It's all fun and games at Museum London with the advent of their new exhibition, Free Play. It's a collection of 15 works from various contemporary artists focused on the significance of play and leisure.

"You have traditional art forms like painting, sculpture, print, stuff like that," says curator Cassandra Getty. "But for almost a century now a lot of artists have been working on more interactive pursuits, including … games."

Marcel Duchamp is perhaps the best-known "interactive" artist, but the trend continued – the Surrealists and Dadaists were interested in a similar prospect, for example.

Everything in Free Play can be touched, which is unusual for an art exhibit. Anyone can play the games, and in fact they're encouraged to; the participants become part of the work. But you might not get what you expect.

"It's not about winning or defeating an opponent," Getty explains. "It's just about the experience itself."

Take, for example, the work by Yoko Ono, a chessboard with only white pieces. The fact that you can't differentiate your pieces from your opponent's makes it nearly impossible to play strategically, but then that's not the point. Ono breaks down a military game based on a clear dichotomy into a distinctly political statement: we're all on the same side.

Also on display is the work of Pedro Reyes, where visitors leave messages in a bottle. You leave something for the next visitor, who might read your story or your secret, and leave their own. It's an interesting way to make the museum-goers the art.

"There's a lot of artists on display … which is common of a contemporary exhibition," says Getty. "It shows the diversity of the people around the world, who are all looking at how art relates to everyday life. You need leisure time to think creatively, sometimes just by messing around with things."

A more contemporary touch is the Guitar Hero game set up as part of the exhibit, by "technology artist" Cory Arcangel. The songs are custom-made for the exhibit, ranging from "austere to florid," according to Getty. The inclusion of a video game in a museum is an unusual, postmodern touch — a look into the future of art.

The exhibit runs until May 8. The opening reception is Feb. 5 at 8 p.m.

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Opinions Editor

Richard is the Opinions Editor for Volume 111. Previously, he was Culture Editor-At-Large for Volume 110, Arts & Lifestyle Editor for Volume 109, and staff writer for Volume 108. Email him at richard.joseph@westerngazette.ca

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