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“Those who played survived, adapted, and developed skills and capacities that their ancestors could never have imagine.”

“Play has always been a key to adaption and survival, and I believe it will remain so in the future.” Page 197

After reading Play I also believe this too. This morning I woke up in a bad mood, I did twenty minuets of yoga, took Chester out for his walk and played fetch and now it feels like life couldn’t better and I will now achieve what I want to with my day which feels really important to my survival at the moment. Stuart says:

“Why do I say this? Three reasons: social, economic, and personal. Play sets the stage for cooperative socialisation. It nourishes the roots of trust, empathy, caring and sharing.” Page 197

We learn so much through playing together, inventing the game, setting the rules, arguing about the rules and being the winner or looser. Through play we adapt with the skills we can take them into our lives and be better humans (or dog in Chester’s case) as a result of it.

“Play lowers the level of violence in a society and increases communication. For example, even when there are big social or economic gaps between people, they can often find common ground talking about the local sports team. If diverse, clothing ethnic or cultural groups can be coaxed to actually play together, the positive effects can be dramatic.” Page 198

I feel like we certainly need some of this at the moment. It sadly probably wont happen or can’t with covid. Do you remember being at festivals last summer and dancing with people you don’t know either side of you, in front and behind and having the time of your life without knowing anything about them. What a glorious feeling it was and a brilliant way to interact with others. I hope public art can create these opportunities for total strangers.

“In the adult world. Play continues to be woven unto the fabric of our culture. In large part, play is our culture, in the form of music, drama, novels, dances, celebrations and festivals. Play shows us our common humanity. It show us how we can be free within the societal structures that allow us to live with others. It us the genesis of innovation, and allows us to feel with an ever-changing world.” Page 199

When lock-down kicked in the adult world did quizzes together. My friends and I had a ball playing pictonary over video call. We all have watched films and dramas and talked about the ones were watching. We’ve watched concerts and plays online. Chris and I watched The Peas along with our friends every Saturday night, we danced in the lounge together, messaged in answers for the silly competitions. It was great fun, without those little high-lights life would have been incredibly hard.

“The world needs play because it enables each person to live a good life.” Page 201

I don’t think anyone can argue this statement after the six month we’ve just been through.

“I see that being playful has an important role in every sphere of our lives. As I’ve shown in the previous chapters, we are designed by nature to grow and develop in large part through play… play is what allows us to attain a higher level of existence, new levels of mastery, imagination, and culture.” Page 202

This makes me think of my Grandma and the sea squid. Grandma has been in her care home and garden for six months, she hasn’t left the grounds. She used to have a visitor everyday and church on a Sunday. The visitors have started again but not as many and now her brain is dying. She can’t comprehend what is happening in the present anymore or remember what happen yesterday. She has become a sea squib and it breaks my heart. I need to figure out how to get her playing again to give her that higher level of existence once again, as that is what made her her usual jokey self.

“Play gives us the irony to deal with paradox, ambiguity and fatalism.” Page 202

This is what she has lost, she is now cross and frustrated. It makes visiting really hard as she is so unhappy about the current situation that she can’t enjoy being in the moment with her visitor. It is so sad and breaks my heart. I hope my installations can break up someones day and gives them the moment of joy that they need to not be a sea squid.

Play isn’t always easy and you do need a bit of pain to really enjoy the highs. Stuart uses the example of climbing up a hill, it’s slow and hard and makes your legs hurt but when you get to the top the feeling of achievement is great and views are amazing. All that hard work is so worth while. Perhaps I need to add a layer of challenge to my playful installations to give them this edge.

“You have to make it through the discomfort to find the fun. True play is even one step beyond this.”

“Advanced play, the black belt of play, comes when we realise this and act on it. As long as we are acting in concordance with our central truth, then the outcome will be positive.” Page 205

This is true of every installation I have made. Making them is so hard physically and mentally. It is always the install which is the biggest challenge. It is so stressful and demanding in all ways. I always question why I am an artist when I’m going through this process. Seeing the audience playing with the installation is the icing on the cake and couldn’t be a better high. It makes it all worth while and gets my creative cogs turning for the next installation. Stuart reminds us this:

“When we fully internalise this ethos. Our work is our play and our play is our work, and Michener noted, we have a hard time telling the difference between them.” Page 205

If this isn’t the case with your work for you find other ways to play.

