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The Artist: working?…playing? – seminar transcription
Presented by ResCen

Tuesday 20 April 2004

Venue: The Theatre Museum, Covent Garden

 
Research Associates:
  Ghislaine Boddington
  Richard Layzell
  Rosemary Lee
  Graeme Miller
Chair:
  Professor Christopher Bannerman
     
transcribed by:
  Yael Lowenstein
edited by:
  Jane Watt
photographs by:
  Vipul Sangoi

This seminar transcript can be downloaded in full
as an Adobe Acrobat pdf file (file size: 260 Kb)

 

 
Introduction by Christopher Bannerman

Chris BannermanWelcome. ResCen is the Centre for Research into the Creation of the Performing Arts. This evening I have been joined by three of our six research associates (we are also expecting Graeme Miller, he may rush in at any moment!). I am delighted that Richard Layzell is here, Rosemary Lee and Ghislaine Boddington. As you may know from the other seminars that we’ve been holding, we usually have a special invited guest who will engage our research in conversation and bounce particular ideas and concepts back and forth.

We thought that tonight we would engage in more of a debate with you and invite you to be prepared to participate. This is in response to feedback saying “wouldn’t it be nice to have more debate” and also because of other arrangements that we are making simultaneously for our series. So we put this in our notice and we expect you to therefore be prepared! Speaking of preparation, you will also find on your seat strips of paper, upon which are written some words which have arisen in our internal discussions.

How did we arrive at those words? Well, the ResCen research associates have been meeting regularly now for over three years. A lot of those sessions have been closed sessions and we’ve let the debate flow fairly freely (although upon occasion we’ve focused in on specific points). I’ve looked back over those three years and selected certain strands for themes. The one that we’ve selected for tonight’s discussion is ‘The Artist, Working? Playing?’ In part, I have to say that this theme also came from an engagement with other people who come to ResCen events. One such event that we held was called NightWalking which was a conference based at the South Bank Centre. The word ‘play’ came up at that event. What was interesting about it was, although everyone took the word and worked with it quite positively, there was a particular point in time at which suddenly a number of people felt that actually the word ‘play’ should not be used in association with the arts because the status of the artist was not yet secure enough. It was not yet established enough; it was not yet regarded seriously enough by society. Therefore, to challenge the notion of the artist as frivolous, self-obsessed, the word ‘play’ should be excluded from our lexicon and we should instead focus on ‘work’. This was also a theme that was brought out in a book called Art and Not Chance published by the Gulbenkian Foundation. In both a book launch and a preface, Sian Ede made the point very strongly that the artist was working and we need to see the artist as a worker in order to reinforce the professional status. I don’t want to emphasize that aspect of the discussion too much, but none-the-less, it did come up and is something we’ve taken on in response to the discussions we’ve had with you.

So here we are this evening. We’re going to launch into this evening by having each of the research associates respond to the words on the bit of paper. However, in the spirit of flow and fluidity, I’m going to allow them, and you, to ignore the words on that bit of paper if you so wish. They each have up to five minutes to give you some thoughts about working and playing, and then we go straight to you and engage with you. So I hope that we have a lively discussion.

I should say thanks to all members of the ResCen team for helping us get this event together: Natalie Daniel, Ildi Solti, Jane Watt, and also we’re joined by Yael Lowenstein and Vipul Sangoi who are helping with the documentation of this evening. This evening is being recorded on audio and video recording and we will be using that material to put on our website for academic and non-commercial purposes only.

So feel free to let your thoughts flow! I should also say that this is all part of a series and a project called Navigating the Unknown which is funded by NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, so thank you to NESTA. And thank you too to the Theatre Museum for allowing us to be here in this space. We’ve tried to find situations in which we can feel comfortable as a group and although we are slightly raised here, so that you can see us, we do not feel elevated in any way in any other terms. We are very much here to engage with you. So welcome and I now turn the discussion, the first part of the presentation, over to the research associates. I think I’ll start in opposite order and ask Ghislaine to open.

 

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back to top Ghislaine Boddington      Ghislaine BoddingtonI’ve got ‘collective’ so that’s very good for me! I’m Ghislaine Boddington and I work within specialist collective groupings. I work with shinkansen and Future Physical and my background comes through Chisenhale Dance Space. I’ve actually spent the last twenty to twenty four years working in groups: collective groupings of artists and multi-skilled people; working together in group projects. (I’ve just noticed myself saying ‘working’ together there.)

Thinking about this theme ‘play’ which, as Chris says, has come up a lot in the last years at ResCen… In the group-work side of what I’m involved in, there have been points quite often across the last fifteen years with the shinkansen project where we’ve been in the lucky position – and it’s also been very hard work – of setting up environments which are kind of playgrounds for artists to work in. And there are a few people here this evening who have been involved in those. These ‘playgrounds’ could be residencies or workshops – we do quite a lot of club nights. We do a lot of what we call network exchange projects, where we bring maybe forty to two hundred people together for a few days. These projects can be one or two days, or four week long ones, but in general they are about gathering together a group of people in a particular set of spaces and then given tools to play with – to research and to see what can come out of that experimentation. What I probably should say is that the main emphasis of our work is on performance and technology. So the tools I’m talking about are digital technology tools. So maybe they are our toys in a sense, particularly in this research, process based group projects. With shinkansen we’ve done about forty of these projects. I’m not talking small here. We’re talking about four thousand artists worldwide have gone through these different group projects. We’re just fifteen this year and we’ve just been analyzing this.

I was thinking as we were planning this, thinking about how did shinkansen start to get those projects together? And how do we feel about it? And in fact, we start by looking at what the need is out there and the gaps in what provision there is for professional artists to experiment with different things. Then within the group of shinkansen, we play with that idea, with a theme and an issue. What we often talk about is the ‘luxury liner’ idea. We call it ‘luxury liner’ and it’s like the “don’t hold back, just let this idea come through” and “let’s see what we should really be trying to do.” Ultimately of course, you never get to do the luxury liner because the luxury liner budget is the top level budget and you hopefully end up aiming for the middle level budget. You often end up on the lower level budget. So you’re running three budgets all the time. But you just actually let the ideas to flow and play at that beginning point. So then we gather people together and there’s lots of equipment and often the beginning of those residencies – I work as a kind of process enabler – I’ve learned that when you’ve got lots of toys to play with and you’ve got three or four different spaces actually they just want to go for it. There’s a lot of excitement and energy that come from bringing people together in a special place. And a release when there’s no output. When we’ve got those research projects we don’t have to come out with a product which is going to be performed in front of people at the end of those 4 weeks. It may be that the project emerges maybe four months later and the reworked project comes through. We do often get to a point where everybody wants to play with everything at once and it’s this crazy point where all the technology is in use. What I’ve learned to do is just let that happen because across the first two or three days in an environment where you’ve got lots of space and lots of toys, you can really just go wild with it and quickly it becomes clear that it’s not going to work like that. It gets so complex that it has to be simplified. What we do now is let that happen. Let everybody play for a couple of days and then go “okay now, we’ve got to start pulling stuff out of this environment”. It’s a kind of simple/complex thing that happens.

The other area that we work on that I should mention is that we work obviously a lot with interactive digital media projects, so with installations in performances, commissioning work and producing work particularly through the Future Physical programme for the past two years where the audience – the public that come to those projects – get to participate. So the interactive situation, whether it’s screen based or sensors, or motion sensors or sound, you’ve got your audience becoming the creative user. And that creative user side of our work, we’ve documented quite carefully through six projects with Future Physical. I’m not going to talk about that much because Debbie Landor my partner is here and she’s been leading that research side. So I know she can talk about that. The word ‘play’ has come up a lot in the work that we’ve done with international groups from all over the world who are working to create interactive environments for the public to play within or to participate within. But I know that we have become careful about the word ‘play’ in relationship to chosen environments. There is a big debate out there, there’s a couple of books and there are quite a few people doing PhDs on digital media interfaces, who are questioning the concept of maybe being a bit derogative to a public or audience coming into play with your work. And also, the actual themes of those installations or performance pieces are not always just entertainment. There are many which are wonderful where you actually are playing or making shapes or sounds. There are some very serious themes out there like Blast Theory working with the Gulf War theme, taking quite serious issues where the word ‘play’ in their environments is maybe not the right way to talk about it even though the work they do is highly interactive and very much about the participant making it happen. That’s something I would like to put down for a bit more discussion.

 

 
back to top Rosemary Lee      Richard LayzellI came unprepared believing that the words would just tell me what to say. My words are ‘work out’ (I’ve taken two since Graeme Miller isn’t here yet) and ‘play safe.’ And that made me think a little bit about trying to talk about the difference between work and play. At one point in our discussions yesterday I started to feel that work and play were very similar actually and that I believe that the two extremes usually meet in the end – a circle. I actually think that the state of play and the state of work are pretty similar.

The main thing with a word like ‘work out’ seems to be about effort. And working out or working something out of someone is wrought. It feels like you’ve got to get your hands in there and you have to work to get something: there’s a lot of effort. It’s kind of a struggle. Whereas the word ‘play’ – although I’ll come back to ‘play safe’ – seems to make us think of something that’s quite effortless and flowing. It hadn’t occurred to me until yesterday when Graeme [Miller] said to me that the button on the VCR, or on our cassette player is ‘play’. When we press ‘play’, why is the word ‘play’ there? I find that really fascinating... [Graeme Miller enters]

So Graeme made me think of play being something about a journey, about a flow, about not being able to stop something. Stop. Start. Come in. Then you find work in it. When you press play, something is flowing forwards. And if I take that into my work and think about improvising, improvising is very close to play in its biggest sense. However, it’s very considered as well. A good improviser is someone who has got to a state of play, I would say thoughtful play, where they’re acutely empathetic with the bigger picture of the group they’re in or the situation they’re in, but also, they’re able to allow what is going to happen to happen. So it’s a funny balance between letting there be a flow and allowing something to happen. But also knowing when to press fast-forward, rewind, stop, start, whatever it is in the frame. So this funny mixture (which is what I mean about the meeting), there’s a funny mixture of work and considered play. And it feels to me that playing is a kind of state. It’s about how you are when you’re playing. I think there are lots of actions to do when you’re playing but it’s also a state of being: a playful state. You can be good at it and you can be not so good at it which means it can also be seen as a skill as well.

I know there’s a lot of discussion about learning through play. Here’s just a little anecdote about a child who had very severe eczema on her hands – this is a true story. Her hands were bound for the first two or three years of her life which meant she couldn’t pick up blocks and things; she couldn’t play very kinaesthetically. She had real problems with maths for the next ten years and that’s because she didn’t ever feel shape, or find ways of balancing, purely because she couldn’t play. That really stayed with me. I don’t know what that has to do with the discussion, but I think what that means is that we have to play in order to learn, we have to be curious in order to learn and that is all very linked to play.

And yet why do we see play as frivolous? Why is there a sort of sense that (Chris mentioned) maybe it wasn’t very professional to say “well we’re just playing there in the studio” and many of us find that difficult to admit that we’re being paid to play or paid to sleep. Maybe now as people start to see play as a way of learning again, maybe it will be valued more. The more I think about it, the more I realise that I’m constantly trying to learn how to play better as a dancer and I think I’ve got a long way to go. To me it feels like something you have to re-find, or it’s something you’ve got to work. And that’s what I mean about how ‘work out’ and ‘play’ somehow starts to meet.

‘Playing it safe’? Often words for play (and maybe you’ve got them on your seats), they’re often about being a bit naughty, about risk. Let me find my list of words…
The work words (we probably had less of them anyway), the work words were all about rules: workaholic; work off; set to work… it’s all a bit like this.
And play? Play about, play along, play it back, play ball, play it by ear, play your cards right, play it fast and loose, play hooky, play hard-to-get, play with yourself…
There’s lots of sort of naughty sides to play, and so playing it safe for me would be when a piece didn’t work very well, because somehow I’ve played it safe at the beginning of the piece too much. I didn’t go onto the edge to find where it might have gone. And if I play safe? I suppose for me ‘playing it safe’ means staying in the same paddock. I have to admit, I’m probably always in the same paddock, but I have to pretend I’m not. And pretending is about playing isn’t it? That’s what I’ll end with.

The other thing that fascinates me is why is a play called a play? Why are we players? on this little stage here… It seems such a serious endeavour and skill and yet playing for a child would seem as something totally spontaneous. And that link between something very spontaneous and something very worked, I find very fascinating because perhaps what we’re trying to learn to be, by pretending is to be spontaneous.

 

 
back to top Christopher Bannerman     Richard?

 

 
  Richard Layzell     Richard LayzellMy word was ‘anxiety’. It seems kind of appropriate because I do feel anxious. It’s the stage. Maybe it’s the voice inside me saying “Richard, don’t speak publicly about play, don’t do it!” But I will say something. I think I’m going to look at simplicity and sophistication as two extremes. I’m a visual artist and I spent eight years (if you include A-levels) exploring this intense place of the visual arts, where play was never mentioned over those eight years. I had an interesting time and when I finished all of that there was this strange relief to be able to relax a bit and engage differently with people and a practice. I had this weight of art history and the context of contemporary art practice within the framework of the institution of art education – you can feel the weight of that just through the language. And then I stepped across into the world of performance art; I explored through workshops in shape actually. My approach to making was much more spontaneous and intuitive and direct. And suddenly, I could look at people in the face and smile and be funny even, witty, okay, even funny. So that’s one brief story.

