From Diversion to Subversion

Games, Play, and Twentieth-Century Art

Edited by David J. Getsy

Paperback - £65.95

Publication date:

15 February 2011

Length of book:

232 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271037035

Games and play occupied a central, if misunderstood, role in modern art in the twentieth century. Many art-historical narratives have downplayed the ways in which artists returned to play and to games as analogues to art practice, as metaphors for creativity, or as models for art criticism. The essays collected in this volume investigate the fundamental importance of supposedly nonserious activity and attend to the ways in which artists used play and games in order to reconsider their practice and to expand their critical strategies. With subjects ranging from early twentieth-century manifestations of games and play in Surrealism, Duchamp, Picasso, and Bauhaus photography to their repercussions in Fluxus, performance, public practice, and new media, these essays establish the diversity and potential of games and play and point toward an alternate trajectory in the development of modern art.

Aside from the editor, the contributors are Florencia Bazzano-Nelson, Jon Cates, Mary Ann Caws, Susan Laxton, Claudia Mesch, Kevin Moore, Gavin Parkinson, Anne-Marie Schleiner, Owen F. Smith, Ellen Handler Spitz, Stephanie L. Taylor, and Debra Wacks.

“Far too often the seriousness of high art has been invoked at the expense of compelling art’s sheer gratuitousness, irrepressible impertinence, and spontaneous playfulness. A welcome and particularly bracing overturning of this staid approach is David J. Getsy’s From Diversion to Subversion, a collection of lucid essays by established and emerging scholars, which focuses insightfully on the oxymoronic turns of serious humor, games played in earnest, and ludic research.”

—Robert Hobbs, Virginia Commonwealth University