Even if you don’t remember a lick of elementary school classwork, it’s likely the joys and terrors of the schoolyard linger. I remember vividly the black asphalt playground of my Catholic elementary school in Oklahoma, where we played tag over its patched tar lines, kickball with balls that seemed always slightly deflated, and where a classmate would stomp on another boy’s feet while he tried to put his stolen shoes back on — camaraderie mingling with cruelty. In Playground, a new book and exhibition at Aperture Gallery in Chelsea, photographer James Mollison captures those narratives of pleasure and torment from school recreation spaces around the world.
Setting up his tripod in playgrounds in the United States, Sierra Leone, Bhutan, India, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Argentina, the United Kingdom, and other locales, Mollison would capture several frames of each site, which he then stitched together into a composite vision. Mollison previously published Where Children Sleep, a series on the bedrooms (or lack thereof) of children across the globe, and Playground similarly has a lot of empathy for the lives of others. His images capture the similarities of youthful play across social boundaries and national borders, but also the deep divides of class and privilege that are often put in place long before we’re old enough to understand their implications.
The settings are vastly different, from the ultramodern rooftop gymnasium at Shohei Elementary School in Japan and the rustic trees and faux campsite of Utheim Skole in Norway, to the crowded space surrounded by low, ramshackle structures with metal roofs at Valley View Academy in Nairobi, Kenya. Yet whether in the startling scene of the Aida Boys’ School in Bethlehem, with the looming shadow of a dividing wall and watchtower beyond the sun-bleached concrete space, or the contrasting Holtz High School in Tel Aviv, where orderly uniforms and even an old helicopter characterize the Israeli Air Force-affiliated school, Mollison found that play remained ubiquitous.
In each photograph there is roughhousing, physical games like tug-of-war and clambering over dangerous-looking metal equipment, and bullying. As journalist Jon Ronson writes in his forward, excerpted by the New Yorker earlier this month: “I see it as a book of horror photographs: little flashes of violence and cruelty. My eyes skip past the comfortable little cliques and the best friends holding hands to the outcasts, the pariahs, the ones protecting their faces from the blows.” Like a living Where’s Waldo? illustration, in each photograph are those echoes of different memories, both good and bad, in the chaotic schoolyard crowd.
In an exhibition that consists of mostly small-scale black and white works on paper, viewer engagement almost magically awakens the sleepy room.
Maria Maea’s All in Time continues an intergenerational conversation and exemplifies the artist’s process, not simply the finished pieces.
The program, along with recently announced visiting critics, will provide long term funding, promote access, and safeguard experimentation for future students of color.
Koestler Arts works with incarcerated people and patients in secure mental health units, aiming to improve their lives through creativity.
Local artists and culture workers are wondering how the arena will impact the arts landscape, including museums and alternative spaces.
Huaca Pintada comprises a rare mixture of elements of two northern Peruvian civilizations.
Lensa AI’s digital avatars have captivated users, but some say the app is stealing from artists and reflects racial stereotypes.
Contemporary art, original sketches, and more explore how the Japanese character sprung from the pages of a manga and became a global cultural sensation.
New research contests the myth that it was Christianity’s opposition to public nudity that led to the decline in large-scale bathing in the late Roman Empire.
An exhibition at San Francisco’s Letterform Archive highlights typography’s role in iconic social movements from the 1800s through the present.
Eleven Contemporary Artists Explore the Meaning of Shelter at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art
Artists collaborate with nonprofit institutions and field experts to examine historical and contemporary determinants of housing and the feelings of safety and connection integral to places of living.
Rocks, ducks, and a self-organized survey of Gingham are some of the things to see right now in four Chicago art galleries.
Three weeks into their strike, part-time professors are escalating their protests, backed by public figures and disgruntled parents.