The gamification of care work

Fabric Workshop and Museum presents Risa Puno: Group Hug

2 minute read
Puno sits in a hexagonal structure, soft with fabrics, pillows, etc., holding a large polygonal shape
Risa Puno’s ‘Group Hug’ comes in collaboration with the Fabric Workshop and Museum. (Photo by Carlos Avendaño.)

It is rare and perhaps unheard of to enter a museum space anticipating to be cared for, but in Risa Puno’s first museum solo exhibition now running at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, that is exactly what you can expect.

Creations of comfort

Spanning the entire eighth floor of the museum, Group Hug, Puno's multimedia exhibition, utilizes the form of gameplay to explore the limitations and possibilities of care work. Through the pre-colonial Philippine concept of kapwa, the moral imperative to care for others, Puno’s installation not only encourages but demands a symbiotic relationship between the visitors in the space.

Visitors are offered two different paths: “care for” or “cared for.” As visitors walk through the soft and warmly lit sheets of fabric suspended from the ceiling, they are gently guided through to their chosen path. Then, the game begins. The player who chooses “care for” is thrust into an exhilarating game of Whac-A-Mole, and their dedication and prowess determine the effectiveness of their care.

Meanwhile, the player being cared for is invited to sit in a plush coconut reclining chair that is activated by the game of Whac-A-Mole simultaneously being played nearby. As the chair slowly reclines, a soothing voice and sounds of water play as you sink back to receive care. Puno says, “When visitors interact with immersive work, there’s an inherent level of generosity involved. They aren't just consuming something that I put out there—they are actively contributing to it. In the case of Group Hug, if they weren't willing to engage and put in work (like when caring for others) or trust me to literally support them (like when being cared for), then all these beautiful objects would just be a bunch of inert sculptures that would never truly be complete.”

To care and to be cared for

In the center of the exhibition space is a traditional Philippine dwelling known as a bahay kubo, where Puno generously provides context for the work. Inside, you can find intimate details about her family history handwritten on paper and personal ephemera, including photos of her wedding. While Puno has always utilized the language of games in her public sculpture work, this is the first time she has created work from a deeply personal space. Her father, an accomplished orthopedic spine surgeon for over three decades, was forced into retirement after a serious medical diagnosis. Understandably, this shifted the family dynamic where the father, a professional caregiver, was now the receiver of care. This time for Puno and her family has been challenging, and like the game Whac-A-Mole, these challenges pop up unpredictably one after another.

What, When, Where

Risa Puno: Group Hug. Through July 21, 2024, at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, 1214 Arch Street, Philadelphia. Free; suggested donation of $5. (215) 561-8888 or


Fabric Workshop and Museum’s main entrance is accessible to standard-size wheelchairs, and manual wheelchairs are available to borrow on a first-come, first-serve basis. The entrance does not have an automatic opener. All floors are accessible by elevator, and accessible single-user restrooms are available. Service animals are welcome.

For more information, call (215) 561-8888 or email [email protected].

Sign up for our newsletter

All of the week's new articles, all in one place. Sign up for the free weekly BSR newsletters, and don't miss a conversation.

Join the Conversation