Commonwealth and Council

New Games

Robby Herbst


Staring at the past and seeing another future. Staring at the present and seeing double. Staring at the future and asking, Where did that other past go? These optical and conceptual misalignments perceived through technologies of our time are the subjects of New Games, a cluster of anaglyph drawings by Robby Herbst. 

With “earthballs” bouncing and parachutes aloft, the New Games movements of the 70s and 80s embody the height of West Coast “Up with People” humanism, a mash-up of 60s counterculture and alternative psychology crowd. Outlined in red and cyan, individual bodies playing open-ended experimental games in groups reverberate with gadgets and electronics from another time. Through stereoscopic superimpositions, Herbst investigates the artifacts (photographic demonstration from books) and effects (the development of digital societies) of the broader “New Games” moment. The first New Games Tournament in 1973 was held for adults—many bussed in from San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district—in Marin County’s Gerbode Valley. Following the 1975 turnout of 20,000 people in Golden Gate Park, the New Games Foundation took shape with donations from Stewart Brand’s Point Foundation. New Games sought to involve communities in fun, fluid, creative, participatory ‘new’ games whose rules were improvisatory—an alternative to the top down, rule-bound, structured games that many at the time felt were restricting society. As such, the Bay Area’s New Games served as a training ground for the idealized labor force of new workers who were being birthed there, to be self-motivated, entrepreneurial, pleasure-oriented, libertarian, and contingent. 

Robby Herbst is an artist, writer, and radically oriented cultural organizer. He is co-founder and former editor of the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, as well as the instigator of the geographically sited critical-landscape projects of the Llano Del Rio Collective. With artist Elana Mann he co-organizes the Chats About Change series. His writing and artwork engage with contemporary and historic experiments in socio-political aesthetics. Past exhibitions include I + We: Collective Movement Workshop (Human Resources, 2014), Utopias of SoCal (Santa Monica Museum of Art, 2014), New Pyramids For the Capitalist System (Dumbo Arts Center, 2012), Socialworks (Monte Vista Projects, 2011), and Blockades with Collaborators (David Patton, 2009). He has been awarded grants from the Graue Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation, and the Durfee Foundation. He has been an artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts as well as Provisions Library. New New Games is the title of a large-scale public artwork that Herbst will be completing in the Bay Area in 2016 with the support of San Francisco’s Southern Exposure with the Graue Foundation, and the Headlands Center for the Arts.