Tag Archives: Play

The Space of Play

More on the relationship of art to play, thanks to artist Julie Heyward, from her blog, Unreal Nature:

From A Philosophy of Sport by Steven Connor (2011):

… The space of play is carefully patrolled, to the millimetre. For there can be no mind-space, no space between secular space and the space of play. Either the ball has wholly crossed the line, and it is a goal, or it has not, and play will continue from where it left off. If a lace from the cricket fielder’s boot is in contact with the boundary rope when he takes the lofted catch, it will be four runs; if not, the batsman is dismissed. If the ball is deemed to have clipped the line — betrayed by the puff of chalk or detected by the automatic sensor — there may be a new grand slam champion; if it misses, the player’s chance may have receded forever. In this sense at least, in its implacable abhorrence of the middle way, its intolerance of any tertium quid, there seems to be no room for play in the space of play.

… The stadium effects the opening, the admission without access, to this arbitrary and absolute space of irrevocable arbitrations. In play: that is to say, in crisis.

Yet it is for precisely this reason that the crisis of play runs quietly and cleanly through the middle of it, that, in the space of play, space is neither given nor fixed. Instead, it is absolutely in play, which is to say, the subject of continuous contention.

… In thinking of the space of play, we will repeatedly have to cope with the following contortion. The space of play is set off, by an act of pure decision, by the simple decision to mark out a space in which to decide the matter. In this space of play, space is decidedly in play, in a way that it is not in spaces not so marked off.

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The Serious Work of Playing

As a young aspiring artist seeking to legitimize myself and my career path in the eyes of parents and other “adults,” I insisted that what I did was work! After all, the products of artistic creation are called art “work.” We typically dismiss the dilettante as one who merely plays at art instead of working seriously. As I’ve grown older, and wiser (perhaps), I’ve become more comfortable with the notion of art as a rarefied form of play. Society thinks of play as something adults should outgrow with childhood, but most animals, humans excepted, continue to play until the day they die. The problem is that the nature of play is misunderstood. There’s more to play than meets the eye it would seem.

In a segment titled Play, Spirit & Character, on National Public Radio’s program On Being, Krista Tippett interviews Stuart Brown, physician, founder and director of the National Institute for Play. NPR has this to say about the interview:

“Stuart Brown, a physician and director of the National Institute for Play, says that pleasurable, purposeless activity prevents violence and promotes trust, empathy, and adaptability to life’s complication. He promotes cutting-edge science on human play, and draws on a rich universe of study of intelligent social animals.”

The interview is an audio recording. Listen to it while you’re working (playing):  Play, Spirit & Character

Other links on play and creativity:

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