Understanding Art: The Play of Work and Spectator

Gadamer, H. Understanding Art: The Play of Work and Spectator  in Vilhauer, M. (2010) Gadamer’s Ethics of Play: Hermeneutics and the Other, Lexington Books

The text introduces the concept of ‘play’ in form of and ‘event’ and ‘experience’ of a work of art. Gademer describes finding the artwork in participation of spectator in some form of continuation ‘to-and-fro play’, the process in which meaning is communicated. He emphasises also how spectator play a crucial interpretative role, ‘creating’ the meaning of the artwork. He describes is as continuus activity.

Gademer also recognises the process of understanding which in his opinion ‘only takes place in a dynamic, interactive, interpretative process of working through meaning with others’. He emphasises the ‘back-and-forth movement as essential part of play, an event that ‘cannot be fully determined or mechanical’ but encourages ‘spontaneity and variety’. It relies on the individualism of ‘players’. This resonates with Munday’s approach to learning in less formal environment, without strict classroom management techniques. The idea of players being individual can be compared to the learning environment where each student varies, has individual approach and is different from one another. In analogy to a play-event,  the process of learning might occur in the interaction between learners ‘as a shared experience’ which depends of contribution of all players/learners. This could be experience by collaborative projects where all participants hold similar roles and responsibilities. Participation seems crucial to experiencing the play according to Gademer, however he stresses that the play is something happening to a participant rather than participant ‘doing’ it. Having said that the participants are not passive, they ‘become a part of an activity that is bigger than their own personal, active roles in it’.

The concept of play and the crucial participation is also emphasised by the commitment of the players, the total involvement. In relation to teaching environment, learners are encouraged to participate in the learning and their participation requires some form of letting self go and allowing to be ‘guided’ by the game/event/experience. Allowing to be ‘caught up’ by this experience. the interaction between each other can then influence/allow the transformation of knowledge/understanding.



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