Explore the power and potential of play at FutureFest
What is the power and potential of play? The first thing to say is that, in strict evolutionary terms, play - like sexual pleasure, or our long hours of sleep - seems maladaptive.
All that waste of energy, or risk of predation, or potential injury! Why would any mammal - and we humans are the worst offenders - open themselves up to these dangers and inefficiencies?
The reason is because play is actually extremely adaptive. The free imagination at its core has helped humans escape environmental niches and blind corners more than any other animal - to such an extent that we now defy and manipulate nature itself.
Playfulness in any activity is a way of “taking reality lightly”, as Johan Huizinga once put it - an “influx of mind into matter” that generates creative solutions and possibilities
So in my Play theme for FutureFest this year, and referencing great sporting events like the Euros, the Rio Olympics and Paralympics, I’ve chosen to emphasise both the bodily and the conceptual powers of play; the way it incites imagination and creative energy in very diverse ways.
I also want to bring in those who could be described as ‘adults at play’. That is, great artists and practitioners, who maintain a spirit of playfulness as a way to keep their art and making fresh and open.
Brian Eno, in his own work and his collaborations with David Bowie, U2 and many others, expresses an elemental creativity - and he’s giving himself the opportunity to speak about the role of play in his process directly, in a FutureFest keynote.
The writer and cultural critic Will Self will also take a headlong run at play - worrying that we might be squeezing out its spontaneity and “radical subjectivity”, in our over-networked and highly-monitored world.
And Es Devlin, the globally-acclaimed set designer for Kanye West, the Royal Opera House, U2 and many others, will be demonstrating the startling advantages that her playful mindset brings to creative endeavour.
We humans are radical animals - able to project our imaginations and intellect into any situation, and increasingly reframe according to our vision and ambition. Our supreme capacity for play is at the heart of that radical nature - and it’s one of the enduring energies that helps us seize the future.
So I’m delighted to be able to explore the power and potential of play at this year’s FutureFest.
Pat Kane is the Play curator for FutureFest, and Director of The Play Ethic.
FutureFest runs 17-18 September at Tobacco Dock, London. Day tickets are now on sale. Find out more about FutureFest.