Powell, Anna (2013) Treasure-hunting, Conversation and Chance: game-playing through artistic encounters. In: InterDisciplinary.net 2nd Global Conference 2013, Monday 22nd July – Wednesday 24th July 2013, Mansfield College, Oxford.

Art practice and gallery visiting have been discussed in the context of ‘play’ by cultural theorists, art historians and artists alike. Nicolas Bourriaud asserts that, ‘artistic activity is a game’ (2002), while Michael Baxandall states that each of the three elements essential to the artistic encounter – the artist, artwork and viewer – ‘is playing […] a different game in the field’ (1991).

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 (1997), this paper considers specifically those artworks which incorporate ‘hide and seek’ pursuits and elements of chance, mediated through their materiality and manner of display.

Evocative of Freud’s Fort/Da theory where the child stages the distressing disappearance and reappearance of his mother through gameplay, this paper explores a selection of contemporary artworks which are purposely ‘hidden’ and which present a sort of ‘anti-display’, enticing the viewer to participate in a journey of discovery akin to a treasure-hunt, while simultaneously enabling the possibility that the works might be discovered through an ‘act of folly’ (Richard Higlett, 2009). 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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