Another one is as someone who works as a facilitator with people who aren’t artists in any sense, working with adults, who maybe are professional. I work once a year in Greece on Skyros – and these people they want something from me. And they’re very scared of the word ‘art’. Even ‘creativity’ is threatening for them, but if I talk about ‘play’ they’re okay. And I witnessed them playing and it’s very moving. But I just see this hunger in people who are a lot like us who are involved in the arts… Why is there this hunger? Where does it go? This ability to integrate play and creativity into our lives, what happens with education with being told that you can’t do this, that you can’t sing? I just can’t sing, so I’m not going to. And what does that do to adults who secretly know that they want something more? So I guess it’s about the myth of adulthood. I think we’re taught to be adults and what the hell does that mean? So that’s another little story…

The third one: I looked in the thesaurus for the root words for ‘play’, and from that ‘amuse oneself’. ‘Dance’ appears as a root, as does ‘sport’, but not visual art. Another word was ‘flow’, so water in motion. Another verb was ‘oscillate’ – breathe, sway, nod. The fourth one was ‘variegate’, tattoo, striate and too change colour. So you put ‘play’ in the thesaurus and it’s kind of interesting. The words are a bit of a journey.

I’ve got another story – these are like pictures I suppose. I worked in industry for sometime as an artist. I didn’t use the word ‘artist’ in the end because it wasn’t appropriate – too confusing for people. I remember having a meeting with a chief executive with a new company in Bishopsgate (it’s an international company with an American parent based in Silicon Valley). We sat down and he said to me “Richard, in our mission statement in the US, one of key aims is to have fun as a company. Well, I don’t think we’re doing that very well. Can you help us with this? How much do you charge for that?” Part of the process of that was I discovered that ‘fun’ has a different meaning in America than it does here. It’s a lot broader a term actually. ‘Fun’ means an alternative to work. I think play is kind of closer to that. So I think ‘play’ is a kind of taboo word here in the UK. I think fun is complicated too. It’s like the power of these words.

So the fourth story I wanted to share with you is some objects. [He pulls out objects from a bag]

[Picks up a pink and white flowered sun hat] It doesn’t look like much really, this hat. I might put on. You’ll smile – you won’t be able to help yourselves. Why did I buy this hat? I bought it in Australia. You can’t get one anymore. I got it in Perth. It reminded me of a sculpture that I made in Maidenhead. I thought it (the hat) might have a use beyond the sun. It’s appeared now in two or three performances and it has much more meaning than that to me now.

[Picks up a length of silk fabric] It doesn’t look like much – some silk – but it was introduced to me by an architect collaborator called James Engall. It ended up being part of an installation called Shake, Rattle and Shave and it’s just a bit of old silk but it moves in the most extraordinary way and I ended up having fans, which again doesn’t sound much but it was mesmeric. I found this piece of material in a small way, life changing.

[description] These two glasses I also used in an exhibition whilst I was performing in it. Funny?

[description] This T-shirt (which I bought for an invented artist called Tanya) this is her kind of material. It formed one of her best pieces… Funny?

[description] This is from corporate life. This small curtain was designed for a plaque which was opened by Winston Churchill. It was designed and made by an artist collaborator called Kevin O’Khan. Doesn’t look much – for me, heavily loaded in my past as an artist. Opened by Winston Churchill who met Michael Hesseltine on the same occasion. Michael Hesseltine was real, Winston Churchill was a look-alike. This small piece of metal doesn’t look much, but it’s a key element with an installation I’m working on with the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The colour has been chosen precisely to relate to the colour of the brick work. It’s also to the work of the school. This is one of several hundred of these which appear on the wall. So I suppose… I mean I’ve got more… Again, from the same installation: a metal plate with inscription, a title and date of event (a playful event), galvanized steel, 1990. This is a factual piece. There are several of these plaques within the same corridor. It was meant to be funny, meant to be playful but also tells a real story about the history of this corridor that I’ve been modifying and working on. This plaque is not just any old plaque, it’s made by the same people who make the plaques throughout the school. I went to the same man to get the identical typeface with the same material. So I guess that’s what I’ve learned about this. It’s so easy to say that ‘play’ is nothing and yet it can be such a big part of one’s practice.

 

 
back to top Graeme Miller      Graeme MillerWell this is a bit of a deep end! Relating to the words? I’ll take it from this one ‘in play’. It makes me think of throwing a ball into a game. The ball’s in play. I don’t know if we touched on this. I’m kind of interested in defining what’s play by what’s not play. I had an idea or a question as to whether play has to end? You were talking earlier about a sort of meditative state of play where one thing roles onto another.

One idea I have about ‘play’, an absolute constant from childhood, is that ‘play’ is an antidote to boredom and a very close cousin of it. Fiddling about is a kind of endless roll of wallpaper. And the experience I’ve had of play is really from school. There play was very defined. So the kind of frustration of maybe two lessons is suddenly released in fifteen minutes. At one point in my life I was the bell monitor. I was the person who was given the bell which meant that you were given the bell and went out into this lonely playground with this thing in your hand and give it a good ring and it would unleash hell. There’d be this sound of running and then fifteen minutes of play and the bell would ring again and it would all quieten down and go very quiet. So the school day is divided into work and play. One is a kind of relief from the other. So although a lot of stuff might be being learned in the playground, the whole joy of it is that it’s totally unsupervised (except for a bit of minimizing of violence I suppose), but it’s not feeding in towards what is learned, learning of a different sort goes on. This idea of a kind of voice or state of play or state that is work… there is a line between those that exist within me. It’s like the sort of way that things like transactional analysis would divide aspects of your personality or voices within you as a sort of parental voice. I can really detect those working, those distinctions about how I go about work, and also how I go about getting others to work.

Maybe with performers, to set limits and to set time frames may well be the thing that allows you to go from an endlessly unrolling state of play into something that’s maybe more intense that can take more risks. I was thinking about this, about the way visual artists might work, observing quite a few people doing that.

I’m interested in tidying-up time. That you can have a time when you go make a big mess in your work space. Not everyone works like that, but a lot of people do. And then there’s tidying-up time, and the kind of ritual. You almost change from parent to child and you go ‘tuck, tuck, tuck’. There’s a kind of analysis going on and each liberates one from the other.

I wonder if the endless integration of fun into work could actually weigh the whole thing down to some extent, and what we should actually do is ask if it becomes a sort of grey mixture of the two, we maybe missing out on the possibilities on the work side, rolling up your sleeves and, in particularly, ordering stuff you might have generated. That would be a classic example and absolute practice of work made from improvisation is that you make stuff from play and then kind of put it into print, you somehow capture that, make it repeatable in some way. Obviously a lot of people do that. I’d argue that in a way there’s a kind of set of rule to a wider game that you’re playing with yourself which is about playing teacher and playing kid. And those are actually quite useful processes to separate out because you can’t necessarily have them going on at the same time.

