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            Ernst Lurker
            Public Kapsul
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              Ernst Lurker is recognized as the founder of the PlayArt movement. The foremost play theorist, Brian Sutton-Smith, who wrote some 50 books on the subject of play, predicted in the nineties that the 21st century would be the century of play. With the meteoric rise of all the play, gaming, hobby, and entertainment industries, our culture has clearly developed an orientation that needs to be characterized as a culture of play. Accordingly, PlayArt has become the defining art form of the century.

              Lurker invented the name PlayArt in 1962 while an art student in Hamburg, Germany. Four of his moveable, wooden sculptures invited playful interaction by the viewer, and it was immediately apparent that he had created a collection of objects, which were significantly different from conventional sculpture. The audience participation represented a paradigm shift in art that needed its own distinguishing categorization.

              The most characteristic invention was his TinkerLinks sculpture, a cube that unfolded into a chain of 12 rectangular links. The design was later enlarged as a commission for the 1972 Olympics in Munich where the audience was encouraged to interact with a playful art environment. TinkerLinks became the centerpiece of the “Spielstrasse” (play street), the first, large, public introduction of the PlayArt movement.

              In 1969, Lanier Graham, a former curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, devised plans for a PlayArt exhibition at the museum. However, the project was not realized as he was promoted to another museum. Nevertheless, the preparations for the MoMA exhibition revealed that the movement included pioneers that dated much further back in history, such as Marcel Duchamp with his Bicycle Wheel (1913), Alexander Calder with his Circus (1926), the Bauhaus, and many more. In the last fifty years, the movement has grown at an amazing rate and today includes more than 1,000 artists. This explosive proliferation has clearly made it the leading, cutting edge art movement of the present time.

              Prior to MoMA’s hiring of Graham as a curator, he was already known there as an artist. In 1968 MoMA sold his wooden chess set with chess pieces that all had a square base and filled the box like building blocks, in fact, the pieces invited the user to build architectural structures. As a comment to the PlayArt chronology he wrote: “The very first objects sold by MoMA were PlayArt objects, my chess set and Betty Thomson’s Multiplications. This was historic and a real game-changer. Now many museums sell objects. Before that, all museums sold only books, cards, and posters.”

              These first mass-produced museum objects proved to be a runaway success to the point that the manufacturers had trouble filling the demand. The timing was perfect and subsequently, in 1970, MoMA accepted three of Lurker’s PlayArt objects in quick succession. The first one was Triangulations for which Graham provided the name. The other two were Trixagon and Cubigon. In 1973 MoMA published Rolicus, another PlayArt object by Lurker. All in all, MoMA’s contribution to the proliferation of PlayArt was remarkable.
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