Learning Sprint #2: Play

‘Play’ is a two-week learning sprint, the third in the 40 Credit Themes Course within the MA Contemporary Art Theory programme.


The great trouble with art in this country [the United States] at present, and apparently in France also, is that there is no spirit of revolt— no new ideas appearing among the younger artists. They are following along the paths beaten out by their predecessors, trying to do better what their predecessors have already done. In art there is no such thing as perfection. And a creative lull occurs always when artists of a period are satisfied to pick up a predecessor’s work where he dropped it and attempt to continue what he was doing. When on the other hand you pick up something from an earlier period and adapt it to your own work an approach can be creative. The result is not new; but it is new insomuch as it is a different approach.

(Duchamp, 1946)

Resource List (Link) for Play Sprint (link)

To begin with, here is an evolving resource list for this sprint:

Weeks 3 & 4 Play Resources (link)

What will we be doing in this learning sprint?
As a way of responding to the provocation, we will explore how (and if) play can redux our artistic processes of thought and action by revisting, remixing and modifying existing artworks to create new understandings and approaches to our learning and making.
To do so we will explore organology, copyleft and sampling practices along with theoretical practices and materials produced by artists over the past 50 years. If you are attempting this sprint ‘in the open’ then any corpus or catalogue of materials that are open access or have been produced by you will suffice as base materials for these activities.
What else might this learning sprint involve?
During Sprint #2 we will harness the ambiguity of play (Sutton-Smith, 2001) as a metacommunicative (Bateson, 1976) and metacognitive (Chick, 2012) process that can reframe prior learning experiences and allow us to explore the possibilities of critically reconfiguring them into new articulations of knowlegde and provocations for future action.
In the post-Huizingian (1970) conception of play, it is a modality of being and doing (Bogost, 2016; Sicart 2014) and as such can be applied to anything. It is not only limited to games and gamification of experience, this sprint will investigate the posibilities this perspective enables and/or limits and what practices we can reflectively develop to pursue these aims.

Week 3

Monday | Day One – “Play it Again Sam!” | Jake Watts

10:00-10:30 | Introduction to the Sprint

10:30-11:30 | M.V.S.E: Framing Our Play – This session will examine the M.V.S.E (Watts, 2016) workshop as a model of organology for adpating, remixing, reenacting and playing artworks as scores for future experiences. The workshop was commissioned by MANY Studios of Glasgow and iteratively developed for the Icelandic Academy of the Arts and takes George Brecht’s propositional score ‘Motor Vehicle Sundown [Event]’ (1960) composed for his tutor John Cage as the basis for a paragogical workshop.

11:30-12:30 | Scored for Life – We will firstly explore Lawrence and Anna Halprin’s ‘Characteristics of Scores’ (1969). In your designated bashos, you will then review a set of fluxus scores that can provide the basis for you to remix existing artworks towards new happenings, tookits and applications by considering ways to remix and sample them for others to play.

Wednesday | Day 2 – The Serious Matter of Play | Jake Watts

10:00-11:30 | Follow the breakdown of assigned readings for the group to work below.

Please engage with these readings before our class together. During the first part of our session together we will reflect on the reading each group has completed via a ‘jigsaw learning’ (Aaronson, 1971) to explore how play can be conceived and enacted in relation to contemporary art.


The Mandatory Reading for All MCATs to read for this week is:

‘1. Play is’ (pp1-18) in Play Matters (Sicart, 2014)

Each Basho will be also be assigned a Bespoke Reading, the bashos are as follows:

Study Groups (‘Basho’):

Neil’s Group 🟢

Jake’s Group 🟣 

Beth’s Group 🟡

Frances’ Group Ω

Bespoke Readings for each group are are:

Neil’s Group 🟢

‘1. Play and Ambiguity’ in The Ambiguity of Play (Sutton-Smith, 2001: 1-17)

Jake’s Group 🟣 

‘1. Introduction to Critical Play’ in Critical Play: Radical Game Design (Flanagan, 2009: 1-15)

Beth’s Group 🟡

‘1. Precursors to Ludic Participation’ in Play and Participation in Contemporary Arts Practices (Stott, 2015: 16-32)

Frances’ Group Ω

‘The Pedagogy of Play: Fluxus, Happenings and Curriculum Reform in the 1960s’ in C Magazine Issue 131 p14-18


Before you begin, you may wish to learn a little more about what ‘reading’ a set seminar text involves at the University of Edinburgh.

Our Institute for Academic Development (IAD) offer good advice on how to critically approach a seminar set-text here.

It’s important not to take what you read at face-value. You need to engage in Critical Thinking. Here, a group of Edinburgh undergraduates explain what Critical Thinking is for them:

11:30-12:30 | You will reconvene in your bashos to together to develop your work on the collective scores you commenced on Monday and discuss plans to turn your new version into an OER.

The classroom projector will be used to screen ‘Playtime’ by Jaques Tati (1967).

Week 4

Monday| Day 4 | Slay it Again Pam! | Jake Watts

For today’s session you will meet independently in your basho, you can use the teaching space R.02b in the Hunter Building to continue work the sprint theme together.

By the end of today’s session you should aim to have a workable idea and a action plan for your score that you intend to publish and disseminate on Day 4. There are two aims your Basho needs to fulfil

  1. During today’s session your group should decide upon the score you wish to play with, this can be any form of material that can be understood as a score according to the principles outlined in Lawrence & Anna Halprin’s ‘Summary of the Characteristics of Scores‘ (1969) [pictured above]. This might be a set of game rules, a musical score, a fluxus artwork, a piece of programming, etc. It can be any form of notation that is intended to be played, it may even be a combination of more than one score but your basho should work together to find material that you think will work as a group.
  2. Based on our discussions of the readings on play explored on Day 2 of the sprint your Basho must decide how to play with your chosen score. This process should involve a metacognitive engagement with the material, by this it means you should adapt what your score is and how it could be played. This should involve playtesting and identifying issues or potential developments you can make as a group. You may wish to exchange your updated scores with other basho to gain their perspective on your ideas.

Wednesday | Day 4 | Redux, Remix and Register | Jake Watts


In today’s session we will be finalising and publishing your scores and you will present them to the other basho.

15:00-15:30 Presentation and Q&A on Creative Commons Licensing. This will include a walkthrough of how to register your score and choose the appropriate license via the ‘Creative Commons Chooser’ and discussion of different ways of thinking through visual art’s relationship to attribution such as projects like Art Libre, Harvard’s CopyrightX course, and UoE’s own OpenEd guides. An additional resource of use is the ‘Creative Commons a User Guide’ (Aliprandi, 2012).

 Creative Commons Licenses, Foter.com, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://foter.com/blog/how-to-attribute-creative-commons-photos/

Types of CC license, Foter.com, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://foter.com/blog/how-to-attribute-creative-commons-photos/

15:30-16:15 Working in your basho you will research, discuss and decide up on what licensing apporach you will take and get your score registered

16:15-16:30 Break

16:30 – 17:30 Each basho will present their score to the other basho present and describe the process behing making and licenscing what they have produced.








Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Jake Watts 2021-23


As much as possible of the Play: Redux sprint  will be taught ‘in the open’ (OER)

This page contains information specific to MA CAT students, but, if it’s open, you are free to use it providing you stay within the license of the OER:  ‘Play: Redux’ | Learning Sprint designed by Dr Jake Watts and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA 4.0