In a discussion we had yesterday, I saw myself sort of mucking around at the back of my own class as my kind of practice. It makes it fun. I really enjoyed mucking around at the back of the class. But I needed a class to muck around in the back of.

I have investigated play in quite a big way (including adults in a state of play) during periods of one to three weeks. We were shut away, it was just going on all the time. Again, there was a huge need for containment and to make breaks just to keep people sane and fed and also to record and observe.

So there’s two delineations between play and not play. The other form of play, if you think of the VCR idea of play is ‘pause’. ‘Stop’ and ‘pause’ as opposed to ‘work’: a useful delineation. It’s not just something that happens in a bout, but it happens within a beginning and an end. Play also happens within a space as well. Both are qualities which are requirements of what you call ritual.

Just another thought about play and work is my own process of play and then capture, if you like. Letting something out of the bag and jumping on it and holding it still. The challenge for me is then not to catch a butterfly and pin it to the board or sandwich it between the glass, but to maintain a kind of live capture. In a sense I found myself softening those boundaries saying “this is an act of play – generate stuff, because it’s about a work. Order it”. So what I’m talking about is to retain the essence of beginning, middle and end of something, but also to allow passages that are flexible and can be improvised within a space, a staged performance. The greater the number of unknown links, that would be how normally I’d approach it. How you’d get form A to B would be charted, how you got from C to D would be, but how you got from B to D maybe you’ve got to figure out in the moment. And that in order to retain this state of play, there’s a sort of ‘in play’ state. My conviction is that if you are in an ‘in play’ state, then it’s inevitable that you’ll ‘play out’. My feeling is that if all you need to do is enter into a state of play with the right ingredients and find the right rules that go with those ingredients then that will create an inevitable set of circumstances that will lead to the integral authorship of a piece of work. I kind of feel that in play is what you’ve got to get to and a willingness to play out your end, if you like, or the sweet end. What ever the end might be.

I like this idea about enactment, that the content, the narrative, will be unearthed inevitably just as children somehow perform a kind of conclusion. Just as you look at a playtime, you could analyse playtime and give it marks out of ten. It can be a good one – ending with a good fight in the corner and the girls separating out from the boys and the wind blowing – or an average one, or a not so good one. There’s a sense, even with a group of people, especially in things that involve pairs, triangles, quartets, whatever, that there’s a playing out to be done, we discover that by being in play.

 

 
back to top Christopher Bannerman     And now is the time when your participation begins, so please, questions, comments, responses, thoughts about words on your seats… Who’s going first? The ball’s in play!

 

 
  Audience member      On my seat it says ‘alone’. Now ‘alone’ and ‘play’… To me as an artist it is very important sometimes to be in that space of being alone, and then the ‘play’ happens. But I don’t like to work alone in a way. More and more I’m working collaboratively and collectively with people; involving people in my processes and in my work. I was reflecting a little bit on this alone thing. Because in fact, personally, again, I will repeat this, I have to be alone in order to play and actually in order to find that connection with others. Even though I was thinking why do I have this word ‘alone’? Actually I’m really totally involved not just in communicating but bring together people through projects. I just wanted to say this and reiterate from everybody else that play is extremely important. Play is not that word that one should not dismiss lightly. It is not a word that is only applicable to the child. Because in fact we, as adults (if we’re not, then there’s something amiss) we’re still the child within. That playfulness, and that state of play sometimes is absolutely crucial for the work to develop, for the work to go elsewhere, for the work to be in motion…

 

 
  Audience member      My first though about play in association with what we do as dancers is the association with music: playing the instrument. I very much picked up what you were saying Rosemary, about the situation one is creating between a notion of work and discipline, and spontaneity. Of course as a dancer you’re not only playing the instrument, you’re fashioning it at the same time. So I think particularly for dancers, the idea of playing an instrument becomes something that we’re talking about, a very refined and sophisticated idea of play, which I’m not particularly articulating at this moment. There’s a great big space there between discipline, found objects, histories that we’re bring in and are in touch with. So not only playing with other people, we’re playing with the past and ideas. We’re playing with our own sense of bodily action, the idea of spontaneity in creativity is something that is interesting for the dancer.

 

 
  Audience member      I’m a performer and I use objects, dolls, that sort of thing. My word was ‘the unknown’ and I went along looking at the options on the seats.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     After you read that word?

 

 
  Audience member      I thought ‘the unknown’ was really… it’s the unknown that you have an idea and you start building. You suddenly realize that although you probably started off being certain of something, almost immediately you’re in a totally unknown feeling or situation. And you’ve got this gaping, horrible, empty, hungry hollow inside of you and you think “could this be a huge mistake?” I know from my experience that that is my creative process. I have this horrible emptiness. I felt that just before I gave birth to my children. I suppose there’s a connection, though I’m not sure about the emptiness. What I find is the ‘play’ part of it, there’s a yearning to play. There’s a moment where everything’s dead serious and painful. This time in two months I’ll be playing to people, who are going to watch me perform. There’s the “soon, the bell will go and I will go out and play.” There’s that sort of feeling. Then there’s the feeling when you can relax into the process of making and you can start to play with the objects, discover new things about what you want to do. So playing is what is going to make the unknown bearable and possible, before getting into the end process…

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     Interesting. Interesting also that we’ve had more responses to ‘play’ than to ‘work’.

 

 
  Audience member      Doesn’t one involve the other? That was in fact what came out of every presentation. One is part of the other.

 

 
  Audience member      I’ve got this word which is ‘experiment’. Throughout the whole conversation I’ve been thinking about how one thinks about ‘experiment’. How one thinks of ‘play’. How one thinks about ‘work’ and whether you can, not work in relationship to employment, but work in relationship to effort. You think about live musicians. To play is to work. Ghislaine was mentioning earlier, the creative user and the research we’ve been doing there. How come they have to pay for an experience which is fun? They’re not allowed to be paid for doing work that is fun, there’s a work ethic there. It’s been interesting looking at it from a research side. Looking at it from the user’s point of view, particularly in interactive digital art where they can do things more in the zone of artists. Hundred of findings have come out of that. One of the main ones is how much effort is involved with digital art. A lot of cognitive effort, which the user considers to be work. The other side of it is a free environment in which to play in, to role play, play with toys, play with objects. It’s interesting that their motivations, their interests, aren’t just about art, they’re also about learning, also about putting something in and being able to get something back. Listening to all that, I think it’s very hard to separate the two, unless you think about it as employment, which is a whole other…

