An Introduction by Hattie Coppard
A musician, a multi-media artist, a writer and play designer/researcher have been taking part in a collaborative project exploring ways of thinking about play in a cottage in Suffolk. We began by reading out a series of statements about play and reflecting on how these ideas apply in our own practices. We repeated this exercise on different days in different locations (in the garden, on the stairs, in the living room, in the pub) and recorded our discussions.
- Playing creates pockets of alternative realities within which anything is possible…. objects can be whatever you want them to be, notions of what is ‘me’ and ‘not me’ becomes blurred, time and space is malleable.
- Play is more a ‘disposition’ than an action, an orientation towards a way of doing things rather than a particular type of behavior.
- Play is a way of ‘being in control of being out of control’, engaging with a sense of precariousness, knocking off balance conventional ways of doing things.
- Play creates the conditions for more play: there may be rules to invent (and bend), challenges to overcome, repetitions, rituals, goals, but the aim is not to reach the end but to go on playing.
- Play mimics and blends with the ‘real’ world: players need to be able to recognize the difference between what is ‘play’ and ‘not play’, creating shared ‘play frames’ within which behaviors and expectations can be understood.
During the project the cottage became like an instrument that we could play – using our bodies, sounds, cameras, objects to explore its atmospheres, acoustics, materials, scale. We performed on the stairs, made soundscapes from landscapes, bounced balls in the bath, went on adventures with torches and mirrors
We discuss how play in childhood influences our adult creative selves and Chris gave us a quote from the poet Louise Gluck: “You see the world once as a child, all the rest is memory”
Childhood play is a self-making experience, creating an inner world for engaging with the realities of the outside world. It can be a bridge to somewhere else or an escape that may be comforting, exciting, bonding, challenging. Are we as artists trying to recreate and get back to our original, uncomplicated, play experiences?
Play is a fundamental element of arts practice, the ‘what-if?’ motor that drives players and artists beyond self to mess with the world, enabling hunches to flow and space for unconventional, paradoxical associations to happen. Picking up and putting together objects creates actions through which ideas and consequences flow. Both play and art stimulate alternative ways of being and thinking the world and whilst it may be difficult to distinguish between play and arts practice their purpose is different. The goal of play, if it can ever be conceived as such, is not to arrive but to keep on playing, to create the conditions for more playing, whilst art extends and moves beyond the play impetus in its intention to forge and communicate something new.
HATTIE COPPARD is the founder of Snug & Outdoor, a play design company who created the Snug Kit for schools and were play designers for the Magic Garden at Hampton Court. Hattie is currently doing a PhD in Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway.