Playfulness Seems to be Playillness

by lenyss

This work has been commented by 2 editor(s). Read the comments


Playfulness Seems to be Playillness

Concept author(s)

Lenka Klimesova

Concept author year(s) of birth


Friendly Competition

Love Conflict Imagination (2010-2011)

Competition category

Critical writing

Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

Kunstuniversität Linz / Institut für Medien / Interface Culture leaded by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau

Check out the Love Conflict Imagination 2010-2011 outlines of Memefest Friendly competition.

About work


Paper introduces the main concepts of playillness theory. Playillness theory is about playfulness elements which complicate an interpretation of artwork in comparison with contemporary new media fields in digital and visual arts culture. Where is the border between playing and art creativity? What is the difference between children game and artistic game? Can be a toy an artwork? Is device art trashy? I describe the importance of discussion about these questions by using ludic interfaces and visual culture studies. I focus on common playfulness similarities between game and art elements leading to wrong interpretation of both terms. Outline the artistic rules in comparison with game rules. How can we combine them for getting our own goal? We can use artistic rules for improving commercial game, but it will be still commercial game. We can use game rules in artwork and it will be still artwork. Playfulness is an integral part of homo ludens and Ludic Society. We can apply it where and how we want. This seems to be dangerously playillness. My paper explains the theory of playillness and its meaning in digital visual arts and ludic culture.


device; game; interactive; playfulness; creativity; ludic; homo ludens

Editors Comments

Daniel Marcus

This is a manifesto. Manifestos are good! They take a stand, get people to think, create energy. Agree or disagree with its premises or conclusions as you will, but a manifesto can be very productive in getting the reader to think about things from new angles, and more specifically to figure out what to personally believe (and believe in). Memefest should attract manifestos. So while I disagree with most of your argument, thanks for contributing it to the Festival.

The essay is a serious effort to differentiate art from the commercial, commodity culture in which we are immersed. Lenka takes to task artists who, perhaps misunderstanding Duchamp, try to turn their own art works into devices, to effectively make them banal or merely playful (when something is merely playful, it becomes playill-is this right?). To Lenka, this promotes stereotypical thinking, prevents meaningful interaction by the audience with the piece, and turns the experience into a simplistic game – whereas art should be a game seeking truth, should be playful with a purpose. More examples in the essay would be useful to make the comparison clearer and richer.

Manifestos tend toward all-or-nothing thinking, clearly and strongly delineating differences and alternatives. Lenka offers a more nuanced analysis at times, showing where art and device/game converge or share characteristics. Still, she makes some strong statements, and sometimes asserts points without fully making the chain of logic clear. She seems to argue that art cannot have a practical, useful purpose other than to be art, that when it becomes useful in some other way, it can no longer be art.

Why is this so? Why do you define art as so separate from the rest of daily practices? How then do we “use” art? To take us out of the everyday? That is certainly one major use, but cannot there be others, that could sit beside the usefulness of an object for other purposes? Could an object not be art in one context, and not in another? Can’t we as an audience/user determine that? You also say that games of playillness are not narrative, and create a gaze akin to the filmviewer’s gaze, as opposed to the gaze created by art. But films are narrative, so that does not seem to really be the problem. Rather, the notorious filmic gaze is absorptive, which makes critical viewing difficult or impossible (often by use of the narrative). You are clearly arguing against Walter Benjamin, who thought it was the aura of art that closed down critical thinking, and thought movies could reinvigorate such oppositional viewing. You argue the opposite. But can we really be so dichotomous, about art or films/games? Defining one as good and the other as bad, whether it is in Benjamin’s dichotomy or yours?

But hey, manifestos tend toward blanket statements. And being compared to Walter Benjamin, even as his opposite, is pretty nice – you’re grappling with serious issues, and throwing your ideas into circulation, and I thank you for making me think more about all of this.

Nikolai Jeffs

This essay presents a number of interesting ideas and arguments within a short academic format. The effectiveness of this piece of writing within the context of this year’s Memefest, however, would have been greater if some space would have been devoted to developing the various connections between its specific topic and the issues of love, conflict, and imagination: when, for instance, does playillness reveal itself in forms of love, when does playfulness come to be constitutive of conflict, how does all this manifest itself in contemporary artistic and imaginative forms?
I also got the impression that too much was trying to be said within too short a space and that some of the argumentative effectiveness of the work, its own writerly playfulness as it were, was thus lost especially as the pace of the essay’s argumentation is quite fast indeed. The essay would also have benefited from a detailed review and correction of its use of the English language as this, as it currently stands, also made the essay quite hard to follow in some places.