 

 
  Audience member     My word is ‘playground’ and it made me think about where play is contained, or where play happens. And the very fact that people try to contain play and why do they want to do that. It led me to think about the idea of play being like a taboo. I wonder about that. What is the power of play that is feared and yet longed for? And for me I think that I started to think of ‘play’ as a weapon of myth deconstruction. Which is a very scary prospect for people whose job it is to maintain those myths. It’s easier when you’re not saying you’re going to replace it with something else, because play doesn’t allow itself to be said that way, so it opens things up as opposed to closing things down. So that’s why I think it’s a developmental tool and is so powerful because it is playing. You can play with identity, play with authority, play with power. For the facilitator there is a paradox between opening Pandora’s Box, but at the same time you say that it has to stay here within my rule.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     Our conversation’s touched on some of those things. The issue of containment has come up as well. I’ll take a few more and then have some responses, we’re flowing away here…

 

 
  Audience member     The relationship of play to pretending and… when I was a kid, in South Africa, we had a word for it and it was called ‘chauffing’. It wasn’t just ‘chauffing’, it was ‘chauff, chauff’. So everything was double. We wouldn’t play ‘school’, we’d play ‘school, school’. We wouldn’t play ‘dress-up’, we’d play ‘dress-up, dress-up’, and this was a language which I shared with all my friends and it was just the way things worked, I never questioned it. So these words made me think about pretending and in that pretending world you create. Maybe we’re looking for meaning? Maybe you’re looking to establish a certain purpose? We’re here today, and there are all these costumes. I remember dressing up. Friends would come around and spend an afternoon, or a day, or maybe over a week making a production or making a circus on paper. There was always purpose. We had a purpose.

So then when that comes into being a serious practicing artist, I just know from going into improvisation scenarios, we warm-up very seriously to improvise and we’re serious about improvising. Yet playing was never serious, it was the meaning that came out of the playing that was serious. We really believed in what we were doing. So maybe that coming into a state of play, is finding that common purpose and justifying our playing becomes which becomes serious, that is when work becomes play. Perhaps work becomes disguised as play. Then perhaps in facilitating something creative – a way to establish a freedom of working – you can disguise it by playing so the meaning, the understanding amongst a group, can be created through a structured play. It’s a little bit like where the serious meets the play. Often playing ended in tears – so we acknowledged the tragedy in playing, even as children.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     The ‘structure’ word came in there as well which is interesting too.

 

 
  Audience member     I think play is serious and it’s rehearsing with people, trying out the future, musing over the past. Working out how we relate to our families, how we relate to society. It’s one of the things that play does. Then we’re encouraged to stop playing at some point in our childhood and get on with learning at school. Then there’s this massive gap and some people may never revisit play again but may have it resold back to them in terms of art or performance. Play is channelled by some very lucky people into the arts. It’s something that’s very rarified and something that’s slightly aside from the rest of life. I’m very concerned that children are so good at playing and it’s such an effective process of negotiating and working out how we relate to each other constructing a meaningful world. I think it’s important that children are given the opportunity to carry on playing, that adults start to learn from children again and all different age groups try to work together to do that.

 

 
  Audience member     I’m not sure I’ve got anything to say. I’m kind of playing. It’s part of wanting to be in the moment. For me, I suppose my play is always there, that’s always me. Work for me, is not different, it’s the cut down version. It’s the different corsets I wear for the different roles I play. And they’re all much smaller than I am. They’re all only a part of me. The performance that I do is improvisation and improvised comedy, which is like Whose Line is it Anyway but it’s actually much bigger than that. I spend three or four nights a week playing with adults, and anything is possible, and it’s the most vibrant, releasing, wonderful thing to do. And it doesn’t just inform the improvising, it informs absolutely everything. Believe me, even my letters to Marks and Spencers complaining about the food or whatever, are so different now that I’ve got all of me! I’m much more confident as a person. I did a performance arts degree course years ago and never used it. I didn’t think I had any skill. Now I don’t care. I have so much fun being in the moment with people and trying things out. It’s really releasing. We do a lot of work with people who want to take fun and play into organisations because it’s completely different and people who work can’t do it. And that’s not really what happens, it’s not the work that stops you, it’s yourself. When you get to embrace all of you, you can play whenever you want. I played on the way here. I tried to make the man on the bus turn around by thinking. There’s just games everywhere. If you’ve got a playful attitude, it happens all the time, anytime, anywhere and it can inform everything you do. So I don’t say I either play, or I work, when I work, I’m playing at work, but it’s just a cut down version.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     Well you started by saying you had nothing to say! You did have something to say and it reminded me in one of the things that I brought up in our discussions was a quote from Anish Kapoor. He said that "it is very important for the artist to have nothing to say; An engagement with the material and medium in a state of deeply contemplative play." I thought that was interesting. The other thing that I though worth sharing was questions of playground, containment or structure. What is the relationship between structure and containment and play? Or is there one? Is there a release from those things? Or is play a way – as people have seemed to suggest – of finding emergent structures, and that structures are very important for play? Or are those two things not really related in anyway? Are those two polar opposites?

 

 
  Audience member     I was mentioning games. There’s an example in game culture where there is a discrepancy between free-based and rule-based play which trickles down to installation and (which is quite interesting) the relationship between work environments as well. They’re very different things and have very different requirements surrounding them… If someone said to me to come up there [onto the stage] now into a state of play I think I’d be conscious of the rules set around you. It would be very different. Then afterward we’d go for a drink and a chat and talk about what we’ve done.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     And also that thing about the state of playing is how you play that game on the bus by focusing on someone and playing the game internally as well.
Other comments or responses from the researchers?

 

 
  Audience member     Something strikes me about play being a state of mind. It seems quite fluid but in fact, in my head, my state of mind for play has boundaries. It might be the medium I’m working in, which gives me the boundaries, (a performer using objects). I’m also aware of the space that I’m playing in wherever that is. I think where are people going to be, in relation to me. There are unknown boundaries which I’m aware of, so I thought it’d be unstructured, but now that you mention it, I think there is a ready-made structure when at the same time it is very free. It’s like when you shut your eyes and there’s things running around. You know there are eyes there but there are things rushing around, ideas.

 

 
  Ghislaine Boddington     I think it’s really good, the discussion’s great and there’s lots of things that I’m linking into. One of the things that’s come up from a couple of people is the whole interface between what you think of as your work and what you think of as your play or social time. For me I’ve always had a problem with that. So I’ll very often be going out say, dancing with a mixed group of friends or colleagues and it blurs the whole thing quite often. People worry about it. A lot of people worry about it. People say “you don’t just draw the line between the two, and this isn’t good for you. You should make a set around it and not blur between the two.” But in fact, I decided about five years ago that it’s just how I am. It actually suits me quite well. I was thinking that what you were saying about the boundaries side. A couple of people have said those things. I really liked what you were saying about just letting go of those boundaries, and it took me time to not feel guilty about that anymore, and if other people have a problem with it, it’s too bad.

