Artful Play with Technology



  • 22 July 2019–27 July 2019 Katowice, Polen (University of Silesia, Faculty of Social Sciences)


Digital Arts, Cultural History, Cultural Studies, Arts, Game Research, Technical History, Digital Humanities


“Hello, Today you have day off.” A friendly text message at first, but what could be an invitation to spend the day joyfully, is a disaster for the recipients: workers with zero-hour contracts. The artist Jeremy Deller confronted the audience at his exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2015 with the harsh conditions of 19th century workers as well as with controversial current working practices in a playful setting. Spectators were invited to explore ambient sounds from factories on a gleaming blue and chrome vintage jukebox, or to discover contemporary productivity devices, such as Motorola’s WT4000, which are strikingly reminiscent of game interfaces. Playing with technology can be a very fruitful technique for artists, and art history brings some examples of it to the surface of cultural production. Over the last decades, artists use the purposelessness (“Zweckfreiheit”) of game and apply it as a concept on contemporary technology. The results can be hilarious, intriguing, breath-taking, overwhelming, scary. As works of art, however, they have one thing in common: they promote aesthetic added value while challenging technology in the form of production and products, infrastructure, service, etc. The proposed contribution to the panel “Challenging Power through Playing with Technology” will be a categorization of works of art in the 20th centuries, such as Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Golem” (1972) and Jean Tinguely’s “Carnival Fountain” (“Fasnachts-Brunnen”, 1975–1977), and will use these categories to gain a deeper understanding of the play of contemporary artists with technology. The paper follows the assumption that the presented excerpt from contemporary works of art enables an analysis of the blurring boundaries between work and leisure (such as through gamification or shifting the age limit, e.g. in the context of the ubiquitous Attention Economy.

Title of Event

International Committee for the History of Technology’s (ICOHTEC) 46th Symposium in Katowice, Poland


International Committee for the History of Technology

Activity List



  • Katowice, Polen
  • Katowice
  • Polen

Associated Media Files

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Published By: Florian Bettel | Universität für Angewandte Kunst Wien | Publication Date: 09 May 2022, 11:18 | Edit Date: 26 January 2023, 13:16