Joe Ahearn

Maldives Trading


In collaboration with Amani Naseem, this game was conceived during “Play Around Nature” in a series of public play events in the Maldives, 2013.

Maldives Trading is a three-day Alternative Reality Game that traces the trajectories of Maldivian stories as they enter and explore a new community.

Small sculptures with a telephone number inscribed on them form game pieces that bring people into the Maldives Trading universe.  Each sculpture – for example: a whale shark, kelp, flying fish, diaper, a piece of the moon – is intertwined with personal story told by a Maldivian during the making of the game.

Initial players take a game piece from an on site installation and call the Maldives Trading robo-calling ledger system phone number, which delivers the original story behind the object, then invites the player to trade the game piece onwards by telling its story.

New players receive a game piece only by trading with a previous player for it, not necessarily aware of the game during the exchange.  To play, the new player then calls the Maldives Trading robo-calling ledger system phone number, which asks the player to recount the story of the personal item that they just traded away, and then invites the player to trade their game piece onwards as well by telling its story.

At every trade, the Maldives Trading robo-calling ledger system calls every player of Maldives Trading and delivers the story of an item that was just traded in exchange for a game piece.  If the stories sound exciting, interesting, fun, or just valuable, it may be worth seeking and trading for the game piece again, if only to trade it for the next interesting thing.


Joe Ahearn is a leading voice in U.S.A’s network of underground music and performance spaces, recently listed as number one in Flavorwire’s 50 Up-and-Coming New York Culture Makers to Watch in 2013. Joe is the Curator of Performance and Installation at The Clocktower Gallery in Lower Manhattan. Under the direction of Alanna Heiss, founder and former director of PS1, and alongside David Weinstein, founder of Roulette, he has organized over 100 events in this experimental performance space during the last 2 years in coordination with over 40 residencies annually and 4 large scale exhibitions, emphasizing collaborations between visual and audio artists and encouraging artists to push beyond the mediums and contexts they’re comfortable with. Since 2008, Ahearn been curator and organizer at the Silent Barn, a space for music, literature, installations and performance art. He is especially involved with the Party Lab project, a recording installation that condenses event experiences into an ocean of cassette tapes.