The other thing that came up which I know Graeme could comment on too, is the actual – you mentioned it – facilitator. About how if you’re facilitating a playground situation… I just hit on it when I was talking earlier, but one of the things that happens when we’re making these projects is you’re working very hard and the initial idea is great fun, you’re playing together to get the idea off the ground. And then there’s a whole patch of very hard work to get a group project to happen. For example in a residency – bringing together a group of fifteen people, from all over the world, equipment, accommodation, travel – everybody in our group works very hard to make that happen (not great pay, long hours, no overtime etc) all towards this point where we’ll all get to play with these other people who are coming from all over the place. We’re really excited about this digital artist and that amazing dancer and we’re all going to be together. And it’s such hard work to get to this playground stage. Then you go into this playground and it’s really hard work, particularly for the team that are running it. And when I’m process enabling or facilitating (like you said and I think this did come up yesterday and I missed this bit) actually I’ve sometimes come out of those projects feeling a bit sad. Because with the role I’m in I can’t play as much as the people I brought to play because I’ve got responsibility to be solid and I’ve got to go and be very calm and sorted, and keep it moving, and facilitate, and link people, and make sure the play is always fun. This isn’t always as playful as the playground of other people that you’ve put them in. Generally, not on all projects, I’ve sometimes felt quite empty afterwards feelings of emptiness. I didn’t get the chance to play and I did all this work to get that to happen. I think that’s quite interesting.

The other thing that I wanted to pick up on quickly is I can remember so often as a kid thinking I want to be an adult, I want to grow up. Why can’t I do what the adults do? And being told again and again, “no you don’t want to grow up too quickly, believe us.” You know that once you become an adult, you want to stay as a child. Why didn’t I understand that when I was seven?

I think the one thing that has struck me learning methodology with the interactive work too, in schools, education work etc… We’ve been working with children and babies, and watching them. And it is clear now that in the learning systems in Britain, and in many countries peer to peer teaching is actually really happening. There are a lot of processes in the classroom which are peer to peer teaching. And that is based on, that roots, in play. It’s about what you were talking about, the pretending to be. If this child knows how to do this nature experiment and that child doesn’t, then that child can teach this child. It’s like ‘play being teacher’. The peer to peer stuff is very positive if you take it through – which we do – to workshop in residence and playground environments. That’s where adults can carry on playing, teaching each other. It’s a playing situation when you’re teaching each other quite often if you’re not being taught from above, like master class. It’s much more about what you can exchange. That negotiation and exchange is really important to carry on.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman      Just going back to one point, the notion that when you’re not making distinctions between these two areas in your life, working and playing, it could be that there still are structures. It’s just that you’re applying structures to both contexts. You’re filling both contexts working and playing into the same set of structures. I’ll put that notion to you.

 

 
  Audience Member     I don’t distinguish between work and play. I don’t understand the importance.

 

 
  Ghislaine Boddington      People do find it a problem. Something that has been said often to me. It’s good not to I think.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman      The last thing Ghislaine said though, she said ‘workshop’ and ‘playground’ in the same sentence. Now clearly the words have different derivations and perhaps arguably have different sorts of meanings and yet we are saying that they’re actually the same or are potentially the same.

 

 
  Rosemary Lee      I’m just going to respond to what you said about work in playground and the fear of play and the power of it. It think the fear is that it’s anarchic and if the structures and the rules aren’t in place, then the society can become anarchic. I’m really fascinated by that and by how we are herded as a mass by the people in power. I recently saw a documentary about the twentieth century where you have Freud and the effect of Freud on advertising and the way that we as a mass are manipulated. This made me think about the time when I went to work with some Muslim children in the East End. The school was one hundred percent Muslim and I got the sense that the children didn’t know how to play. Certainly knowing that their lives were coming to school and then going home to study the Koran and then going to bed usually, there was no time for them to play. In my Western wisdom, I thought it was very important that these children played. So we set up huge sheets of paper, all the way down the stairs and gave them great big wax crayons as soon as they came into the building so they could scribble all over the walls, make big, bold gestures, paint themselves enormous, dance, jump and skip. All the things that I feel are vital to my life and to my notion of childhood. But as soon as I do that, I realise that I’m going against the very heart of the culture that they come from, and I’m speaking not as an expert, but my feeling is that I am then being the anarchist. I am destabilizing those children. Those children need to conform to fit into that society. I’m making a judgment here, but for them, social cohesion is what they prize. And here I’m coming in – artist, self-expression, individuality – and I really think those things aren’t looked at and it’s too easy to say the Western democratic way of expression is right when you come across a class like that. Because I put a spanner in the works. And what have I offered those children? I don’t know. Have I offered them a place I consider freedom for their future, so they can always have a question mark? Or have I given them a taste of something that’s tantalizing and they can never touch because it’s naughty, it’s wrong? So that’s another side.

 

 
  Audience member      How did they respond?

 

 
  Rosemary Lee      They played. They were confused though. I could see they were confused. But children are very adaptable, so they probably think, it’s okay to play with Rosie, but it’s not okay to play at home. But I don’t know I can’t say really how they responded, but I do feel they were confused about it. Because to them, I was telling them to do all these things they weren’t supposed to do, and I was telling them to do that at school.

 

 
  Audience member      What age group?

 

 
  Rosemary Lee      They were nine, the sort of age I usually work with. But it’s made me really question the Western notion of expression and play and made me think of it when he was talking. I think it’s just how you look at it.

One last thing, I don’t actually agree with the romantic notion that all children know how to play. Because I’ve certainly come across children who have been deprived of curiosity. You see them everyday if you walk around supermarkets. It’s heartbreaking: “don’t touch this etc.” So all curiosity is constantly questioned. There are definitely children who don’t play. They’ve never tasted what play is like. That’s my job then to… I was talking about cultural difference there as well. I don’t think that all children are good at play, I think it can be drummed out of them.

 

 
  Audience member      Is there not a tension to what you’re saying Rosie, between the idea that somehow play has no rules, that play is spontaneous, that play is as you suggested, is anarchic and we can muddle around? But also the fact that you’re saying these children haven’t learned to play, because play is something that is learned? The same applies to the artistic process surely? It is something that, when you’re playing, when you’re working something you’ve learned, you’re working within rules, you are working within structure as they might not be articulated. Because there are children as you say, who haven’t learned. You have to learn to play. You have to have knowledge and have to have custom of how to play. So is play really actually not that different from working?

 

 
  Rosemary Lee      I agree.

