Treasure-Hunting, Conversation and Chance: Game-Playing through Artistic Encounters

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPlay of Individuals and Societies
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781848883277
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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