• "Over the past few months I have been collaborating with her to curate her first ever career-spanning exhibition. Retrospective Posy Simmonds: Essentially English opens on June 12th at the beautiful Art Nouveau, Victor Horta-designed Belgian Comic Strip Centre in Brussels and continues until November 25th 2012. I’ll be adding photos from the exhibition shortly, but below are the texts I have written for the explanatory graphic panels." Paul Gravett on Posy Simmonds – some great sketches in here and details of early work.
  • "[Bradbury] told them about a child he had watched, teased by his friends for wanting to enter a toy shop because they said it was too young for him, and how much Ray had wanted to persuade the child to ignore his friends and play with the toys." That, forever.

Play is a serious business

22 April 2012

I had the great pleasure to get to Galy Tots at Kemistry last week: a lovely, tiny retrospective of Ken Garland Associates’ work for Galt Toys. It was lovely: lots of nice examples of graphic design and photography, as well as lots of items on display, including a prototype of knock-down furniture for playgroups, that was just beautiful.

There were several particularly lovely touches: firstly, that all the toys and games on display were set up to be played with – indeed, that they were set up so that children as well as adults could play.

And secondly: all the exhibition copy was written by Garland himself, which gave it a tone that was both very honest but also charming and subtle.

There were two quotation I took down, because they made an impact, and I wanted to share them.

Garland wrote about Edward Newmark, who had been manager of Paul and Marjorie Abbatt’s toyshop before he went to Galt.

Edward brought with him the conviction that play is a serious business, and toys are the tools of the child.

Talking about their time working for Galt, Garland said:

Most especially, it is rare for designers to have the experience of their work being enjoyed before their very eyes. I have had the greatest delight in seeing children playing our most successful game, Connect, in many parts of the world.

Watching something being enjoyed before your eyes is one of the great pleasures of designing things to be played or interacted with.

(And, by corollary, nothing hurts more, or reminds you to up your game, than watching somebody not have fun with something assumed they would enjoy).

  • "I would call him the greatest puzzle designer of all time, but that implies that there are lots of people who do what he does and he’s better than them, and that’s not quite right. What I mean is to say is that Raymond Smullyan is the Marcel Duchamp of puzzles, he’s the Brian Eno of puzzles. His work is singular, transformative, genre-defining, in a class by itself."
  • "Kareem, after the game, remarked that he would pay to see Doctor J make that play against someone else. Kareem's remark clouds the issue, however, because the play was as much his as it was Erving's, since it was Kareem's perfect defense that made Erving's instantaneous, pluperfect response to it both necessary and possible—thus the joy, because everyone behaved perfectly, eloquently, with mutual respect, and something magic happened—thus the joy, at the triumph of civil society in an act that was clearly the product of talent and will accommodating itself to liberating rules." This is phenomenal writing.
  • "There’s no demonstration of life’s futility or language’s emptiness that is so profound, it can’t one day be turned into a reassuring fridge magnet, and that thankfully helps put pessimism back in its place."
  • "There are 1868 cars on the highway right now. You can watch them drive by, or draw your own and it will join the front of the line. Where are they going? The journey is yours." Progressive's annual report is done vy an artist each year; this year's is a lovely Aaron Koblin piece.
  • "The choice for light as a medium is the result of a systematic exploration of what kinds of stimuli pigs respond to. We were aware of some evidence indicating pigs enjoy light. But when we saw how they reacted to a laser pointer, we knew we were on to something." Kars' frankly crazy game for pigs and people is in video form now, but he's deadly serious about it existing. I'm quite excited for him.
  • "Nine hours in, with no end to the fetching and photographing and fishing and flower-watering in sight, I suggested to one of my nieces, who was playing the game with me (the whole thing's drop-in co-op friendly), that maybe collecting three pepper pots to make Monstro the Whale sneeze was not so very different to collecting three sets of banners for the Toon Town election. It turns out that, from the perspective of a six-year-old, it's entirely different, and I clearly understand little about whales and even less about elections." A marvellous, marvellous piece of writing from Christian (again).
  • "A great deal of what is called `digital art’ is not digital art at all, and it seems many digital artists seem ashamed of the digital.  In digital installation art, the screen and keyboard are literally hidden in a box somewhere, as if words were a point of shame.  The digital source code behind the work is not shown, and all digital output is only viewable by the artist or a technician for debugging purposes.  The experience of the actual work is often entirely analog, the participant moves an arm, and observes an analog movement in response, in sight, sound or motor control.  They may choose to make jerky, discontinuous movements, and get a discontinuous movement in response, but this is far from the complexity of digital language.  This kind of installation forms a hall of mirrors.  You move your arm around and look for how your movement has been contorted."
  • "If I were in London now or in the next few weeks, instead of Frieze I'd probably be getting to these shows." Rod's lists are always good.
  • I've used the Settings plugin a lot, but it's very old and dusty. This is a nice fork of it, ported to Rails 3, and saved for future reference.
  • "In a sense, a child, by definition, shrinks Scribblenauts’ scope. The game’s potential solutions are necessarily limited by vocabulary, so players with a smaller vocabulary have fewer options open to them. But, free of the dry, efficient logic of adulthood, a child’s imagination also opens the game up in ways beyond most adults’ reach."