Adventures of Harriharri— Trilogy I 2020–2022, Video Game Performance
Adventures of Harriharri — Episode I 2020, Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland (20:22)
Adventures of Harriharri — Episode II 2021, Vantaa Art Museum, Vantaa, Finland (54:37)
Adventures of Harriharri — Episode III 2022, Helsinki City Theatre, Helsinki, Finland
In DAFT 2023, there are three works of Harold Hejazi exhibited as “Adventures of Harriharri— Trilogy I ”.
This episodic video game performance chronicles the life and times of Harriharri living in virtual Helsinki. Harriharri – whose persona is semi-autobiographical – is a newcomer who arrives with high hopes of being welcomed into the culture. Despite his sincere efforts, he faces continuous obstacles while in pursuit of integrating into Finnish society.
In this work, the audience encounters a new form of theatre: live video game performance. This involves the creation of an original video game that is presented in an interactive-cinema format. From behind the cinema screen, I play the game and narrate the story of Harriharri, my Finnish avatar. The game world he inhabits, a virtual Helsinki, is designed to reflect the social limitations of a POC living in a society shaped by structural racism.
In this project, I approach the theatre as a space of radical socio-political engagement, where the traditional spectator is transformed into an active player. The audience confronts the sociopolitical context that the game world presents – that of their own Finnish society. Such a confrontation invites audience members to reflect on their own social positionalities and to critically engage with their own assumptions, values, and beliefs. Through gameplay, I work to evoke a deeper experience of the way the character encounters racism and marginalisation. In doing so, I render the experience of social marginalisation in a more direct and tangible – yet playful – way. This project answers the urgent call to create open conversations around diversity. The contemporary shift to social conservatism and the recent normalisation of racist rhetoric by members of the Finnish parliament compels me to tell the story of Harriharri.
The artist’s aim is twofold: to experiment with a new form of theater as anti-racist activism, and to present an expanded notion of Finnishness – one that aligns with the multiethnic society that Finland has become.
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Harold Hejazi (Harriharri)
Harold Hejazi (Harriharri) is a Canadian live artist and game designer currently living in Helsinki. He initially moved to Finland in 2017 to pursue an MA in Live Art and Performance Studies at the Theatre Academy of Helsinki. Shortly after his arrival, he witnessed an anti-Muslim demonstration in his neighbourhood, which is populated predominantly by immigrants. This disturbing experience altered the trajectory of his work as an artist. As a result of that day, he began to investigate Finland’s nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiments. Often working with this theme, Hejazi’s master’s research (2017–2022) focused on game design and its affordances for a live art practice. The method consisted of rapid prototyping live art games which combined recognisable elements of both ‘game’ and ‘live art’ and performing them as practice-based research. This research culminated in the development of a video game created purely for the purpose of live performance, titled ‘Adventures of Harriharri’. Hejazi continues to explore the medium of video games for live cinematic storytelling that examines issues of race, marginalisation, and contemporary multiculturalism in Finland.