‘Play is older than culture …’ ~ Johan Huizinga
Today’s pictorial illuminates a narrative of play and play-ground. Or as the Dutch historian and author of Homo Ludens, Johan Huizinga, would say, a narrative of the play element in culture.
His book is one of biblical importance to the sociological and cultural-historical world, not to mention modern gaming philosophy. Since encountering his writings, I too have become embroiled in the concept of play. Of particular interest to my observations are urban spaces, where playful interactions contribute to the very fabric of everyday life. One such space where the play element in culture is most evocative for me is the urban park, which thus forms the backdrop for the images that follow below. Through the static image, I attempted to encapsulate the kinetic activities that played out all around me. They were taken beneath a veil of luminous light, surrounded by vibrant human interactions, a soundscape of laughter and conversation between a vast spectrum of ages, and a wafting perfume of fresh-cut grass that mnemonically jolted my olfaction right back to childhood. The first half of the gallery features photos inspired by homo ludens (‘man at play’) in the broadest sense of the term, while the second half presents the space that constitutes their play-ground. In the following quote, Huizinga delineates the relationship between the two.
All play moves and has its being within a play-ground marked off beforehand, either materially or ideally, deliberately or as a matter of course. Just as there is no formal difference between play and ritual, so the “consecrated spot” cannot be formally distinguished from the play-ground. The arena, the card-table, the magic circle, the temple, the stage, the screen, the tennis-court, the court of justice, etc., are all in form and function play-grounds, ie. forbidden spots, isolated, hedged round, hallowed, within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart. ~ Homo Ludens