Let the games begin
‘Let the Games Begin’ is an unusual title for an exhibition or a catalogue. Creating and examining art is a serious business and therefore by definition, cannot involve playing. This is the misconception of those who think that art is constant: the character of art and the role of the artist are as changeable as the weather.
In the period when the majority of the population were illiterate, the artist did as he was commissioned. He depicted the heroic deeds of the authorities in public buildings and on the walls of the church, the bible story. In this way, the artist clarified the ideals of various types of authority in a kind of ‘comic strip’ format.
From the middle of the 19th Century, artists did the very opposite; best characterised by the poet’s saying:
‘I am a God in the deepest part of my mind.’ The meaning intended here was that artists adopt an attitude which is independent of any person or situation and only allow themselves to be lead by their ‘divine’ inspiration. Result of this was the creation of priceless but incomprehensible art which required a host of interpreters to guide the ignorant from the cradle to the grave and in doing so bridge the gap between art, artist and public.
Currently, we are still experiencing this, although new generations of artists have given rise to varying aims and concepts. Examples of this are one group who took the landscape as its material to create Land Art while another group used the physical body as sculptors’ material; becoming known as Body Art. If artists particularly accentuated their presence, these were called Performances. It was out of this situation that three artists united as a group who, lead by Dejo, wanted to react against the established laws of art under the name of the Toyists. Using play as the starting point for a new art genre, they recorded their artistic credo regarding the use of shape and vivid colour in a manifesto.
The themes are amongst others, derived from toys which can be brought to life in order to play an active role themselves.
I think that one beautiful example of this is: cows who want to look like sheep. The fantasy of play seems to have gone so far that the seasons can even be linked to music genres such as springtime with Jazz, summer with Classical, autumn with Rock and winter with House music.
As everything in art as well as politics and sport revolves around the individual, the Toyists elect to appear in a group and herein for anonymity. Each one has taken on a pseudonym and portrays himself as a cartoon-type figure. Announcements are made public in the form of printed texts and manifestos without appearing in the media.
A New Step
A new step was taken in 2005 with the ‘Let the Games Begin’ publication and similarly entitled exhibition.
Until then, every artist had played an individual game within his own composition. The compositions became the starting point for everyone, so that the work of two artists could be combined into one work of art via certain rules of play. Although a number of those results are illustrated here, during the exhibition every visitor could create his/her own arrangement and for a price, also take it home.
Frans Haks (former director of the Groninger Museum)