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Spring 2022, Issue 12.1
Public Art and Play: A Serious Piece of Nonsense
Submission Deadline: September 30, 2021
Guest Editor: Anthony Schrag
The realms of art and play have been intertwined for generations—from Dada’s early performances, to the Guerrilla Girls’ humorous political acts. Similarly, the concept of “play” and its links to politics are apparent in artistic undertakings, for example the tongue-and-cheek Pimp My Carroça (2012) by Thiago Mundano, which uses popular visual culture to aid waste collectors in São Paulo; or Sreejata Roy’s Park (2008–2009), which turned a disused plot of land into a convivial space for a displaced community; or the Infecting the City Festival (2010–ongoing) in South Africa, which addresses complicated issues of publicness, common space and public access in often playful and lighthearted ways.
Indeed, whether it’s Daily Tour Les Jours’s 21 Musical Swings (2012) in Montreal, or the Tuna el Fuerte Cultural Park (2013) by Lab.Pro.Fab (Alejandro Haiek Coll, Eleanna Cadalso, and Michelle Sánchez de León) in Caracas, the aesthetics of play seem ubiquitous in public artwork. A deeper analysis of play within art, however, is less addressed and the current literature of play as a methodology predominately sits within the realms of psychology or sociology, providing little critical attention to the form and function of play within the realm of public art.
It appears that the strategy of using “play” within public art is often assumed to be too flippant or too inconsequential to offer sustained exploration, but when artist David Sherry suggested that such works can exist as a “serious piece of nonsense” (2008), it brings to the fore a reflection on how play can exist within a (serious) academic journal. How does the supposedly carefree approach of play function within public art and its analysis? How do the realms of seriousness and play intersect? How is an aesthetic of play to be examined? What are the political ramifications of play and public art? How does the lens of play offer specific and unique insights to our current predicaments, or is it only an easy engagement strategy for children and those adults young-at-heart? Can play offer a deeper understandings of public and participatory art?
Public Art Dialogue invites submissions on such questions for a special issue focusing on Public Art and Play. Submissions may explore works within the full range of art in the public realm—sited sculptures, monuments and memorials, performative and participatory public projects, temporary and permanent works. Submissions might also address public art policies, commissioning trends, and historical re-evaluations.