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The Art of Domino

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Domino (sometimes spelled dominoes) is a game of chance and skill that involves placing tiles edge-to-edge to form a line, with one side of each tile showing a number and the other either blank or matching a specific total. The values of the two ends, referred to as pips, vary depending on the game played; the heaviest value is a double-six. A game can only progress if all players are able to play their tiles in turn. When a player can no longer add to the line, they “knock” the table and pass play to the next player.

The Chinese invented the first modern domino set in 1602; it was called pupai and featured 88 tiles with different images on each face. These were arranged in two rows of 32 pieces each. The domino pieces were carved from solid jade, and the set was designed to represent all of the 21 possible results of throwing two six-sided dice. A second, more common set was developed in the 18th century. This set was based on the 28 dominoes found in the Western set, but included more numbered ends and allowed for a larger number of combinations. It was also a lot bigger, containing 91 pieces.

Unlike Western dominoes, Chinese dominoes do not have blank sides, and they are typically made from wood, though they can be made from ceramic. A Chinese domino is usually about twice as long as it is wide, and each piece is carved with the pips on one end and an image or symbol on the other. Some sets include a domino that has no pips on either end, and is often referred to as a “wild” or “double-blank” tile.

When Hevesh creates a new installation, she starts with the theme or purpose of the work and then brainstorms images or words that might be related. She draws sketches and makes test versions of each section of the design on a flat arrangement before beginning to build in three-dimensional form. The process is iterative, and she often films her experiments in slow motion to help make corrections when things don’t quite work out as planned.

Each time a domino is placed, it stores energy. Its vertical position against the force of gravity gives it potential energy, and the energy increases as it is held upright by the other dominoes that form a chain. When the first domino falls, much of this potential energy is converted to kinetic energy — the energy of motion – and transferred to the dominoes below it. This creates a chain reaction that continues until all of the dominoes have fallen.

When you are tackling a big project, it helps to break the process down into good dominoes. These are tasks that contribute to your goals and have a positive ripple effect when they are completed. For example, Jennifer Dukes Lee’s decision to begin making her bed each day was a good domino because it reinforced the idea that she was an organized, responsible person. She was able to apply this new self-image in other areas of her life and build identity-based habits.