Walking towards the east wing of Carriageworks and through to the large high ceiling room with exposed industrial bars on the ceiling, I was greeted with blank white. Taking a few more steps, I was greeted with girls posing with their significant others taking seemingly “candid”, aesthetic photos of them. The clean white background must provide the perfect location to showcase… you? Except, this is not the location to showcase you. It’s about the artist.
Well, what about the artist?
Daniel Buren is an internationally recognised conceptual French artist who began his work in the 1960’s, specializing in public space installations. His interest lies in objects within space that encourage imagination and possibility. For a large portion of his life he worked with circuses in France to create artistic spaces for performers. Buren’s career crosses 50 years, featuring interactive and playful works solo and in collaboration with other artists.
Like Child’s Play was an exceptional fusion of childlike wonder and stark adulthood. Inspired by German educational theorist Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel’s famous creation of wooden blocks to assist children’s learning capacity, Buren reintroduces this concept for adults through more than 100 blocks, arches and shapes towering in large scale. Buren formulates a world of harsh lines, stark white, curated block colour and curved shapes amidst the industrial aesthetic and cultural heritage atmosphere of Carriageworks. The experience and layout of the exhibition space used colour to distinguish between two different worlds.
If you dare to look deeper, the concept of Like Child’s Play lies not in its obvious physicality but rather, transcends into the layout of the space. White envelopes the room when you enter. There is a tunnel running through the centre of many blocks. Not a speck of colour in sight looking through. As you gradually reach the far side of the space - the end of the tunnel - stripes of saturated colours of red, yellow, orange and more surround the circular tunnel vision looking into white. Even the floor changes from stark white to a concrete, greyish brown, signifying laminate floors in corporate boardrooms contrasting with the dirty, unkempt ground of the outside world. Buren has encapsulated the flow between childhood and adulthood successfully.
His iconic colour choice and 8.7cm wide stripes is his signature as an artist. The calculated curation of blocks comes together in a space where flow of vision moves back into the circular, striped tunnel of blocks reinforcing the journey connecting the individual to two selves - past and present. Emphasis on the contrast between a disturbance of highly saturated and white, encourages the participant to move around the work to experience it. This is a common trait with each of his interactive installation artworks. The eye isn’t static, but active.
For many Like Child’s Play was a window into the past and a reflection of the present. The artist’s rendering of the contemporary art landscape and modern values creates a space reminiscent of a simpler time through minimalism iconic of the 21st century. This free-to-the-public exhibition provides an opportunity for Australian audiences to immerse themselves in internationally acclaimed contemporary art, questioning how we perceive life, space and human nature.
Finally, as we move towards the white entrance of the exhibition, we are transported back to reality.