 

 
  Graeme Miller      …I suppose the notions of play being subversive within an authoritarian society is great but that the play that subverts that has its rules as well and I’m just thinking of a story about the artist Terry Frost who was – I think this is right, it could be a folk tale but it doesn’t matter actually – who was in a prisoner of war camp during the war and as a subversive act all the prisoners from all the huts gathered in the sports hall to play and watch this game of table tennis. And the table tennis had all these enormous groans and sighs and moments of thrill and excitement, but the men playing had no bats, no ball and no table. And it was a fantastic thing because it confounded the authoritarian situation they were in. But they actually really needed rules. There were very distinct rules of agreement. It was the quick mechanism of agreement that there was an ‘AAAAHHH’ or a cheer and the whole playing out of those moments was about huge acts of sticking to another set of rules. So I think we see layers and layers of sort of micro-cultures, within the whole state of play. And that a certain group of people will prefer to play a solemn game of croquet on a cloudy evening. And that’s what they’re geared to do. Other people will put their pants on their head and run around screaming and shouting until they all burst into tears. And those are all about agreeing. Moments of agreement. I did a piece called Work years ago about play. It involved something I’d probably get arrested for now. All of us sat in a van outside a school playground and watched the whole ritual of play go on from beginning to end. One of the qualities I was amazed by was how quickly one game started and then just dropped half way through. Totally absorbing and then kids just go onto something else. Another one absorbs a different cast of characters over there. I was interested in that as a sort of idea that everything we do as a including the deadly serious stuff: the heart operations and the burials and the wars are all done in this inevitable state of play.

 

 
  Rosemary Lee      You actually said yesterday Graeme, I think you said “work is the mechanism of play”. So work is only the definition of play. I was saying that the stock market was just a big play.

 

 
  Richard Layzell      I can’t help to think about people out there who aren’t in here and how they would respond to us in this conversation. And how they’d be confused and envious maybe. And I was thinking quite personally that unlike Ghislaine, when I do facilitate play, I seem to always, with these groups of adults – and this is no judgment – for me it’s always incredibly rewarding. I get incredibly excited. I almost physically change because I get so excited because of their experience of play. Why do I respond like that?

 

 
  Ghislaine Boddington     Ninety percent of the time I have that too. It wasn’t about not being rewarding.

 

 
  Richard Layzell      Maybe it’s because we had different childhoods. I was fairly sick. We had ongoing family crisis. I was in hospital a lot and then I went to a big school and had to kind of shape up. Get on with it really. And so the grief which I certainly experienced as a young child – endless grief and loss – suddenly had to stop. I grew up at the age of eleven or twelve. And now I sometimes wonder that as an artist and as a facilitator I’m living the childhood that I didn’t have so great. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I feel I’m a kind of champion for the child within. Without any apology for that. It’s given me something….

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     That raises the issue of former experiences of course. And what informs our work. Just something that I would like to say is that one of the joys of working with a group of people over a period of time is that differences, both of opinion, and in perception, and in practice emerge are completely contained within the group that we’ve established. There is no attempt at homogenizing us all into one view. Quite in the sense sometimes the opposite. We try to draw on those distinctions.

 

 
  Ghislaine Boddington     Just to add to Richard, because it was something I was just floating in my head too… Coming from what you said and from the lady at the back what you said about playing. I was a lot like you where I had a lot of play and a lot of dressing up and being able to play for a week or three weeks the same game, because I had the space to do it in the countryside or whatever. So sometimes I think, maybe I am trying to reproduce these situations. I was thinking about working with a lot of people across time and realizing quite quickly in group work. Working out quite quickly who was an only child and who had sisters and brothers and how differently you negotiate in play and how you learn that meaning. What you said about meaning. Children always play towards meaning. And they do know what they’re doing and they do know what the end meaning is and how the negotiation side comes through in different ways. If you’re playing on your own you learn to negotiate in a different way than if you’ve got sisters and brothers and it doesn’t mean it’s less positive because actually it’s in a working group, you need both types of people. It’s very good to have that diversity. I think with children, that whole belonging and identity thing that you mentioned too is very big. Because all my nieces and nephews always have clubs: playground clubs. “We’ve created this club, a girls club”, and they’ve always got rules. Like binding terms. “If you want to be part of our girls club, you have to do this and do that and we’re all doing it because of this, we’ve got to make sure the boys don’t get ahead of us.” So there are rules. That sense of belonging. We haven’t really hit on that enough. Why some people play croquet or why someone else goes and runs around with pants on their head with another group is about belonging. About identity. We all need that sense of identity and sense of belonging. So the hobby side, we didn’t quite touch on that.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman      We have about another ten minutes, although the discussion will no doubt continue, awaiting us outside is some vegetarian food and a glass of wine.

 

 
  Audience member     I like that naughtiness. You mentioned the word subversion. I think for me the naughtiness of play is what attracts me. Changing rules. I’m a sonic artist and get involved in improvisation. So there’s an enormous amount of messing about and using things like milk frothers to make sounds and any found objects. I’m realizing that you’re talking about play and playgrounds, that it crosses over into whatever it is in real life. Like in my family we were playing with one of these picnic benches with a ball and we were playing the boring game of throw and catch. There was the picnic table, and suddenly the picnic table becomes the pitch, the court. And the strips of wood become the things we’ve got to aim at. So I suppose with subversion, I try and work that into the sonic arts group that I ‘play’ with I think are doing that. Subverting rules and turn things upside down, inside out and any which way.

 

 
  Audience member     I found myself sitting on ‘endlessly’. If you add the word endless onto a word like ‘play’ or ‘work’ it puts a kind of gloomy quality on it. ‘Endless play’ or ‘endless work’, you don’t know which one belongs in heaven and which one is heaven. We would like to think that the endless play was the heaven and the endless work was hell. It might be the other way around and in essence it is quite useful because it enables one to disabuse ourselves, which is getting around a lot to whether people are inherently playful or not. Perhaps it always has to be something relational. Otherwise I think Richard is right, that one stands out in a situation where you consign those whose lot is work to something without the concept of play. The relation to being subversive. I think that’s become quite specific, quite hard really. However much it might be a way of enabling one to do all the kinds of work that all of you do.

 

 
  Audience member     I just want to give a musician’s point of view because musicians use the words in completely the opposite way. Everyone here used the word ‘play’ as a state of experimentation or improvisation, but for a musician, when you can finally play an instrument or play a piece, it’s a result of a huge amount of experimentation and improvisation which we call work. So all our experimentation which we spend most of the day doing, we call ‘work’ and then we can finally ‘play’ which is a stable state of being able to reproduce a work. So it’s a completely opposite. When we play it’s an achievement, when we’re working it’s experimenting; trying things out.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     Very interesting.

