PlayArt: The Defining Art Form of the 21st Century

  • Date: Jul 15, 2017
  • Category: Art

Revolutionary Shift Towards Play in the Art World Continue reading

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Jul 15, 2017 /prREACH/ -- NEW YORK, NY: One could write a book about the subject of "how playfulness has increased on our planet" by leaps and bounds in the last few decades. Our planet has grown into a single, gigantic sphere of play. From the phenomenal growth of all playful institutions, entertainment centers, parks and playgrounds, to the explosive expansion of the hobby and the multi-billion-dollar gaming industry.

More than ever before, the younger generations are immersed in playful activities, and enthusiastically demonstrate that play has become a significant, essential and critical element of life in society. It is the source of creativity, happiness, and culture; literally, all of culture is a form of play. Even science is intimately connected to play. As Einstein said "Play is the highest form of research."

Brian Sutton-Smith, a play theorist who wrote 50 books on Play, predicted that the 21st century would be the "Century of Play". He could hardly have foreseen to what surprising extent his prediction would become a reality. Undoubtedly, such intensive absorption in play never existed in history.

When Ernst Lurker, as an art student in 1962, created several sculptures that invited audience participation, he labeled them "PlayArt". It was a very logical designation, and in the late sixties, he introduced his work to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. MoMA instantly commissioned one of his pieces for production and subsequent sales at the museum store. Thus the category of "PlayArt" was born. It is astonishing how the terminology became popularized virtually overnight. It resonates with society on a global scale, including countries that do not use the English language.

The fact that today’s younger generations grow up with a multitude of interactive, electronic devices produces immense shifts in their attitudes. When they visit any kind of exhibition, they get bored with static displays or artwork. Their attention can only be captured when they have an opportunity to become actively involved. PlayArt is obviously the direction that museum curators have acknowledged by reinventing the museum environment.

Science museums were the trailblazers in this transformation, and art museums are also beginning to see how “hands-on” and “playful” exhibits are quickly becoming the norm. While the terms "play" or "PlayArt" are by no means universally accepted in these circles, the outmoded concepts of "do not touch" die with great reluctance. But the radical shift has indeed occurred, and the playful environment and in particular PlayArt are here to stay.

Ernst Lurker is a PlayArt artist based in New York and is the founder of the PlayArt movement. The movement now includes more than 1,000 artists worldwide, and the number is steadily growing. They also appear to be the most talented and innovative group of artists. PlayArt captures the viewer’s imagination, stimulates curiosity and gives rise to the joy of discovery and play. Ernst maintains that, "Not since the Renaissance, has the popular culture corresponded to art as it does today. PlayArt has become the leading and defining art form of the 21st century."

Alexander Calder is a prime example of a playful artist, which makes him a prominent pioneer of PlayArt. Other PlayArt artists include, Lygia Clark, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, Ernesto Neto, Carsten Höller, Olafur Eliasson, and Tomás Saraceno. They have exhibited in numerous art museums; Clark at  MoMA, MacAdam at the Macro Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, Neto at the Venice Biennale, Höller at the Tate Modern in London and the New Museum in New York, Eliasson also at the Tate Modern and at the Berlin Biennale, and Saraceno at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

About PlayArt: PlayArt is an art form that invites the viewer to ignore the old and established rule of the art world, "do not touch". All its components or elements seem to require some form of manipulation. The viewer sees movable and variable parts that need some form of action. Whether the viewer becomes occupied with these elements or simply observes, it creates a playful mindset, and this capacity is the critical distinction to all other art forms. This mindset captures the viewer’s imagination, stimulates curiosity, relieves stress and tension, it is the source of creativity, the joy of discovery and play. Most PlayArt artists regard the viewer’s individual experience as the actual work of art and dismiss the material objects, as expensive they may be, merely as props. In Lygia Clark’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, NY (2014), the museum labeled her corresponding attitude THE ABANDONMENT OF ART. It was the subtitle of the catalogue.

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Ernst Lurker

Play is the highest form of research.
- Einstein
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