State of Play, a new exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum, explores how four simple objects — a ball, stick, rope, and hoop — used in play by children all over the world, can act as the impetus to develop social bonds, emotional resilience, and well-being.
Comprised of a four-channel video and a hanging sculpture of similarly shaped objects and toys, the Atrium exhibition reveals the serious role fun and games play in our lives because of their universality and transformative powers. As the exhibit reveals, play is about more than a carefree child rolling a hoop in the playground or drawing in the dirt with a stick.
“Games throughout history haven’t always brought joy to all players,” says Special Projects Curator Marianne Fenton, “but through play, we learn social rules and confines. Children hurt each other, learn to forgive each other, and then collaborate.”
Created by Toronto multimedia artist Jennie Suddick, in collaboration with Anna Rose, an interdisciplinary artist based in Florence, Italy, State of Play inspires the visitor to think about play more broadly, in terms of creativity, its ability to destress the engagers, and as a developmental tool embedded in culture.
Image credit: © Connie Tsang
NOT JUST CHILD’S PLAY
The visitor will quickly recognize that play is not limited to children, but encourages engagement and participation regardless of age, culture or background. By basing the video and installation on the shapes of universal playthings — ball, stick, rope, and hoop — State of Play reinforces the notion that there has been a cross-cultural pluralistic element to play throughout the ages. “In the context of the Museum, these objects are not just used for play anymore; they have become something brand-new,” explains Fenton.
Image credit: © Christina Kakaletris
THE TIES THAT BIND
Visitors are encouraged to reflect on how State of Play interacts with the Museum’s permanent Collection of pieces that could be considered multifunctional and layered — a decorative bowl, for example, that was used as a vessel for eating, or a beautifully crafted candlestick that was in the hands of a carrier. “I am fascinated with how we interpret what is around us in our daily lives,” says Suddick. “For me, this is also usually very connected to collecting, as well as to how we build personal bonds to specific objects or places.”
Image credit: © Connie Tsang
Image credit: Rahul Bagdai
Jennie Suddick is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, and community organizer whose work deals with issues of identity, place, and relationships to nature, and has been exhibited in Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Collaborating with Anna Rose has given the artists the opportunity to look for ways to allow people to feel personally connected to art and art objects. “Sometimes people may find galleries or museums formal spaces where they must behave formally,” says Jennie, “but we aim to help facilitate discovery of different ways they can take part and perform in these spaces.”
Massachusetts-born Anna Rose has lived in Florence, Italy, since 2004. Her work spans video, photography, costume, and installation with a sensibility towards the relationship between body and environment. In creating State of Play, Rose says she was inspired by things we see and use daily — “the things we touch, eat, play with, buy, collect, throw away. I often think about familiar everyday objects and actions, and look for ways to explore the cultural weight they might carry.”
Curator: Marianne Fenton