Plus 3 Ferris Wheels

Lilianne Milgrom
December 20, 2007, 1:45 pm
Filed under: Plus 3 Ferris Wheels

Musical Chairs, 2004 (filmed in Israel)
Running Time: 2:12 mins
Lilianne Milgrom – Fairfax Virginia


Chairs have always held a fascination for me – from their functionality, beauty and intrinsic human qualities. Throughout the ages, the “seat” has symbolically represented power and social standing. Today, the chair is no less a symbol of undeniable power, if somewhat more subtly disguised. In this video work, I am exploring the chair as metaphor, taking as my launching point the universally recognized children’s game of musical chairs.

My memories of playing musical chairs as a child are still tinged with feelings of anxiety, desperation and humiliation. I know from questioning many others, that I am not alone in harboring these sorts of memories. The competitive and often aggressive behaviors released during the game have long been a source of educational and psychological research. It is no surprise that the BBC reported in 2003 that “the traditional children’s party game of musical chairs has been accused of breeding violence. A booklet, launched by the British Education Minister, says that nursery schools should consider playing a less aggressively competitive game…” The upbeat, lighthearted tunes cannot mask the true purpose of the game – to win at the expense of others.

The implications of musical chairs can easily be superimposed upon the struggles in our lifelong journey to grab that one special chair which will be ours to occupy for life. We may strive to sit in multiple chairs – chairs of power, wealth, security, marriage, etc. These places must often be fought over; we pay a high emotional price for attaining our very own chair, often by stepping on weaker contenders and knocking aside our competitors.

There are, however, those within our society whom the game defeats completely. Musical chairs is a game of absolutes – you either win the chair or you do not. There is only one irrefutable winner. Just as there are some who are crushed and defeated in the struggle to find their place in the world, the majority of the world’s population cannot even aspire to have the chance to play – they have very few if any, prospects of even entering the game. Survival is the only game they are playing.

Within the context of our society, we have all experienced setbacks and disappointments, watching as others take possession of that coveted chair. It is not hard to identify with ‘Xander’ who laments on an internet dating site : “Do you ever feel that the world is a giant game of musical chairs and the music’s stopped and you’re the only one who doesn’t have a chair?”

3 Comments so far
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My favorite part is when the final chair being fought over and the chair has no back or seat. I also found myself getting vaguely uncomfortable watching this video and the adults acting like every vicious children. When they were wrestling over a chair I felt like someone should jump in and break them up saying things like “you could put out someone’s eye.” I think I might secretly be an 80 year old.

Comment by Adrienne Marks

This is really sad. That people would fight over this stupid game. This shows how childish we are, even though we are grown. This also could be seen within our governments.

Comment by Nate Bell

I enjoyed how the adults clearly displayed rejection, defeat, disappointment even on small or large levels. Their expressions matched the ones I could see in my imagination of memories from childhood. The end result with the 2 adults “sitting on the chair, one up-side-down and one right-side-up put a friendly and positive conclusion to the otherwise overly-wrought argument over a chair at the end there. I appreciate your comparison of the game to society at large.

Comment by Laura S.

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