We’ve all felt the pull. The pull to do something a little bit out of the ordinary. A little bit cheeky.
Perhaps you’ve stood in front of the Trafalgar Square fountains and thought about jumping in. Or you’ve been tempted to let your finger graze a shiny Jeff Koons balloon dog. If you’ve thought about climbing on top of a sculpture, about rubbing a tapestry on your cheek, or feeling the ribs of a piece of pottery, you’re not alone.
And yet, we don’t do it. Why? We know we’re not allowed. For obvious reasons, the majority of art is made to be looked at and appreciated, not touched. It’s one of the last taboos of the art world.
But we got to thinking at House of Kin. What if there was a form of art that not only allowed for the participation of the viewer, but encouraged it? And what if that participation resulted in discovery and play?
We’re talking about Play Art.
But what exactly is Play Art? Is it as simple as Play + Art?
House of Kin believes it is an engaging compromise between the two. It melds the two concepts together in a way that is perfectly intertwined.
Play Art grabs the audience’s attention by encouraging hands-on engagement. It innately invites discovery and play while stimulating curiosity. Play art provides art that wants to be touched and experienced. Its pieces engage multiple senses and the sensory immersion can’t help but to encourage play.
House of Kin has created sculptural play installations for years. These bespoke structures encourage all who encounter them, both children and adults alike, to engage, discover, and play. As designers and artists, we have to implement multiple elements to create cohesive, functional designs.
We create a deliberate balance between form, materials, colours, and user experience, recognising that all are equally important and interdependent. As the artist and architect Isamu Noguchi understood, this balance extends beyond individual pieces of art to the spaces they occupy, with considerations of space and the user's experience of it being just as critical to the overall aesthetic of the art itself.
Noguchi's art evokes a sentiment once expressed by Stuart Brown, founder of The National Institute of Play: ‘Play is a state of mind, rather than an activity.’
His 1986 Slide Matra piece is the epitome of combining art and play. The 11-foot tall, spiral white marble slide has the scale and grandeur of classic architecture with a disarming, playful, simple twist. After all, what is more Play Art than that?
Noguchi’s outlook on fine art influences our approach to Play Art. A playful abstract artist, he believed that fine art could be infused into people’s everyday lives through the design of playgrounds and “play sculptures” that encouraged learning through physical play. He translated a fascination with the role of sculpture in urban landscapes, into playscapes that aimed to combine the powerful combination of aesthetics, functionality, and the human ability to play.
This is what House of Kin strives to create.
Our focus on family-led design means that we put our energy into creating spaces that children want to play in, and adults love to be in.
We also admire the work of artist Carsten Holler, and his 2006 Test Site piece. Dubbed by the Guardian as “the authentic Willy Wonka of contemporary art,” Holler was interested in both the visual spectacle of watching people use the slides and the “inner spectacle” of those using the slides. He allowed the viewer to become a performer, and vice versa.
We push the boundaries to create similar spaces where play and art coexist and intermingle until they are inextricably linked. Just because things have always been designed a certain way, or we've never been allowed to touch art, doesn't mean we can't break free from convention and explore new possibilities. Why shouldn’t a family resort hotel reception desk double as a play sculpture with some slides sticking out of it?
The art world is yearning for its next moment of rebirth or revolution, and perhaps Play Art could be just that. So let's get involved and embrace the potential of this exciting movement - together, we could shape the future of art and design.