Drawing together

Rick Hamrick sends us a cooperative drawing game of his invention. Actually, he sent it to me, and I asked if he'd mind sharing it with all you very deep funsters. I took the liberty of giving it a name. He took the time to give us the game:

The game is simple: start with a blank piece of paper on a flat surface and two people on opposite sides of the paper. Each is given a pen and instructed to start drawing a picture on the half of the page closest to them. Each person is to draw only on their side. The challenge is to adjust the image you are seeking to create so that it is complemented somehow by the image the other person is creating on the other half of the piece of paper.

So, of course, each player is seeking to incorporate the others art even as it is being created. A moving target!

Only one rule: no talking about the art in progress. Conversation is welcome, but it cannot be about the game or what each is drawing.

When one of the two players decides that the work is done, the other person has a brief time to complete the bit they are drawing, then the game concludes with each person describing their work. An added twist would be for each to guess what the other had in mind prior to the person describing it. Emphasis is on how they incorporated the other person's work into their own and telling a good story about it.

No winner or loser, only time spent in a cooperative task where cooperation is made a challenge because you cannot talk about it. And, the story-telling part at the end can be outrageous and laughter-inducing.
I see many implications. Many applications. Many variations. Three people? Online perhaps? O, the fun, the drawing together.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Complaints Choirs

All around the world, people are complaining. And they're doing it beautifully. Thanks to the orchestrated Finnish humor of Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, the Complaints Choir phenomenon is sweeping the known universe.
"As complaining is a universal phenomenon the project could be organised in any city around the world. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen offered the concept to different events where they were invited as artists – but it was only after Springhill Institute in Birmingham got excited about the idea that the First Complaints Choir became a reality...Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen have facilitated Complaints Choir workshops in Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg, Chicago, Singapore and Copenhagen. They have documented all the performances and they are presenting the videos as a powerful video installation in art exhibitions as well as in this web site. Since the succes of the Brimingham Complaints Choir on YouTube they have been receiving numerous letters where people describe how exactly in Hong Kong, Philadelphia, Gothenburg, or Buenos Aires people complain perhaps more than anywhere else in the world and therefore need an own complaints choir. The limited capacity of Kalleinen & Kochta-Kalleinen to fulfil the apparent big need for complaints choirs worldwide have led them to open this web site and encourage people to form their own complaints choir."
There is magic, here. Humor. Yet another flavor of fun, even. Transforming the endless need to complain - sometimes for profoundly legitimate reasons, sometimes for the sheer sake of complaining - into an art form. Something transcending. Something healing. Something significantly silly. Something coming to a theater near you.

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Play, playfully rendered

This says play to me, no yes? Play, and love also too. What a lovely connection!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Designing for fun

Yesterday, I gave a lecture at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv. It was a lot of fun, talking about fun.

The lecture was at the invitation of Yoav Ziv of the Industrial Design department, who, coincidentally, was the designer of the Major Fun Keeper Award-winning Ring-o Flamingo.

After the lecture, we had a little time for some questions. One of the questions I was asked was about how to make educational games more fun. I explained that the problem with educational games is that they are designed to compensate for a system that has already taken the fun out of learning, and then to hope that educational games will somehow magically put the fun back. Talk to any experienced mathematician or writer or scientist and they will tell you about the joy that they find in their work. To make a good educational game, you have to go to the discipline before education got hold of it, find the fun that keeps people engaged in it, and make that accessible to kids. Unfortunately in all likelihood educators will not think it sufficiently educational, but for the kids who get to play the games, the experience could very well help them discover the fun that is central to the exploration of science, art, mathematics, language.

Another was about changing culture, specifically the experience of living in Israel - the lack of humor, of fun, in every day life. I responded by talking about New Games, how, when we wanted to bring a change, we didn't try to change the game that was being played, but rather started a new game with some of the people who weren't playing. People walking in crowded, noisy streets, driving in crowded traffic, having no escape except in going to a store or restaurant where spending money suddenly becomes the major focus, really have no other games to play. I explained that we can proliferate alternatives. Like Bob Gregson did with his Thursday is a Work of Art program.

We had more than 100 people, and they were wonderfully, deeply engaged in my silly seriousness. So good to find my work so relevant.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Paper Art

Last Monday, I wrote about fun of the less-than-funny kind. So, when I learned about this collection of lovely, ever-so-painstakingly created works of Paper Art, I was delighted to have found another expression of that not-funny-fun that is so profoundly fun, anyway.

The image that accompanies this post is from Peter Callesen. Seeing the sculpture emerge from the sheet of paper helps us appreciate the mastery that he has achieved in producing his art. Such amazing detail. Such fidelity. And yet, in some way, such a deep sense of play.

The same can be said about all 100 examples of paper art in this delightfully astounding collection. The art. The mastery. The sheer fun of it all.

via Boing Boing

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Surrealist Games

Two of Ten Surrealist Games from the post: Ten Surrealist Games


How would you conserve, displace, modify, transform, or suppress certain aspects of your city?


Paris: The Eiffel Tower
Conserve it as is but change its name to 'The Glass of Milk'.


Come up with a new superstition.


When passing a police station, sneeze loudly to avoid misfortune.

See also:
A Book of Surrealist Games by Alastair Brotchie and Mel Gooding

Time Travelers Potlatch - and more Exquisite Corpse

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Cloud Gate

According to the official site
Cloud Gate is British artist Anish Kapoor's first public outdoor work installed in the United States. The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect the city's famous skyline and the clouds above. A 12-foot-high arch provides a "gate" to the concave chamber beneath the sculpture, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives.

Inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture is among the largest of its kind in the world, measuring 66-feet long by 33-feet high. Cloud Gate sits upon the At&T Plaza, which was made possible by a gift from AT&T.

As you look at the photos of the sculpture, it becomes clear how playful this work of art becomes. It plays with the skyline of the city. It invites people to play with their amazingly clear and strikingly distorted images. Anywhere you stand, inside or out, gives you a different way of looking at yourself, at the people around you, at the space you are sharing. For me, as your personal fun-advocate, it is iconic, representing with stunning appeal what public art is when it is at its most public best.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Bob Gregson presents "At Every Turn"

At Every Turn (click on image to enlarge) will be on display this weekend where 107 artists will be exhibiting at Erector Square during New Haven's City-wide Open Studios. The artist's (Bob Gregson) installation will be at building #1, 2nd floor, studio E.

I'm an ardent admirer of everything Gregson. I first met him in the 70s. I was teaching classes at Trinity College and he was producing a lovely, funny, engaging public event he called "Thursday is a Work of Art." The giant chair (right) was one of his more emblematic, engaging, and playful installations. Another of my favorites was a row of chairs, strategically placed along a well-traveled alley, occupied by a random assortment of people, who would applaud you as you passed by. There were always a few empty chairs for those who chose to join the "audience."

Gregson explains: "I am excited when a resonance begins to intensify between my work and people. It is at that special moment - when all the ingredients come together - the work comes alive and exists at its best."

If you're going to be in New Haven this weekend, consider visiting Gregson's studio and "come alive" along with his wonderfully playful work.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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PARK(ing) Day

Last weekend was Rosh Hashana for some, the end of Ramadan for others, and, for the fortunate few, PARK(ing) Day. According to the folk at parkingday.org:

PARK(ing) Day began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art collective, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in an area of San Francisco that is underserved by public open space.

Back then the project was named simply PARK(ing), and was devised as a creative exploration of how urban public space is allocated and used. For example, up to 70% of San Francisco's downtown outdoor space is dedicated to the vehicle, while only a fraction of that space is allocated to the public realm. Paying the meter of a parking space enables one to lease precious urban real estate on a short-term basis. What is the range of possible activities for this short-term lease?

Since 2005, the project has grown into PARK(ing) Day, an annual worldwide phenomenon, created independently by groups of artists, activists and citizens.

There were PARK(ing) day eventlets here and there around the world.

The organizers think about PARK(ing) Day as art. Others might think of it as a world-wide pervasive game. I, personally, think of it as fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Hoop Gardens

Oddly (or perhaps, predictably), some of the most exciting innovations in sports are not coming from athletes or physical educators, but from artists, like Tom Rusotti, through his Aesthletics Institute.

He explains:

Hoop Gardens was a commissioned installation in the summer of 2006 in Washington Square Park. The project developed from a Project for Public Spaces report on Washington Square Park that listed sports facilities as the most desired and lacking element of the park. As well, the triangular grass spaces carved out by the radial footpaths were the least used areas of the park. A game was the perfect solution for both engaging the space and bringing physical activity to the park.

The idea to put basketball on grass was influenced by the multi-surfaced courts of tennis, and also by the scorching hot conditions of New York City blacktops in the summer. A site specific game called Lawn Basketball was developed in the triangular space; three teams competed against each other at the same time on three hoops using two balls.

The idea of three teams playing each other is meant to challenge the often simplistic model of one-on-one competition presented by modern sports. One of the main and accurate criticisms of sports is that they symbolize an us versus them, black and white mentality that gives refuge to neo-fascist ideology. One just has to look at English football supporter clubs to confirm this link. Three teams playing against each other discards this notion, presenting a more challenging yet accurate cultural system in its reflections on competition and power.

Hoop Gardens also successfully proved the hypothesis that competitive desire trumps fashion sense (As if professional sports hadn’t proved this already). Grown men and women, starved of fun, competitive outlets, gladly suited up for the Butterfly, Sunflower and Tomato teams, each with their own Hawaiian board shorts to battle it out on the lawn of Washington Square. Hoop Gardens also marked the introduction of the Institute’s man on the microphone, Mike McDonald.

Surprisingly, my grandmother’s priest saw footage of Hoop Gardens and decided the activity would be suitable for a church picnic. The Institute obliged, creating teams worthy of the affair: the Cardinals, Saints, and Padres.
Clearly, the sports/arts connection is a fruitful, and, now that you think about it, obvious resource for sport innovation. It is closer to the way we played as children, when the divisions between games and art and playfulness were less distinct, and, when we were young enough, non-existent. Perhaps we should consider introducing sports design to our art school curriculum, and vice versa.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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HipSync, The Sandpit, The Hide and Seek Festival, Ludocity, Digital Maverick, and Beyond

So, I heard about the Sandpit from, wait, no, I heard about the Hide and Seek Festival from my friend the Digital Maverick. And because the Digital Maverick is what he claims to be, I tend to listen carefully to him. And so I go look for the Hide and Seek Festival and when I find it, what do I see but the Sandpit and who should be the very first name cited as one of the Sandpit Who - yes, the very same person from a group called Ludocity who asked me for permission to include some of my "pointless games" in Ludocity's admirable collection of Pervasive Games in which one can find, for example, the rules to HipSync:
Gamers are loaned MP3 players on shuffle play and place false plastic lips in their mouths (to prevent talking). On the game start they all press play on the MP3s, then only by dancing they must identify other players that are listening to the same song and from a group with them. At the songs end you get knocked out if you’re in the wrong group (or if you’re on your own when other people are dancing to the same song as you).
And suddenly I am led to connect back at least a year in time from our last contact, to that very same person, who explains the Sandpit thusly:
It's a regular event for trying out new pervasive games - the sort of thing that Ludocity documents. There are also quite a few games that are a bit more production-intensive, involving more actors or tech - these tend not to make it onto Ludocity as they're a lot harder for other people to run!

