If a stranger should ask you What can you do? this weekend, do not be alarmed—it’s not a challenge, it’s art.
Created by Brenda Hutchinson, the performance piece—appropriately titled What Can You Do?—is one of many performances curated by conservatory faculty member Lyn Goeringer as part of Playfest Oberlin 2015, a March 13-14 symposium about the sometimes-lost art of play.
“There’s a lot to be said in play,” explains Goeringer, a visiting assistant professor of computer music and digital arts in Oberlin’s TIMARA department, the event’s sponsor. “For children, it’s a way of learning and exploring. It’s fun and dangerous. With adults, we forget that play is an important part of learning and experiencing the world.”
Hutchinson’s piece, for example, presents a means to inject play into the lives of unassuming passersby. “What Can You Do?” she writes on her website, “is a celebration and reclamation of the public space through direct interaction among strangers presented as a series of encounters ranging from direct engagement through electronically mediated experience.”
And how might that be exemplified? Any number of ways: It could be some sort of genetic gift (say, unusual double-jointedness) or perhaps something learned along life’s path (how to deliver an effective soccer—or hockey—check). It’s not about talent, Hutchinson stresses: It’s about learning something new or witnessing and documenting the encounter.
What Can You Do? takes place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 14, at the Oberlin Public Library. Like all Playfest events, it is free and open to all ages.
The full Playfest schedule is as follows:
3 p.m. Friday, March 13: Talk featuring multimedia artist Brian House, who teaches in the Digital + Media program at the Rhode Island School of Art and Design. (TIMARA Studio 2, basement level of Bibbins Hall)
4 p.m. Friday, March 13: Artist talk and workshop with Jordan Bartee ’07, whose work—in his own words—encompasses “audiovisual art, object-oriented ontology, game (re)design, experimental electronics engineering,” and “techno-archaeology.” (TIMARA Studio 2)
8 p.m. Friday, March 13: Concert in Warner Concert Hall featuring TIMARA faculty member Tom Lopez and Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Holly Handman-Lopez performing a collaborative work for large metal tub and electronic music, a pair of fixed-media works that invoke a playful sense of music and sonic engagement, and a dance trio.
10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 14: Brenda Hutchinson’s What Can You Do? at Oberlin Public Library.
3 p.m. Saturday, March 14: Video screening in Dye Lecture Hall (Science Center) featuring short videos that incorporate play and synesthesia (the neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sense leads to involuntary stimulation of another sense).
6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14: Concert in Fairchild Chapel (Bosworth Hall) featuring objects that have been detourned—that is, used for a purpose other than their original function (think small things making big sounds, or music being created from everyday objects).
Despite the disparate themes covered, it all comes back to play, says Goeringer.
“Play becomes a way in which we subvert power structures. That’s where my personal interest in play lies. It’s a theme that’s been bouncing around a lot lately in academic circles; there have been a lot of different conferences around the country about play.
“It’s important to keep sight on the enjoyable parts of academia as well. We can all benefit from some enjoyment!”