Art is for playing in. Cockatoo Island, NSW, Australia. 2010

Choi Jeong Hwa’s installation at this year’s Biennale brought out the playfulness of most of the children who saw it. The adults stood back and looked at it and the kids just raced around inside of it chasing each other, banging it all about and having fun.

Years ago I remember reading an article about how people’s educational background affects the way they perceive art.  According to some research done in the past, people who have very little education tend to see art galleries as temples and approach them with some reverence and awe, whereas people with a high level of education are much more comfortable in experiencing art.

Watching the children play in amongst the “art”, I found myself thinking about the study and it occurred to me that what the study doesn’t acknowledge is how we are taught to respond to art.

Perhaps in the past the less educated have been made to feel that art was beyond their understanding, whereas today’s kids haven’t been as oppressed by such elitist claptrap and just respond in a freer way.

6 thoughts on “Art is for playing in. Cockatoo Island, NSW, Australia. 2010”

  1. I love love this image! Is it because I am partial to blur and focus and you usually are so exquisitely in focus? Perhaps, but I think the concept of
    play” demands a bit of blur! And, I agree with you about the claptrap, too! (After a slight blip we are back on track!) I did not grow up with museum going and art education but have been a life long museum goer and art lover. Today, in fact, I am taking the train into Boston to see a new exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art. It sounds like an exhibit you would love btw.

  2. Great photo! Those pink pants just vibrate with the bright green art. Yes, I think many adults have been trained to take themselves (and the art) a little too seriously. Some things are just meant to be played with, and I’m glad these kids figured that out!

  3. It depends to a large extent on the self-perception of the institution, their managers and the overall status of art in a given society. Over here, things still comply to the findings you mentioned, a classical Bourdieuian conclusion that links art consumption with class status and social capital. I have fond memories of V&A in London with signs “Please touch”. I guess that most Slovene museum and gallery experts think those signs have a typo.

    The shot itself is great – I love the way you captured action and motion, you are a “people” photographer.

  4. I believe what you are talking about here is actually the difference between how un-educated children respond to art and how the educated adults do it. Education, as I see it, put so many concepts and discourses on art that we, as adults, tend to have a hard time to just perceive it openly, enjoy it… There are all these layers of good and bad art, wrong and nice, high and low… My perception is that children, not yet being put in boxes, just run into a gallery and simply enjoy art, with their bodies and energy, fully responding to it all. I come into a gallery and read the description of the painting, realize it is actually a Piccaso and that it is probably very good and very high so I should spend some more time here and ponder it, and then I feel a bit stupid because I don’t seem to be getting it, and then I try a bit harder… Where is the enjoyment?
    I am back to Ken Robinson and his lecture I posted some time ago…

  5. Robert’s comment above hits the nail on the head for me. Growing up, things in a museum meant “things that are deemed good” … and everything not in a museum meant mediocre. I didn’t get over this misconception until I altered my view. Now I just look at things that I get/like … and leave the rest to others.

    note: I’m not sure how I became anonymous in your last post’s comment section, but that was me.

  6. Pat
    Thanks. I consider different photographic techniques as horses for courses. Most of what I shoot needs to be sharp but then there are some subjects that need some evidence of motion.


    Thanks and as you know, I’m a sucker for bright colours.


    As usual, your comment is full of erudite insight. I’ve always found the huge gulf between the culture of creative people, who are the artists, and the consumers of their art to a very odd thing.

    I’m reminded of a section in the book “Where the Air Is Clear” by Carlos Fuentes, where a group of formally dressed, upper class art lovers hosted a dinner for a South American (writer or artist, I can’t remember which) who turned up many hours late, drunk and dishevelled after spending his time in a brothel.

    People are fascinating.


    Good points. I guess the way how the children are relating to the “art” probably has a relationship to how their parents (who were with them) feel about art. I guess if the parents were in awe then they wouldn’t have let their kids near it.


    You’re so right when it comes to what one likes. As the Romans used to say “de gustibus non est disputandum” (taste can’t be disputed). I find it very disheartening when I see how often we get sucked in believing something is good because it’s been advertised as such.

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