The spectrum will range from the pleasure taken by the avant-garde in experimentation and the fundamentally anti-art attitude of the Dada movement to the Fluxus concepts developed in the 1960s with their focus on inter-media, emphasis on interaction and playful approach to reality. The works on display represent various types and aspects of the game: the game of chess with its age-old tradition, music and word games, the playful handling of ideas so significant for the art of the twentieth century, and related characteristics such as fantasy and creativity.
Through artistic personalities such as Marcel Duchamp, who declared in the middle of his trail-blazing career that he would devote the rest of his life exclusively to chess, this game came into the limelight particularly in the twentieth century. And it is an original chess board which provides the basis for Man Ray’s »Boardwalk« of 1917, on view in the exhibition. For her work »Sound Chess« (1965/66), Japanese artist Takako Saito designed identical chess pieces, which are filled with various different rattling materials and thus distinguishable from one another acoustically. In a similar manner, the pieces in her »Weight Chess« (1966) differ with regard to weight, a characteristic which can be determined with the aid of the sense of touch.
Another form of game is represented by the Fluxus artists’ »Art Games« from the Staatsgalerie’s Sohm Archive. The format of the box so characteristic of the Fluxus movement is based on the principle of chance and interaction between the artwork and the onlooker. Among others, the presentation includes »Fluxkit (1)« of 1964 by Fluxus founder George Maciunas. It consists of an imitation leather suitcase in which he placed contributions by various Fluxus artists to form an edition.
Works such as Hermann Finsterlin’s »Stilspiel« (Style Game) are an expression of the fantasy and creativity that characterize the game. It was in 1921 that Finsterlin developed his concept of »building kits« made of wood and painted, in which he assembled prismatic and cuboid elements. From the basic forms of the cube, pyramid, column, cone and hemisphere, all other forms can be constructed.
The game represented a central category in the artistic oeuvre of Marcel Duchamp. His constant playful treatment of the concept of the artwork, initiated in 1913 with his first »readymade«, had a lasting formative influence on the development of art in the twentieth century. In this collection presentation, one of the later editions of his »Bottle Rack« of 1914 will be on display.
The exhibition title »Of Crickets and Ants« is a reference to the Aesop fable revolving around the difference between the behaviour of the cricket, which plays all summer long, and that of the ant, which industrially stocks up for the winter. The cricket thus stands for fun, enjoyment and irrationality, while the ant represents rationality and duty. Applied to human existence, this dichotomy reflects the polarity between »homo ludens« and »homo faber«.