Powell, Anna (2015) Treasure-Hunting, Conversation and Chance: Game-Playing through Artistic Encounters. In: Play of Individuals and Societies. Inter-Disciplinary Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 47-58. ISBN 978-1-84888-327-7

Art practice and gallery visiting have been discussed in the context of ‘play’ by
cultural theorists, anthropologists, psychologists, art historians and artists alike.
Nicolas Bourriaud in his seminal book Relational Aesthetics (2002) asserts that,
‘artistic activity is a game,’1 while Michael Baxandall noted in 1991 that each of
the three elements essential to the artistic encounter – the artist, artwork and viewer
– ‘is playing […] a different game in the field.’2 Since the 1960s, art has continued
to challenge the viewer in their role as mere ‘beholder,’ encouraging playful
interaction between artist, artwork and audience. Contextualised at the outset
through Tacita Dean’s Trying to Find the Spiral Jetty,3 this chapter considers those
artworks which incorporate elements of chance, and which present a ‘hide and
seek’ pursuit on the part of the viewer, mediated through the works’ specific
material properties and manner of display. It explores a selection of artworks
whose conceptual identity is underpinned by – and vacillates between – their state
of being ‘hidden’ or ‘concealed’, and/or ‘revealed.’ They are works which entice
the viewer to participate in a journey of discovery evocative of a treasure-hunt,
while also enabling the possibility that the works might be discovered through an
‘act of folly.’4 Here, the artistic encounter pivots between the incidental and
intentional, and the artwork-audience relationship is made to acknowledge its own
playful performativity.


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