If we are going to work less, does that mean we will play more?

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Lund university, founded in 1666, and its research centre the Pufendorf Institute. That was where I met up with the Degrowth research group on 18th March 2016.
I had been invited by the coordinators, Ekaterina Chertkovskaya and Alexander Paulsson to hold a workshop for the research group that would use different methods – visual art, drama, group work, place-based learning – to examine issues relevant to the concept of degrowth.

Paul Sableman under a Creative Commons Licence

Paul Sableman under a Creative Commons Licence

This is how I defined the purpose of the workshop:

To work (and play) with and reflect upon the concepts of work and play within the context of Degrowth using the framing of art.
To attain a deeper understanding of these concepts that will advance the activities of the Degrowth research group.


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I introduced myself to the group as a “community arts educator”: this term best describes the work I do and how I do it. This website and blog documents my work (and play!) in these areas.

It was a busy day, from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon, and as such, I planned a range of activities, some short and simple, some longer and complex, using different skills, senses and in different places.

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After introductions, I said a little about the novel The Dispossessed by Ursula le Guin (full disclosure: as readers of this blog will know, le Guin is one of my favourite writers). However I chose le Guin, not for personal reasons, but because the novel is an excellent presentation of a society where work and play have different meanings to those prevalent in today’s capitalist society:

“Most Defense work was so boring that it was not called work in Pravic, which used the same word for work and play, but kleggich, drudgery.”

The group made “living statues” to represent the terms “work” and “play” and then filled a large venn diagram with their thoughts on these terms.

I was interested in finding out what the intersections were, and my goal was for us to dig deeper, to go beyond “common sense” understandings. I was not in the least suprised that the discussions in the small and large groups were curious, nuanced, creative: as a workshop facilitator it was very inspiring.

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I work often with land art as I feel it is a great way of getting outside and learning the lie of the land. It is also the subject of a final paper I wrote when I studied outdoor education.

After lunch, we headed out to Lund Botanic Gardens and carried out a range of activities using (or not using) the senses, like organising the group without talking, describing natural materials without seeing them. Here, for example, the groups arranged their natural materials according to colour:

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Then the groups spread out over the gardens and tried out different ways of interacting with the landscape – and the local wildlife!

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The final stage was to take a tour of the gardens as the groups presented their land artworks.

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Back at the Pufendorf Institute, we continued using art methods to examine the themes of work and play. In my experience, the most basic materials can be the most effective. Even if people feel they can’t draw at all, modelling clay could seem pretty unthreatening for someone who defines themselves as a “non-artist”.

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Our final step was to go back to the venn diagram on work/play and review it. The group kept the large poster as a record of the day’s activities. The group also took these photographs of the workshop.

Thanks for a great day of work and play and work/play!

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