“Every day, everywhere, there are opportunities to find play: throw a tennis ball of a dog; pull string in front of kittens; browse in a bookstore. Here’s an old piece of advice that trite but true: stop and smell the flowers.

The world is full of humour, irony, joy and objects available for aesthetic appreciation. The trick is allowing yourself to open up to those influences, to see humour in virtually all situations.”

“Simply taking a moment to deeply inhale the air after a rainstorm or kick a pile of leaves can be a private moment of play. More powerful yet activities that really pull us into play. More powerful yet are activities that really pull us into play, like getting down on the floor to play blocks with a child.” Page 210

I don’t know if anyone will ever read this blog but if you do take the above with you, really do stop and smell the flowers or play with a dog. Give into your little playful urges what ever they might be, today mine was spotting a squirrel hiding against a trunk from me.

“Probably the biggest roadblock to play for adults is the worry that they will look silly, undignified, or dumb if they allow themselves to truly play. Or they think that is is irresponsible, immature, and childish to give themselves regularly over to play.” Page 211

Since having grandchildren my mum is a changed person. She is so much more relaxed, she picks up the blocks with them and now is stepping into advanced play. This week she’s learning the Peppa Pig theme tune on her clarinet and she’s ordered a music book of Halloween tunes to play for them.

“Let your body respond to lessons learned form nature but long suppressed. You can’t be truly open to spontaneity if you don’t feel comfortable testing novel ways of expressing yourself, pushed along by the pleasure of the action. Play is exploration, which means that you will be going places where you haven’t been before.” Page 212

I have recently experienced this. The baby book told me to sing to my bump and I really didn’t want to but felt I was denying my unborn baby a joy it should have. The problem is I am not a good singer and I don’t like singing in front of people. Even in the car I rarely sign in front of Chris. I have pushed my self and have began to sing to the baby. Last week I found myself lying in the camper van singing my heart out in front of Chris, the bump and Chester without a care in the world. Since I’ve been singing along to the radio and yesterday I sang Good King Wenceslas with my Grandma in full sunshine. I’ve enjoyed it so much I want to sing now!

“One of the quickest ways to jump-start play is to do something physical. Just move. Take a walk, do jumping jacks, throw a ball for the dog (a double play boost).” Page 213-214

I really want the next installation I make to be movement base, I want to get the audience moving as it is such an effective way of play. And to have the installations in public settings that allows for people to play with them as and when they can.

“Play is nourishing, but you have to take time out for play, just as you would take time out for a meal. And that doesn’t mean doing the play equivalent of fast food. Television sitcoms doesn’t usually count, unless you haven’t laughed for a while. A lack of play should be treated like malnutrition – it’s a health risk to your body and mind.

Be aware of play killers. Part of nourishing your play is putting yourself in an environment that supports and promotes that play…

Find the play that feeds your soul, build an environment where people understand your need, and get out there and make it a priory to stay play-nourished” Page 215

This is really interesting as our lives get so busy and we also get tired that it is quite easy to just telly of an evening. We’ve been away for a week and have played card games most evenings since being home we’ve been watching tv instead. I will make an active effort to make sure we play together of an evening and don’t just watch the telly.

I promise to nourish other peoples lives by creating playing installations. Installations that are so playful that they just can’t not be played with.

“Play is how we are made, how we develop and adjust to change. It can foster innovation and lead to multibillion-dollar fortunes. But in the end the most significant aspect of play is that it allows us to express our joy and connect most deeply with the best in ourselves, and in others. If your life has become barren, play brings it to life again. Yes, as Freud said, life it about love and work. Yet play transcends these, infuses them with liveliness and stills time’s arrow. Play is the purest expression of love.

When enough people raise play to the status it deserves in our lives, we will dint he world a better place.” Page 218

Smell the flowers, wiggle your bum, throw a ball and sing a song and if you stumble across an installation play with it, it’s there for you.

THE END (Of Stuart Brown, Play)