Article: Playable City: Placing Play at the Heart of Cities Since 2012

An editorial piece co-written by Jo Lansdowne and Emma Boulton for City Monitor on why we play in cities, and how the latest Playable City projects embody Playable City’s research questions.

(Redirect from City Monitor)

(…) Play is transformative – it invites curiosity and stimulates rich interaction, inspires joy, and be subversive. But what happens when we play in the city? When we play in public, the usual conventions of a space are paused or re-configured, the structures which might normally limit us become materials with which to make something new. In  Ian Bogost’s ‘Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games’, he describes looking down and realising that his young daughter had created her own game out of being pulled by the hand across a tiled floor – skipping between lines and turning a situation in which she had little agency into a world of her own making. 

Artists can invite the same feeling for example Luke Jerram’s pianos softly drifting through a crowded station (Play Me, I’m yours, 2008). In a station the function is to get passengers from A to B but the piano temporarily disrupts this paradigm – entertaining, conviviality and romantic – and there we have it, something is revealed about what we might actually want from a liminal space. What if the surprise encounter is with a full sized silhouette of a drone painted across the ground? What questions might you now be asking? Would you play with it? ‘Drone Shadows’  is a confronting image from James Bridle which reminds us of the existence of something that is normally invisible, drones and surveillance, and that we might want to do something about. 

Whether we engage or spectate, these kinds of interventions create connections and invite us to think about what we want our cities to be. And we need this now more than ever. As we emerge from a series of public health driven lockdowns, as we renegotiate who is honoured in our statues and who is allowed to protest, as public concern about surveillance technology is ever more palpable, and as our tangled relationships to an ecosystem in crisis becomes ever clearer – the need to reclaim space and mess about with the rules becomes  increasingly urgent. (…)

Read the full article here.