The seriousness of play

At the expert meeting ‘The Seriousness of Play’ the question was asked how art can be used to improve access of the population to cultural heritage. The meeting was meant to bridge the gap between artists, curators and heritage institutions such as museums. Merten Nefs was invited to shed light on the matter from the perspective of architecture and urban planning. A short number of inspiring examples were given of cooperation between a museum and an artist, for example at the Zuiderzeemuseum and Art Fortress Vijfhuizen in the Netherlands. However, this cooperation is rather an exception, not the rule.

As the border between art and the artist is quite subtle, some of the artists soon came to the conclusion that they weren´t eager to be used for anything by anyone, let alone to promote institutions, nations or cities. For example, in incubator areas throughout the world, young artists usually help to raise profits for the real estate industry. The benefits for the pioneers themselves are limited. The statement was made, that artists should actively propose interventions in a museum or other cultural heritage, instead of waiting for an invitation.
On the other hand, if the artist maintained a firm position in the process, instead of an ‘underdog’ position, both heritage institutions and artists would benefit. If the artists became more aware of their cultural and socio-economic role, perhaps they could negotiate better with institutions and investors to realize their personal artistic goals while at the same time performing a productive role in society. In this case, everyone uses everyone to achieve their objectives. But that’s a lot of if´s…
It was mentioned that one of the difficulties in practice is that an artist cannot guarantee the results of the artistic process beforehand, which makes it more complicated for companies and institutes to start a partnership. At the end of the evening, it was concluded that cooperation between heritage institutions and artists can be fruitful, but no one really knows what would be the best way to cooperate.

The Seriousness of Play was organized on September 10 2010, by Cultureel Erfgoed Noord-Holland, Kunst & Cultuur Noord-Holland, Saskia Monshouwer and Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen.