Douglas Kelaher

Play Nice

22 December 2007 - 24 February 2008

This is an interactive installation. You are invited to touch and move objects about. Also, participants are videoed and past play can be viewed in the observation hut.

Douglas Kelaher is well-known to Dunedin audiences for his more-than-functional furniture, almost-cartoonish sculptures, and clean-lined design environments that blur the boundary between art and functional objects.

‘Don’t touch’ is the first rule in almost every art gallery. But Kelaher’s Play Nice, which is part playground, part toybox, part Surrealist sculpture garden, gleefully breaks that rule. Almost every object is touchable, moveable, and up for grabs.

Kelaher has based many of his objects on what child development specialists call ‘empathy objects’ that help create a ‘warm and fuzzy’ environment that encourages play. The outward look of Play Nice is cheerful, happy and harmonious, but there is still plenty of room for mischievous interventions.

Kelaher likens Play Nice to the set of a children’s television programme, but one in which the children are the real-time directors while the artist and gallery provide the props. And unlike recent reality TV shows that use hidden cameras to monitor children’s tantrums and tussles while unseen experts look on, Kelaher uses a camera and played back footage to encourage all-out inventiveness.

Children are able to see what other visitors have made of the show, may attempt to outdo them and leave their own ‘stories’ on the audiovisual record. What’s more, Kelaher reverses the usual relationship between the observed and the observer by making his observation box child-sized. To fit themselves into the box and see what’s going on, adults will have to make a public display of themselves.

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