The Politics of Play

Curator: Katerina Gregos

Venue: Röda Sten Konsthall

The poet Alan Gilbert recently stated that, “Politics without the imagina- tion is bureaucracy.” Similarly one could say that, “Art without imagination risks becoming a banality.” More so when one thinks of a particular kind of so-called “politically engaged” art, a fair part of which can be academic, dry, didactic, and quite simply, uninspiring and dull. But what happens when art filters politics through leaps of the imagination, subversive humor, and playful, transformative strategies? Herbert Marcuse once formulated his view this way: ”Poetry, art, imagination, the creator spirit is life itself; the real revolutionary power to change the world (…)”

In art, as in life, the power of the radical imagination lies in the fact that, rather than accepting the world as it is, it imagines the world as it could be, and at the same time cracks cemented opinions and disrupts normative stereotypes. The Politics of Play explores the relationship of art and politics by way of the radical imagination and the agency of play through the work of artists who harness fantasy, poetry, provocation, subversive humor, theatricality, and disguise, to talk about current critical political issues.

How can the understanding of political issues be transformed by the artistic imagination? How can the dryness and cynical realism of much of what is identified as “politically or socially engaged art” be transcended through artistic filtering and visual transformation? How can something with negative connotations be transformed into something redemptive, joyful, even utopian, and yet still remain critical? How can the concept of play change and inform socially and politically engaged artistic practice? The exhibition showcases the work of artists who address all these issues and engage with the political and the social in ways that eschew banality, didacticism, political correctness, and the literalistic re-presentation of reality, and instead privilege creative invention, distinctive forms of visuality, and transformative leaps of the imagination.

Katerina Gregos, Curator



Nabil Boutros (Egypten / Egypt, 1954), Luc Deleu (Belgien / Belgium, 1944), Ninar Esber (Libanon / Lebanon, 1971), Parastou Forouhar (Iran, 1962), Jorge Galindo & Santiago Sierra (Spanien / Spain, 1966 / 1965), Guerrilla Girls (USA, est. 1985), Nevan Lahart  (Irland / Ireland, 1973), Tala Madani (Iran, 1981), Otobong Nkanga (Nigeria, 1974), Roberto Paci Dalò (Italien / Italy, 1962), Pavel Pepperstein (Ryssland / Russia, 1966), Fernando Sanchez Castillo (Spanien / Spain, 1970), Marinella Senatore (Italien / Italy, 1977), Liv Strömquist (Sverige / Sweden, 1978), Olav Westphalen (Tyskland / Germany, 1963), Wooloo (Martin Rosengaard & Sixten Kai Nielsen) (Danmark / Denmark, est. 2002), Qiu Zhijie (Kina / China, 1969)