 

 
  Audience member     To follow on from that, the same is true for sports isn’t it? You work at your match and then you play. You play your game after you’ve worked at your stroke. So just to follow up on that and to make that point. That didn’t really come out in the discussion. For me was that sometimes where the play is painful and not necessarily this thing that is full of experimentation or joy. I was thinking of situations of playing out something, especially in therapeutic situations for example, might be situations of pain rather than joy and also that in performance situations where it’s not that the playing – which is some kind of compulsion or drive that it brings you towards, it’s not necessarily something that you enjoy, it’s not something you feel the need to do. It’s not necessarily about enjoyment it strikes me. I was also thinking picking up from Richard, this thing about childhood and play and about permission to play. About this whole kind of Peter Pan syndrome. There’s a book that was written in the 80s called The Peter Pan Syndrome which was about trying to identify a man whose play was seen as a psychosis. It was deemed inappropriate. I think there is definitely a judgment by society… I remember very distinctly that time when working was not a problem as I was growing up but I was told it was inappropriate behaviour because it was too playful, that you had reached a stage of inappropriateness for some kind of behaviour. And the way that’s carried on you need only to look at Michael Jackson the way that that’s played out in terms of the media, in terms of childhood, in terms of playing and what is acceptable and what is not acceptable amongst adults. Too see what the ramifications of that are.

 

 
  Audience member     Just a quick little comment. Maybe it’s about decisions. Maybe it’s about commitment. Someone used the analogy of the play button on your VCR. Well, it’s not a ‘maybe play’ it’s a ‘play’. There’s commitment to it. There’s no ambiguity about it. Your other options are ‘pause’, to think about going on, you’re looking at a moment more carefully. So perhaps play is established in and amongst a structure of rules that allow for surprises which create those little moments of emotion, but it only works best when there’s commitment to that.

 

 
  Audience member     Playtime is a time to be outside of a norm where certain things are allowed. Perhaps there’s the idea that it’s a safe place to play. So the structure’s giving you safety and the structures might be flexible. And the other thing is about how radical we can be when we’re playing… something you said about working with children… Currently we’re working in a school where there are children on the autistic spectrum, and are defined by their inability to play with each other. It’s interesting. One anecdote: a kid in the class who for the first six weeks just sat in the corner (classically autistic if you like) said nothing and rocked and that was it. I had to respect his right to do that. That’s who he is and that’s what he does. Halfway through doing a story one of the other kids said,“well, I’m fed up with Andrew not joining in. Andrew I’m the king and you’re going to be my sit-in-the-corner-silent-rocking helper.” I was like “thank god I didn’t say that!” I didn’t have the guts to say that. I didn’t have the guts to play with the fact that he might be different. After three weeks he apparently got fed up with being that person and said “can I be someone else now?” I don’t know if I could do that.

 

 
  Audience member     The kind of play that’s self motivated, self-starting is quite hard. There’s quite a lot of interest in that in industry and in office culture now. I think that artists are quite good role models for that now and I wonder what the end point, where that’s going. It’s quite hard to do. It’s about making the rules and creating something out of nothing. And I wonder if we’re all becoming more and more encouraged to work like that. There’s something about having to be useful. Or having to be able to do that to be a player in society. I’m not sure. What’s the end point if everybody starts playing? Everybody has to use this way that a lot of artists use to create something out of nothing. That starts to become the way that we have to work.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     Kind of a knowledge economy, where you’re not actually making something, and becoming a player.

 

 
  Audience member     I was just going to ask a question that follows on from facilitating in music and sports as well. What happens when you are put into a situation that is work from an artistic point of view… What if you get paid? What about commission? Which is where we’d all like to get to. Either to be commissioned or to be paid for what we do.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     Paid for playing you mean?

 

 
  Audience member     Exactly

 

 
  Richard Layzell     That’s the best! To get paid to play. That’s just the best.

 

 
  Audience member     Does that change anything in the way you approach it?

 

 
  Richard Layzell     It does a bit actually.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     But do you then go out and say “I’m making work now.”?

 

 
  Richard Layzell     If you’re being paid and you’re able to play, it’s like a double bonus. Because it’s okay to play unpaid. It’s what we do. So I think it feels more significant in a way. Personally. It’s like “yeah! Cracked it!”

 

 
  Ghislaine Boddington     It’s partly what I was trying to say in my bit, which was sometimes we feel a bit guilty about working very hard to find ways to be paid to play. I think that partly is the artist. The dichotomy of the whole thing. Actually, do you end up because of other judgments around you, family etc. thinking, what are you doing? And spending a long time raising money and all sorts, to be paid to play…

I had one other point about the public as a whole. I am generally an optimistic person, so I’m going to say something very optimistic I guess. I do believe that most people do play, a lot. As adults as well. I think hobbies are part of that, but I think if we recognise that even dancing is one of the major, major… you know more people dance in this country every week than do anything else I think. Whether it’s ballroom dancing or line dancing or going clubbing. I think there are some good examples at the moment of incredible public play. Also we haven’t mentioned entertainment, leisure parks and Disney and that kind of stuff. One of the big ones at the moment which has been in discussion a lot is – and maybe lots of you went to it – was the incredible, totally free flowing gathering or happening that happened with The Weather Project at the Tate: the public playing. Maybe most people here did it, went and lay on the ground and made patterns etc. But I think for the dance world that’s been an incredible situation to watch what’s been happening. In terms of group choreography, mass crowds who don’t even know each other, joining in together to make shapes and it’s been amazing. Kerry’s here from the Tate and we talked about it a lot because we’ve been doing this online discussion stuff on it. But for the artist and for the Tate it’s been absolutely stunning what has happened. A really good example I think of us having a bit more belief in that everyone out there does have the imagination to play when they’re given a floor and a mirror above them, and a lovely sun which makes them all think, “oh, I can mime being on a beach” or “pretend we’re all happy here” or “my group do a chain across the floor.” Absolutely amazing stuff has happened.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     When the space gives you permission.

 

 
  Ghislaine Boddington     That’s a playground. Lots of people have said it should stay up permanently. People who are not art goers as well. And people going back with their kids and screaming because it’s no longer there. “Where’s the sun? Where’s the sun?” It’s incredible. I don’t think most people walk around there who are going “I never play.” And I don’t think this discussion is so different than what could happen if Trisha approached the topic of play. I think we’re using slightly different words, but I think this is actually not a mystification discussion.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     Should we end on the ‘not a mystic note?’

 

 
  Audience member     I would just like to know what are the other words on the list?

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     I’m afraid the rules of the game don’t allow you to know.
I’ll tell you when we meet outside!

 

 
  Ghislaine Boddington     Do feel free to go around and look at them, collect them.

 

 
  Christopher Bannerman     Thank you all for coming.  
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