SUBVERSIVE PLAY: ARTISTS CHALLENGING MECHANISMS OF SOCIAL CONTROL
Chloe Irla, David Page, Daniela Kostova, Luana Perili, Rachel Peachey and Paul Mosig, Songül Boyraz
curated by Izabel Galliera
The opening exhibition at the Structura Gallery engages in a worldwide conversation on the idea of play both as a critical concept and a medium of expression, considering playful environments and play objects as sites imbued with contradictory expectations and conceived for and with human bodies in mind. We typically associate play with freedom and creative expression but it often entails social norms deeply embedded in institutional structures. By creating and representing various playful environments, contemporary artists in the exhibition aim to challenge the lack of transparency of such norms that condition behaviors and body movements in public spaces.
In its multi-faceted and multi-layered aspects, the concept of play has a well-known presence in the Western history of modern and contemporary art. Capturing its subversive potential, Dadaists and Surrealists in the early 20th century, as well as Fluxus artists in the post-war period, have engaged with the concept of play as an artistic medium to challenge established art institutional boundaries by democratizing art making, using found materials and involving the participation of the audience.
More recent examples include Maurizio Cattelan’s Stadium (1991) that consisted in an oversized football table to accommodate eleven players per team, Tino Sehgal’s This Success, This Failure (2004) that transformed the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London into a playground for children from nearby inner-city schools, and Carsten Höller’s Test Site (2006) installed in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in London encompassing three large spiral slides that invited both adults and children to play.