set with pieces made from nuts and bolts, and a whack-a-mole-style contraption pieced together from scrap materials. Mr. Shreckhise says he was inspired by what video arcades fail to offer their patrons.
"Aesthetically, I like watching parts move," he says of his kinetic creations. "I'm trying to move into what the core of the game is and eliminate extraneous things ... . "You can come in and not think about it and enjoy them [as games], or you can pay attention to any part of it and get into that as well."
Mr. Shreckhise was born in Chicago and grew up in Vermont, Lancaster, Pa., and Virginia. He has a long history with art and sculpture, earning a master's degree in fine arts from SUNY-Stony Brook on Long Island. He has nearly seven years of experience with electromechanical sculptures similar to those he's crafted for PLAY Parlour.
"I want people to think it is awesome. For some people it can't be art. I hope that this appeals to those people as much as the people who feel like art is the pinnacle of all things," he says.
"One of the struggles for me with trying to make straight gallery art was not feeling like it had any real impact. I never felt like what I did and put into galleries was able to affect people as much as I'd like to affect them, so I'm hoping this provides something people want to participate in.
Alas, it's hard to see Mr. Shreckhise's creations as anything but art. The massive contraptions are built from scrap materials (old motors, surplus computer and sewing machine parts, nuts, bolts, and everything in between) painstakingly pieced together over the course of three months. The handcrafted machinery moves, lights flash, and horns sound. But one thing is noticeably absent from most of the games at PLAY Parlour: a scoreboard. That's because Mr. Shreckhise doesn't want anyone's competitive nature getting in the way of old-fashioned fun.
"I don't think competition is fun when it becomes important to who wins and who loses," he says. "Saying there's only one objective in a game is kind of overly simplistic and I'm definitely cautious of something that seems very simple.
"If games can only have one objective and that is to win, I think that's a little silly."
Growing up and playing games with his family, he remembers that his parents often strictly enforced the rules. He was forever seeking out new games to keep things interesting.
That's not to say Mr. Shreckhise isn't determined to master the games at hand. After a few attempts at landing a hole-in-one on the mini-golf course, he finds himself fishing around a pool of water for golf balls that missed their mark. The scene looks like a Dali painting: a man surrealistically triumphed (almost engulfed) by his own creation.
The windmill behind him creaks as he retrieves the last of the tiny white balls from the water and tries again. One ball makes it into one of the baskets attached to the windmill, but it falls out before it reaches the hole.
"Yeah, I definitely need to fix that before opening," he says with a laugh.
It becomes increasingly apparent that the experience of PLAY Parlour isn't about winning or doing it "right." The kicks come from indulging in the simple pleasure of having fun, changing the rules a bit, and finding perfection in something that was once a meaningless heap of electronic junk.
If you're going ...
• Where: PLAY Parlour, 5258 Butler St., Lawrenceville.
• When: Open house is 6-10 p.m. Saturday.
• Details: 412-345-1367; www.PLAYparlour.com
First Published November 1, 2012 12:00 am