Previously at the ICA - Events

Still: Oh What a Lovely Whore

Fun and Games: The Gallery as Adult Play Centre

29 Feb 2008

ICA founding president Herbert Read described the ICA at its inception as an "adult play centre". This was a serious declaration: Read believed that "aggression is kept in check via sublimation - namely through play." Jasia Reichardt's 1969 exhibition Play Orbit was a literal articulation of Read's commitment to play featuring toys and games as works to be considered as art, however, within the concept of 'play' arguably lies an assumption of a more direct act of participation.

In 1965 Mark Boyle and Joan Hills staged an exhibition/happening, Oh What a Lovely Whore. The title was not only irreverent, but also alluded to the violence which Boyle and Hill felt was generally inflicted upon a passive, viewing public. So the artists informed the audience that if they wanted a happening they would have to do it themselves. In This Success/This Failure (ICA 2007), Tino Sehgal presented no objects, but instead a group of playing children. Upon entering the ICA's lower gallery one of the children would declare to the visitor that the exhibition was titled either This Success or This Failure, after which the visitor could opt to join in the game.

Were Boyle and Hill right, is the audience a victim in its passivity? Or are strategies of 'involvement' off-putting and even unwanted? Is play a vital dimension for engagement or a banal distraction from the serious business of contemporary exhibition making?

Speakers: Sebastian Boyle, Boyle Family; Jessica Morgan, curator of contemporary art, Tate Modern; Louise Hojer, art theorist and curator; Dr Ricarda Vidal, cultural critic and short film curator. Chair: Marko Daniel, curator of public programmes, Tate Modern.

In association with the London Consortium and London Centre for Arts and Cultural Enterprise.

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