We generally get anywhere from 80 to 200 people at each Sandpit; and they play a few different games each, chosen out of the 8 or 10 games that tend to be programmed at each event.

They take place in a lot of different places - partly because it's a good way to find new people to play with and to make games, partly because it's good to play in new spaces. Usually we're in some sort of London-based mixed arts venue, but over autumn we're going on tour to 10 different cities around the UK, with a programme of games that have come out of the last year's worth of Sandpits, plus a new game or two at each venue contributed by a local maker.

The makers are - well, there's no real rules, or consistent patterns. We have a lot of people that come from a theatre background; a few programmers; an experimental composer, a technical writer, an accountant, a film student. Anyone who's interested in making a
pervasive game, really.

I curate the Sandpit, so my role is partly making sure the event works as a whole, and the games fit together; partly helping the makers to develop their ideas and make sure that they function as a game; and partly recruiting new makers.

The Sandpit is part of Hide&Seek, which Alex Fleetwood set up in 2007; and a lot of the best games from the Sandpit become part of the Hide&Seek Weekender, an annual weekend of games much along the lines of Come Out and Play in New York. For a general idea of what it's like, there's this review from a player last year, or this year's programme.
I imagine that's much more than you wanted to know, but if there's anything you're curious about that I haven't explained, let me know!
Ah the connections. The connections. Like branches of a river, rejoining. How wonderful to learn of people making the very same kind of games I would be making if I were making games with them or vice versa. Dancing to my own music. With other people. And doing it in public, for art! Ah, public art. And ah public fun. New Games renewed. HipSync in deed. And to learn of it from someone called the Digital Maverick. And to learn I knew of it already.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Treehouse Gallery

The Treehouse Gallery is "an innovative public project featuring a free daily program of events, arts, musicology and activities in Regent's Park, London." See, for another example, their collection of Foraged Pigment Paintings, yes, that's right, paintings made from pigments "...found in and around Regent's Park. The sources for the paints included blackberries, elderberries, mud, brick, nettles, madder root (the only one not foraged locally), st. john's wort, elder leaves, elder flowers, and bark. Sarah and Anna boiled these ingredients to extract the various colours and added a mordant to create watercolor paints for a children's and adult's painting workshop. Along with traditional brushes, forks, spoons and sticks were also used as unique mark making tools."

Days are workshop-filled. Maria Tsartsali, for example, will host "an art installation made with real leaves of the London Plane tree, inviting anyone from the public to come and paint leaves with latex to re-imagine them, once they have fallen, and for you to take away yourself into other spaces and contexts. They can be a wallpaper or a curtain stuck with blu-tack, a rug or anything you wish. The idea is to highlight the beauty of nature and recreate the natural environment in an interior setting. They need to be handled delicately." And "Eco-activist and award-winning poet Mario Petrucci will be talking and reading from his moving and thought-provoking work. An experienced and powerful performer, he has written brilliantly about Chernobyl, while being described as creating 'Poetry on a geological scale... a new track for poets of witness.' Poetry that is as connected to the big eco-issues as it is unforgettable."

I learned of this particular wonderfulness through a particularly wonderful cyberfriend named Digitalmaverick, who told me to be sure to check out the exemplarly awesome work of Dougald Hind who blogs about the Treehouse Gallery and many playful, social activistish things. Dougald calls himself a "former busker, door-to-door salesman and BBC journalist. Co-founder of School of Everything. Thinking about practical, imaginative responses to future scenarios. Inspired by deep thinkers and storytellers such as Ivan Illich, John Berger and Alan Garner."

I love the web.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Alexander Calder - Defender of the Playful

Sculptor, inventor of the mobile, Alexander Calder, receives our first posthumous Defender of the Playful award.

Watch the video to find out why.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Share your LEGO genius

There's a photo-sharing site devoted entirely to LEGO creations. Given my late-life interest in all things LEGO, I was particularly struck by this instantiation of the extension of plastic play into the e-state. You make your LEGO thing. You take a digital picture of it. Upload it. And it becomes virtually permanent, a thing you made, for fun, out of LEGO - the very same LEGOs you are now using to make something else.

This connection between private and shared spaces redefines any form of art/play. Sandbox cityscapes, bubblebath buildings all can be collected, disseminated, documented, celebrated. It's a fundamental change in the nature and experience of fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Playful, interactive, music art

Wondering about the art/play/interactive connection? Click on theturn.tv graphic, or click this.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Toys, art and playfulness

This toy was invented by this guy.

The toy is called Toobers & Zots.

The guy is called Arthur Ganson.

Watch him as he demonstrates his amazing moving sculptures and his even more amazing sense of art and playfulness in his amazingly moving TED Talk.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Adventures on the the Playful Path - with Gary Berlind, Gambaist

Gary Berlind is a friend of mine. About 25 years ago, he helped me develop PR materials for my Technography initiative (see, for example, this archived page from my Coworking website). I asked him to share some of his story with us, because he clearly understands what I mean by following a Playful Path. Here's his response (click here and let Gary complement his story with a background music - Gary performing a Couranto from Simon Ives):
"Theoretically, I’ve been trying to have fun ever since I can remember. Usually, however, what fun I was able to muster would muster itself somewhere else, and then, feeling that I had been punished by the Universe for the "sin" of pursuing fun, I would try more conservative endeavors. Eventually, whatever tidbits of fun may have been lurking in those reasonably conservative endeavors dissolved mostly into nothingness, the pain became intolerable, and then I usually chucked it all and embarked on fun again.

"My life was therefore, in hindsight, mostly a fun/not-fun checkerboard. Back and forth, back and forth, until I was 61 years old. That’s a lot of checkerboarding. And come to think of it, a checkerboard has only 64 squares on it. It was looking to me like I had already used most of them up.

"So, in the beginning of 2002, when I was just turning sixty-one and a half, I left Berkeley California wherein I had hatched many shards of checkerboards, and moved myself to Istanbul, Turkey.

"In my last black square, (please forgive the continued use of the metaphor, but it seems to fit), I had been a hi-tech public relations consultant in the Silicon Valley. This square had lasted for a full 16 years. Itself, it was checkered: sometimes fun (Bernie DeKoven had been a client of mine in the early days), and sometimes not fun (I won’t name names). But mostly not fun. Coming to Istanbul made practicing public relations impossible, which was what I sorely needed.

"In 2002 I was convinced I didn’t want to sell out to the non-fun face of the world anymore. Maybe only two squares left. What could I do?

"Almost immediately I realized that my music career, which I had left in despair and sadness back in the late 1960s, might be a path. I wasn’t sure, but a few years teaching music at an Istanbul university made me realize that music was fun. Glorious fun. Playing music, I mean. Not so much teaching it to the unteachables, but going back to basics and playing. Making wonderful sounds. Expressing myself, digging deeper into myself to squeeze out ever more music from wood and gut. Burrowing more deeply into the musical minds of fun-thinking composers who had been dead for more than 300 years. Learning to learn. Learning to play. Learning to have fun.

"It’s been seven years now, and I’ve had lots of fun doing this. Purpose, meaning, fulfillment, have all been there, along with considerable amounts of hard work, deep introspection, and not a small amount of frustration and impatience. But ALL OF IT has been fun.

"It’s what I really wanted to do when I was playing on the home-rows of the checkerboard of my life, back in my teens and early twenties. Music was fun then, although I eventually ran into obstacles and limitations that seemed insurmountable at the time. And they WERE insurmountable to me back then, given the realities that imploded on me every time I attempted to keep the fun in music. My own limitations, and the vicissitudes of my circumstances.

"But a new country, a new instrument (actually an old instrument!), a new Gary, and a lifetime of experience that constantly shouted at me to avoid the black squares, worked. I kept my head down and practiced a lot. Learned a lot. For seven wonderful years.

"And now I’m in South Turkey, in a small resort village on the Aegean called Gümüşlük. Turkey is my playground. I’m playing the viola da gamba and it is a constant joy for me. Whether I’m playing for myself, for friends, or for audiences, more and more of my checkers are getting "kinged."

"It took a long time. And, hopefully, the experience is not over yet. I think often that I could have done this many years ago, theoretically. But in reality I couldn’t, and that’s that.

"When the player is ready, the fun will come. Not before."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Cardboard Art

This wonderful collection of art made from recycled cardboard. It is enough to restore one's faith in things like art and fun and playfulness. It's enough to make one believe that, out of little more than our passion for play, we might actually save the world, yet.

via Weburbanist and Funson

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Eye Candy Machine

Speaking of the flavors of fun, one of the sweetest that has come to our virtual world is often conceptually packaged as "Eye Candy."

Of the various manifestations of the endlessly alluring varieties of eye candy, the kaleidoscope predates, and yet somehow anticipates the visual confections of the virtual world.

This is an image I made with the aid of a site called "make your own kaleidoscope." It was all I needed to be reminded of the dessert-like pleasures of visual delight.

Like kaleidoscopes a lot? Perhaps, as the Make Your Own Kaleidoscope people suggest, you should consider joining the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society, Sir David Brewster being the actual inventor of the optically delicious kaleidoscope. Should you desire to commune with some kaleidoscopic artists, the society has an impressive list (with email addresses) of said same. Amongst the impressive resources therein, you will find a detailed history of the kaleidoscope, and an overview of some of the different types of kaleidoscope.

Want to make a non-virtual kaleidoscope? Here's how.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Fluxus Olympiad

Last May, the 24-26, to be exact, sports artist Tom Russotti, inventor of Whiffle Hurling, at the Tate, as in museum. Allow me to quote from the description:
"Football on stilts, the flipper race, invisible hurdling... just some of the sports that took place at Tate's very own Flux Olympiad, part of a three-day festival of art and performance at Tate Modern. The Olympiad was first conceived by founding Fluxus artist George Maciunas in the 1960s, though never realised until now. The aim of the Fluxus group was to instill artistic values into every part of life, and they went about it with a good dose of Dadaistic humour. TateShots asked artist, sportsman and Fluxus expert Tom Russotti to commentate on the day's activities and tell us about the history of the event"
Tom is already proving to be a potent force in the playful arts. This clip will help you understand why.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Tape Cassette Skeleton - symbolic fun

Brian Dettmer made a skeleton out of cassette tape cassettes. If you want to know how, all you have to do is look at the pictures. If you want to know why, well, there you go.

The kind of fun embodied by Brian Dettmer's Tape Cassette Skeleton has a very strong, but complex taste. The skeleton thing gives it that musty, dank, fear-like flavor. The tape cassettes add a minty, breath-freshening, born-again aftertaste. The re-use of tape cassettes to build a skeleton gives new life to the cassettes, while using them to create an image of death brings a hint of humor to the whole thing.

A significantly symbolic fun that proves to be, all in all, quite savor-worthy.

via in4mador.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Air Bear

Clips of Joshua Allen Harris' playful and junkishly subway-powered inflatable street sculptures have been making several circuits of the blogosphere of late. Most deservedly so.

This one, aptly named Air Bear by harrisdanger, is a garbage-bag polar bear. It is multi-dimensionally delightful: lifelike, artful, surprising.

via Noise, Laughing Squid, and various other junk-art savvy sites.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Balloon Art as Political Statement

This is an actual work of play. As much, at least, as it is a work of art, exhibited, actually, at the städtische galerie, in nordhorn, some time in 2007.

Especially given the artistic statement, a statement that doesn't conclude until at least this.

Balloon art, performance art, funwise, it has a taste that is predominantly artlike, yet suffused with an aroma of playfulness, whilst exhibiting an aftertaste reminiscent of swords-into-plowshare-making fun.

via Elyon DeKoven

Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Junk Robot Burial Army

robots made of junkRobots. Robots made from junk, like these, from Lockwasher.

I was first introduced to the wonders of junk robots by the artist Liz Mamorsky when I was developing the prototype for card gameThing-a-ma-Bots.

My fascination with the play value of junk in general, and this junk art form, in particular, has just taken one more small step for Berniekind.

Speaking of giant leaps for mankind, I am now imagining a Terracotta Army, you know, like all those statues of soldiers in formation they found in China? - only made of junk art robots. Huh? How's that for something you'd go to a museum to see (and be proud as heck to see) your very own home-made junk robot join the ranks of?

via Neatorama

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Where on Google Earth is Waldo?

Artist Melanie Coles has constructed a 2300-square-foot image of Waldo, of Where's Waldo fame.

She explains how she remembered the hours she spent with Waldo books, searching endlessly for his image, and made the connection between her childhood pastime and the delight she takes looking through Google Earth.

It is a brilliant connection. Coles creates a remarkably effective translation of a familiar, well-loved, print-based activity into the endlessly complex realities of the virtual world, adding a new layer of fun to our global vision.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Aesthletics - sports artists

We begin our exploration of the practice of Aesthletics with an brief critique of one of their sport-arts, StraightJacket Baseball. In the words of Warren Fry, of the Brooklyn Rail "In this softball variant invented by Tom Russotti, founder of Aesthletics, the bases are actually members of the fielding team in arm restrictive garments. The player has a ten-yard circle within which to dodge opposing players trying to make it on base. Other than this, normal softball rules applied. It was decided, after a mid-game argument, that infielders couldn’t block runners as they tried to catch the base. Bases were allowed, however, to wear out opposing players by running in circles. Improvised strategies and sudden rule changes are part of the Aesthletic treatment of the sporting act—which stresses socio-creative dynamics over competitiveness and athletic virtuosity."

Though we may not have heard of Aaesthletics, StraitJacket Softball, and Bosch on Ice, we are more than passing familiar with that other example of Aesthletic socio-creativity, by that, I mean, of course, no less than the now classic sport of Whiffle Hurling.

And then there's Hoop Gardens, yet another manifestation of joyfully athletic irreverence from your local Aesthletician, something that appears to be a basketball game, played on the grass, with three basketball hoops, and, of course, two balls.

I would like, if I may, add my personal side note to all this:

Aesthletics is very much like a joke
because the fun it is creating is funny.
It is nonetheless to be taken quite seriously in deed,
this intermingling of art and sport, this work of socio-creativity.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra

The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra exemplifies at least 5 flavors of fun: cooperative, sensual, serious, silly, and transforming. Allow them to explain:
"The Vegetable Orchestra performs music solely on instruments made of vegetables. Using carrot flutes, pumpkin basses, leek violins, leek-zucchini-vibrators, cucumberophones and celery bongos, the orchestra creates its own extraordinary and vegetabile sound universe. The ensemble overcomes preserved and marinated sound conceptions or tirelessly re-stewed listening habits, putting its focus on expanding the variety of vegetable instruments, developing novel musical ideas and exploring fresh vegetable sound gardens."
Transforming fun, because they are playing on vegetables, for godsake. Silly fun, for pretty much the same reason. Serious fun, because these are serious musicians, and the music they are making is actually musical. Sensual fun because they clearly are enjoying the vegetables as much as the music - the color, texture, smell, feel.... Cooperative, because they are an orchestra, and it's about what they are creating together.



via Robin and Michael

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Transforming Fun

This image is made of 3200 Barbie dolls, part of an exhibit called "Running the Numbers" by artist Chris Jordan. He comments:
"This series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 410,000 paper cups used every fifteen minutes. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. The underlying desire is to emphasize the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming."
Part of the power of this work, aside from the sheer massiveness of effort and vision, is its playfulness. There is something fun here, despite the sobriety of the message. Transforming fun, one might call it.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Backyard TV

Here's a moment of inspiration as seen on a Backyard TV. I quote:
"Daniel took the TV outside and smashed it in. Then we all got out the paints and started making the TV beautiful. What a great family project. I don't think I need to explain why we did it. Most of you already know how we feel about media and advertising. I believe we waste way too much time with it on. It's so tempting to plop down in front of it when you are tired from life. But why are we so tired? Why don't we have the energy to do the things we really want to do? Maybe if we weren't staying up late watching the tv we wouldn't be tired the next day:)"

via Sacred Daughter
from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Walking as Art - A Mis-Guide to Anywhere

Phil Smith writes:
"We know you've covered our previous work on your website so we thought we'd send you some info about our new publication and, if you're in London at the time, we'd like to invite you to the launch of 'A Mis-Guide To Anywhere', a playful handbook for exploring cities. The book will be launched at the ICA, The Mall, London, on the 8th April, 6pm till 8pm, following an afternoon of walks, each based on a page from 'A Mis-guide To Anywhere' and each 'led' by one of us.

"Numbers for the launch are strictly limited so let us know if you want to come so we can put you on the guest list.

"If you would like to come on one of the mis-guided walks in the afternoon then let us know or contact the ICA direct (places are limited). The walks will each last about 90 minutes and will set off from the ICA: 12.30pm 'The problem of shopping' (Cathy), 12.45pm 'Out of place' (Stephen), 1pm 'Scales' (Simon), 1.15pm 'Masses' (Phil).
"Walking?" I respond, querulously. Phil elucidates:
We have been three years in making the new book, including walks in Shanghai, rural Zambia, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Manchester, Paris, the island of Herm… 'A Mis-Guide To Anywhere' is our new guide to seeking out places of change in the city, the Anywhere that anyone can find. When we published 'An Exeter Mis-Guide' three years ago we were very surprised that it attracted an international readership - it's now taught in numerous theatre, fine art and geography departments in universities around the world. The fact that a guidebook designed for use in a small provincial English city could be used in cities like Bangalore, Melbourne and Washington, inspired the making of 'A Mis-Guide To Anywhere'.

"If you can't join us in London we will be having a local launch in Exeter as part of the Exeter tEXt Festival on Saturday May 13th, 12.30pm at the Phoenix.

"This is a quick stitched together note to let you have some information about various walk-orientated performances, events and objects.

"First of all the show I have written based on my Easter 2007 walk following the route of acorn-planting Charles Hurst a hundred years before will be performed by New Perspectives from mid-February and the tour schedule is here.

Dee Heddon's new book on 'Autobiography and Performance' is now out from Palgrave and has a section on Place and Self which includes material on 'the art of walking' including Crab Walks.

John Davies has published an instant book on his walk alongside and around the M62 at the end of last year called 'Walking The M62' and you can get that as a hard copy or a download.

Alyson Hallett, who has an ongoing project – the migration habits of stones – in which she carries stones around the world – has a new volume of mostly landscape poetry out ‘The Stone Library’ – I loved it and recommend it. You can get it here, or at all good libraries.

walkwalkwalk, based in London, are building up a network around 'walking as art' and are holding regular meetings.

See also some of the lectures and workshops offered by Propeller including lectures on 'Rain' and 'The Look of Things' and a workshop on 'Performing Landscapes.'

Finally, MPA are holding a four day 'Territories Re-Imagined' festival of psychogeography in Manchester in June, details .

Checking out walkwalkwalk, I learn:
"Walk walk walk: an archaeology of the familiar and the forgotten is a participatory live art event, with a walk at its core. The project begins with an exploration of urban routine. Starting from the routes we take to and from work and home, part time jobs and friends houses, we established a methodology for the systematic exploration of the areas in and around Bethnal Green, Spitalfields and Whitechapel. Stepping outside, or aside from the absorption of the day to day in order to examine the places that we pass through and the narrative of pathways afresh.

"Drawing on precedents and ideas ranging from the never performed Dada walks in the 'terrains vagues' of 1920s Paris, to Iain Sinclair’s investigation of Rodinsky’s London walks in the late 1990s, we began to re-explore our walks through and across the east end. Creating a new routine: meeting at the same time and place each week to walk and work we have exhaustively researched this locale. Walking individually, then walking one anothers’ routes has shown us each new spaces, sights and places that alone we might never have encountered.

"Collecting and collating artefacts and anecdotes from our research walks has been the starting point for the ‘archaeology’ of the subtitle. Objects, images and descriptions from the route speak of the real physicality of the city fringe – the places where it extends out into the edge and vice-versa. The walk we have created will take you to the cut off spaces trapped between railway and road, down alleyways that block the less-than-determined from pursuing a route through, past ‘fine art’ graffiti, a Hawksmoor church, numerous taxi garages and abandoned pubs in a continuously evolving cityscape."
I mean, who knew? Walking as art? I mean like a Dada kind of thing even?

So yeah, and most definitely, check out A Mis-Guide To Anywhere. It'll re-open your world.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Art, Play and Illusion

Optical illusions are what you might call "visual puns." They tickle the same funny bone - confusing us in a most delicious way. They are, however, far more difficult to create, and require something on the order of the visual equivalent of the humor of Gilbert and Sullivan and the drafting skill of an M. C. Escher.

Dark Roasted Blend has recently released the third in its wonderfully comprehensive series on optical illusions, demonstrating, and demonstrating again the wealth of the connections between art and play.

Worth a look. And then worth another, closer.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Eine Kleine Plumbingmusic

In September of 1936, a man named "Red Jones," whose claim to fame was manifest in the variously lovely musical instruments he made and played - out of pipe tools and fittings - managed to attract the attention of no less a publication than Modern Mechanics.

I learned this recently, from J-Walk Blog and a site called, eponymously, Modern Mechanix.

And it made me think about how old of a tradition this thing is, this art, one must call it, of repurposing, of playing with, of finding and creating and sharing delight - with, junk.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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From CNN, aired Dec 2 and 3, a quick clip describing my first ever JunkFest - a celebration of play, community, arts and athletics - honestly.

You can read more about it here, and watch the clip right actually here.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Hand-Painted Toilet Seats

Hand-Painted Toilet Seats - another testimony to the transforming power of the playful mind:

via friend and fellow player, The Presurfer

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Of Art, Play, Love and Fun

In a New York Times article titled "The Dance of Evolution, or How Art Got Its Start"(login required), we read about the theories of "Ellen Dissanayake, an independent scholar affiliated with the University of Washington, Seattle," who "suggests that many of the basic phonemes of art, the stylistic conventions and tonal patterns, the mental clay, staples and pauses with which even the loftiest creative works are constructed, can be traced back to the most primal of collusions — the intimate interplay between mother and child."

"The tightly choreographed rituals that bond mother and child," comments the author of the article, Natalie Angier, "look a lot like the techniques and constructs at the heart of much of our art."

Dissanayake explains: "These operations of ritualization, these affiliative signals between mother and infant, are aesthetic operations, too... And aesthetic operations are what artists do. Knowingly or not, when you are choreographing a dance or composing a piece of music, you are formalizing, exaggerating, repeating, manipulating expectation and dynamically varying your theme."

Yup, comments the author of this blog post, and yup again. Art, shmart. It's all about fun - fun of the loving kind.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Liquid Art

Stir together: playfulness, art, science and technology.

The result:

- dances of light and delight.

Click your way to this amazing collection of Liquid Art and Droplet Photography. Be amazed. Be very amazed.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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When Junk Art Meets Junk Food

There are times, rare, precious times, when the gods of art and whimsy can be made to dance together exceptionally well.

"McDonalds as Sculpture Materials" is one such.

found by Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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"Two robotic arms attached to a large and vintage-looking machine are making the same movements again and again. They plunge into aluminium bowls containing a soapy mixture and emerge from it with a huge bubble forming a kind of delicate and fragile screen which contrasts with the industrial look of the mechanism itself.

"On the soap bubbles, appear images of living babies, people or animals. Some of them seem to struggle. Others just float around. Until the bubble pops a few seconds after its creation. The cycle is repeated: the machine spews out bubbles, which, like the organisms in the images, will survive for mere seconds. As Curator José-Carlos Mariátegui mentioned during the press conference, the bursting of the bubbles evokes the frustrating attempts experienced by creators, be they artists, inventors or scientists."

Ah, the every joyous evocations of frustration. Who can resist?


via We Make Money, Not Art

by way of Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Go Figure

The Institute for Figuring "is an educational organization dedicated to enhancing the public understanding of figures and figuring techniques. From the physics of snowflakes and the hyperbolic geometry of sea slugs, to the mathematics of paper folding and graphical models of the human mind, the Institute takes as its purview a complex ecology of figuring."

For an example of the ecology of figuring in all its complexity, see the Crochet Coral Reef, currently on display at the Andy Warhol Museum

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Driftwood Horses

Heather Jansch makes horses out of driftwood. Driftwood. Lovely, lovely junk from the sea. She explains:
"I was tired of following in other peoples footsteps. I had been working with copper wire and the sculptures were like Da Vinci’s line drawings but lacked the power I wanted. One day I while I was out my son could not find any kindling wood to light the wood-burner and had chopped up a piece of ivy that had grown round a fencing stake, he had left behind a short section that I immediately saw as a horse's torso of the right size to fit straight into the copper wire piece I was working on. The next question was where could I find more or similar shapes and the answer was of course driftwood."
Need I say more?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Turn the world upside-down and the US looks like an anteater

"Upside down maps are always fascinating. The U.S. looks like an anteater."

from the J-Walk Weblog

(Upside-down world maps can be purchased at the Aussie Shop...really.)

via Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Of Gas and Whimsy

Friend in play Bruce Williamson writes:

"On my trip last June I walked by this propane tank just down the road from the friend's cabin where I was staying. It's always fun being surprised by someone's whimsy just when you are least expecting it!"

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Liz Hickok - Jell-O Artist

Liz Hickock works in Jell-O. She writes:
"When lit properly, the molded shapes that make up the city blur into a jewel-like mosaic of luminous color, volume, and light. However, I’ve discovered that the gelatinous material also evokes uncanny parallels with the geological qualities of the real San Francisco. While the translucent beauty of these compositions is what first attracts the viewer, their fragility quickly becomes a metaphor for the transitory nature of human artifacts."
So, see, it's not just fun, and it's not at all silly - it's art. Gotta love it.

via J-Walk Blog

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Persistence of Playfulness - a folk art tour of Kansas

"Kansas," did you know, "is a national leader in grassroots or self taught folk art."

Did you further know that self taught folk art is probably one of the best examples of what I sometimes, but not often call "the persistence of playfulness"?

For example, in Erie, Kansas one can find "the wonderful metal sculptures of the Dinosaur Not So National Park."

While in Lincoln County, Kansas are "J. R. Dickerman's fabulous Creature Creations form an 'Open Range Zoo' along Highway 18."

And in Lucas, Kansas, the "Garden of Isis by Mri Pila...5 rooms of art made from doll bodies, toys, kitchen utensils and other recycled materials."

A short scroll down the virtual lane of the Kansas Grassroots and Folk Art collection will explain all.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Found Sound: Dictionarioke

They call it "Dictionarioke.org." They explain:
"Pronunciation: 'dik-sh&-"ner-A-O-ke dOt-Org
Definition: This site features parodies of popular songs using karaoke-style backing music with vocals provided by audio pronunciation samples from online dictionaries. All of these songs are available for download in MP3 format on our main index page."
My favorite: "Dr Seuss "Green Eggs and Ham."

