The Play – IE: The Play Have a House (1972 / 2015) [Osaka]

Staging most of their actions “without particular reason” in “natural outdoor spaces” [1], The Play is a fluctuating artists’ collective, formed in 1967, whose members have been coming together from across the Kansai region (including the cities of Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka) for the past fifty years to create experimental performances, without any pre-conceived idea of their end result. As John Cage said, experiment is “an act the outcome of which is unknown.”[2] Emerging out of the social upheavals and political tumult of the 1960s, The Play embodies an attitude of playfulness, sincerity and humour, resisting the dull homogeneity of modern culture, and refusing to distinguish art from life. Implicitly rejecting the notion of the artwork as an end in itself, the collective has always stressed its own internal dynamics, based on sharing and on “making-together”, in a physical as well as a spiritual sense, through the staging of ephemeral situations and ‘happenings’, admitting that they only really like “the infinite time and space of open air.”[3]. For the Dojima River Biennale, the group re-activated a project, IE: The Play Have a House, first realized in 1972, floating a small house down the Kizu and Yodo rivers, from Mount Kasagi towards Osaka Bay (stopping for the occasional picnic en route). Like Kamo no Chōmei’s ‘ten foot square hut’ (the central motif of Hōjōki), this dwelling could be interpreted as a retreat from the social hierarchies and individualist values of modern life, but here set adrift on the river, at the mercy of the current, heading wherever the flow will take it. As a precursor to this action, The Play also presented documentation of Current of Contemporary Art, a project first realized in 1969, showing the group afloat an arrow-shaped raft (3.5 x 8 metres) made of Styrofoam blocks and inscribed in red letters with the words ‘The Play’, drifting precariously downstream, going with the flow of the Uji, Yodo and Dojima rivers, from Kyoto to Osaka (re-activated in 2011 on the Dojima River, and then again in 2013 on the River Seine in Paris). In another related project, Voyage: Happening in an Egg, from 1968, The Play set a giant egg (2.2 metres high x 3.3 metres wide) adrift on the Kuroshio current, 30 kilometres off the Japanese coast, in the hope that it would follow the Pacific Ocean’s marine currents and reach America’s western shores. To the journalists that attended the action, founding member, Keiichi Ikemizu explained, “the egg carries an image of liberation from all mental and material restrictions imposed on us in our contemporary era.”[4] In a short statement, accompanying documentation of the project, it was stated that, “about a month later we received a telegram sent by a ship telling us they had found it. After that, nobody knows where the egg is now.”[5]

ie, 1972 IE - The Play Have a House, 1972 Current of Contemporary Art, 1969 voyage, 1968 _MG_1035 _MG_1063

== Text by Tom Trevor for 4th Dojima River Biennale catalogue ==

[1] Play [black cover], trans. Reiko Tomii (Osaka: self-published by The Play, 1981)

[2] Silence: Lectures and Writings, John Cage, 1961

[3] Play [black cover], trans. Reiko Tomii (Osaka: self-published by The Play, 1981)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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