Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Art history

Publication Details

Collectively':Third Annual Philosophy and the Arts Conference, Stony Brook Manhattan, New York, 2010.


Playgrounds offer a medium for forms of collective organisation. To a greater or lesser degree withdrawn from consequence, playgrounds might loosen otherwise binding collective forms, and provide both models of and models for present and future collectivities. But when play is becoming pervasive and dispersed throughout contemporary post-industrial societies, no longer knowing its time or place, by what means such modelling of collectivities might be observed and played out? The task of this paper is to examine how some contemporary participatory art works might provide such a means. Not because with such works we play more or play better, but because when playgrounds provide the medium for participatory art works, the forms of collectivity that gather there can be observed, to quote Luhmann, ‘in the mode of the made, i.e. the mode in which [they] could be made other.’ Observed thus, forms of play introduce an excess of compositional possibility in the world. This is done by orchestrating second-order observations of collectivities in play raises the question of ‘Other – but how?’ Two contemporary works–Gabriel Orozco’s Oval Billiard Table (1996) and Tino Sehgal’s This Success/This Failure (2007)–offer different demonstrations of this, compelling us to discover evidence of order, of collective organisation and possibility in the most improbable forms.