It's kindofa junkyard thing - using what one such as I might be sorely tempted to call "found sound."

It is for fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Creating New Forms of Life

Theo Jansen is an artist who is building new forms of life.

He recently explained his universe to participants of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference. You can watch his presentation here.

I know, I know. It's hard to accept the idea that his walking sculptures are a form of life, for God sake. But, well, listen to what he has to say before jumping to any conclusions. There is something awe-inspiring about his work. Something deeply playful. I found this on the TED site:
"His newest creatures walk without assistance on the beaches of Holland, powered by wind, captured by gossamer wings that flap and pump air into old lemonade bottles that in turn power the creatures' many plastic spindly legs. The walking sculptures look alive as they move, each leg articulating in such a way that the body is steady and level. They even incorporate primitive logic gates that are used to reverse the machine’s direction if it senses dangerous water or loose sand where it might get stuck."
This is fun stuff. Maybe the very stuff of fun. Art, science, vision, and deep, deep playfulness.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Artist Trading Cards

Artist Trading Cards - cards, made by artists, traded by artists with other artists who have also made Artist Trading Cards.

That's it. There are no other rules. Except that to be official Artist Trading Cards (with capitals), "ATC must be 2.5"x3.5", or 64x89mm." There are some conventions that this writer explains:
"First, an ATC mustn't be sold, only exchanged, as the whole essence of these tiny works of art is about artists meeting (by correspondence or online if need be) and exchanging their works, thus meeting many artists and getting exposed to many personal styles. Second, on the back of each ATC the artist writes part or all of the following information: name, contact information, title of the ATC and number (1/8, 2/8...) if it's part of an edition. By definition ATCs are made in limited numbers, often no more than one of a kind. Unique ATCs are called originals; sets of identical ATCs are called editions and are numbered; sets of ATCs that are based on one theme but that are different are called series. Don't be intimidated by the concept of small editions or originals: very few people are anal about this. What most collectors really want are cards that were made with care. Based on that, numbers are meaningless."
Artist Trading Cards. Fun. With Art.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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From the online Village Voice, a virtual gallery dedicated to artistic Bart Simpson creations. Really. And you can watch it like a slide show, not just a picture or a picture-by-picture, but as sit-back-and-watch. Click on this link and watch for a while. From, like I said, the online Village Voice, 50-Plus Artistic Visions of Homer's Kid.

How fun is that? An online gallery with a dynamic slde show, so many images of clearly silly works by the Bart Simpson-inspired artist. A celebration of art as fun. And vice versa.

via J-Walk

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Junk and Whimsy (cont'd)

catbishop's Recycled Assemblage photoset, is what you might call it. Wonderfully faith-restoring signs of playfulness, is what I see. Junk, genuine junk, like, for example, a dirtbike gas tank, a bocce ball, a jigger, and two gooseneck lamp bases, transformed into a, well, duck. Or something enough like a duck to be clearly ducky, duckish, and ducklike.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Recycled Plastic Bottle Tree Hangings of Russia

Recycled, plastic bottle, tree hangings - somewhere in Russia, boquets of plastic bottles hang like chandeliers from tree branches. They are silly. They do not cast light. And yet, they shed light. They are beautiful, and they restore hope, and connect us a little more intimately, transnationally, to the very thing we all are playing for.

via Street Use

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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ArtCar Fest - A Whole Nother Junkyard Sport

It's the The Art Car Fest! "The West Coast's Largest Gathering of Art Cars!" And you're looking at "Tom Kennedy's 'Ripper the Shark & Max the Fin Truck'" - Tom Kennedy being one of the artists whose presence will grace the First Annual Redondo Beach Junkfest.

The West Coast's Largest Gathering of Art Cars!, for goodness sake!

"The unique aspect of our medium," say the Fest-designers, "is that we bring art into the world every day as we drive our vehicles to work, to the store and on the highway." Very fun stuff, these art cars, transforming reality, like all good art.

ArtCars. Another kind of Junkyard Sport, it seems to me. A whole nother kind.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Burning Man and the Musical Playground

This installation by Tom Witzlius exemplifies why I think Burning Man is such a significant event for devotees of the arts/fun connection. For me, taking something like a temple bell and turning it into something like a side-to-side swing set embodies the connection between fun and spirit. Of course, I wouldn't want to visit a playground full of these things without earplugs, but, on the other hand, it makes me wonder why, with so few exceptions (like this musical see saw) and something very much like this), there are so few, um, exceptions.

But, be that here or there or not, the many images from Burning Man help us make more and merrier connections between art and fun and community and the sheer, silly magnificence of it all.

It comes to us via frequent fun-finder Noise and can be found on his website here.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Big Rig Jig

This, in case you were wondering, is called the "Big Rig Jig," It was created by "Brooklyn artist Mike Ross and crew of artists at American Steel in Oakland. Big Rig Jig was one of the art installations funded by Burning Man this year as part of 'The Green Man' theme."

Here's the artists' statement: "Our source objects are fundamental to the world’s oil distribution infrastructure, and are pertinent examples of our culture’s unmatched production of carbon dioxide. By altering these symbolically rich objects, the sculpture is a celebration of humankind’s raw power on earth, a visual metaphor for non-sustainability, and a contemplation of our unique ability to recognize and change our most destructive actions."

Here's mine: It takes a practiced and playful eye to imagine how two old trucks could become a monumental two-headed snake. Yes, yes, it is a monument that plays with power and fear and waste. But, most of all, a monument to the power of fun to transform and embrace even the rawest edges of our world.

via Laughing Squid

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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