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Play in the City 2013

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Anne Dalke's picture


Welcome to the on-line conversation for Play in the City, an Emily Balch Seminar offered in Fall 2013 @ Bryn Mawr College,  in which we are addressing the question of how we construct, experience, and learn in the act of play. How is play both structured by the environment in which it occurs, and how might it re-structure that space, unsettling and re-drawing the frame in which it is performed?

This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.

Who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our course. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared explorations.  Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE

pialikesowls's picture

Re-reading the Barnes

I thought the story of the Barnes was really interesting. I thought that the documentary, Art of the Steal, was a little bit pretentious but did open me up to what happened after Barnes died. However, if I were to visit the Barnes again, I would not view the museum differently, as it doesn't really change the fact that it's full of art that is meant to educate and enlighten people through Barnes' version of art. I probably would choose a different painting, because I felt as if the one I chose wasn't very interesting.

AnotherAbby's picture

Barnes Essay Rewrite

To “reread” the essay I wrote on my trip to the Barnes, I would, first of all, rewrite the “Barnes Version” essay, as opposed to the “Academic” one. I really threw in the former version at the last second as a joke; I thought I understood the difference between Barnes’ way of “reading” art and the academic way that he so loathed. I didn’t understand Barnes’ viewpoint well enough until we talked through his ideals for the Foundation in class. Now, however, I’m cautiously confident that I could look again at my painting of choice but focus more on what Barnes thinks is important, using both Dewey’s book and his to do so.

tflurry's picture

A Matter of Context

The information I learnt through the readings, movie and discussion primarily drove home to me how lucky I am to be able to see these art pieces. The paper I wrote about my visit to the Barnes was almost exclusively about my observations on Henri Rousseau’s “Scout Attacked By a Tiger”; the information I learnt about Barnes does not affect what I saw in that painting. However, if I rewrote the paper to focus more on the Foundation, the information I learnt would be used to discuss the differences between how the art was originally shown and how it is shown now, and how those differences might affect my interpretation of the art.

ecohn's picture

Barnes Reflection

Because I wasn’t in class on Tuesday, I feel a bit behind, especially considering how many people have reflected on what we discussed in class. I can, however, reflect on how my opinion changed based on the readings and the movie. And, to be completely honest, my opinion didn’t really change! I already knew that the Barnes Foundation moved, and that it is now much more public. I think that that is great, because just being there for a few hours, I saw so many masterpieces artistically organized on the walls. Making a treasure like that more open and available is an important step when looking at the progression of society.

If I were to redo my Barnes experience, I don’t know what I’d do differently. I’d hopefully go on a day when I don’t feel as sick as I did when I previously went.  It was pretty bad timing, but I think I made the best of it, and found the experience to be stimulating and exciting!

Yancy's picture

re-reading the museum

I am confused after reading the articles that explain the original function of this museum. When I see a picture, I prefer to read the stories after it. I’m interested in who is the character in the picture, why painters choose the character and the meaning of the picture. Actually I am not used to enjoying a picture by noticing its lines, colors or structures. However, Barnes hopes visitors can enjoy the picture without those backgrounds. Although I do not have the background information, I still try to find such information by staying with the picture for a long time. The museum changes its position. Luckily, they did not change the arrangement of artworks here. I don’t think it is a large problem to change the museum’s position. Compared to this problem, the existence of audio tour works more against the original idea of Barnes. It makes Barnes Foundation a real commercial museum instead of an educational place. I will re-write my paper and focus more on the picture itself but not the story of it.

natschall's picture


I don't think I really look at my experience at the Barnes differently after watching the movie and reading the article. I already knew it had been moved, but I was happy that it was, or at least indifferent on the conflict over moving it, because I know I probably wouldn't have gotten the same chance to visit it as I did. I think it's good that the Foundation is more open to the public, but I also think it was fine before it was public. Similarly, the class discussion did not really change my view on the painting I analyzed. I'd like to look at it again, just to see if I notice anything else, but I do not think I would really have a dramatic change of heart regarding my opinion or reading of it.

clarsen's picture

The Barnes Foundation Redo

When spending my thirty minutes at The Barnes with Peter Paul Ruben’s The Incarnation as Fulfillment of All the Prophecies, a lot of material covered in my art history class came flooding back.  I found myself spending a great time analyzing the piece based on preconceived notions and facts on classical artwork rather than having my own natural experience with it.  If given the option to relive my Barnes trip, I would have chosen a work of art different than the religious and fairly familiar piece chosen.  When visiting, I was also attached to Van Gogh’s Postman, which I may have had more success writing about as I know little about his style.

Clairity's picture

Re-reading the Barnes Foundation

I went to the Barnes Foundation without any previous knowledge about its background, and I'm gratified that I didn't watch the movie or read the articles about its "move" before I went there. Because then I wouldn't be ablt to enjoy any of it with a pure mind, since there would be so many conflicts going on in my head. Reading the background materials entirely changed my way of seeing Barnes Foundation. I felt a little guilty about going there, but I'm also glad that it was moved there so that I could visit. The sacred feeling it gave me originally about the building and the collection was crushed. From my perspective, it used to be a fabulous place for amazing artworks, but now it seems like a scandalous conspiracy. It surprised me that additional information could alter one's opinion so much and reminded me of the power of knowledge and education. I was also given a clearer outlook regarding Barnes and his collection, which is not only valuable financially, but also in terms of its original goal to educate.

Grace Zhou's picture


Is the art itself vaulueble or it is priceless because people view it as a work which would be auctioned millions of dollars? Based on the discussion we had in class, I started to wonder how do we value the art? For Barnes, the art is more like an experience for education. So why he places these brilliant paintings and sculptures in these order. If I revisit Barnes Foundation, I will put more emphasis not only on the man in the paining but also on the relationship between the painting and the surrounding environment. How can people be educated by viewing art through Barnes’ idea? And if art itself is a lesson, what “the postman” wants to tell? What will be different if this painting is placed in a museum? 

pbernal's picture

Recollecting Thoughts and Proposal

After recollecting my thoughts on our class discussion on Tuesday, the essays and the movie I came to a couple of final conclusions. It made me wonder, who is art for? We have art museums but what role in society do they play and ultimately what is their purpose? To share art publicly to everyone in society or only the worthy educated ones? Do art musuems single out certain people in society? I'd like to explore different art exibits and how they welcome the public and also take into consideration where they are located. 

For my last Play in the City outing, I want to go somewhere where I don't feel eyes prying on my every move. I want to be able to go somewhere where I can roam and prance around, not necessarily physically but perhpas prancing around in my thoughts while humming or maybe even singing to songs in my head. I want to be able to see some form of creation with purpose, something sole. I was thinking of walking in on a music venue with live music, but most are open late at night after our final meet. I want to experience art, but less formal and more inviting, more intimate. I'd like to propose going to the Expressive Hand in Philadelphia on 622 S 9th St. I want to be able to create something that reflects my thoughts, something that speaks out to me. It would be a great way to end this journey because rather than observing, I would like to put it all into a piece of pottery and create something. 

Frindle's picture

The School

Barnes always wanted his foundation to be a school first. He had a reason for putting everything together the way he did; each room was designed with that purpose in mind. When I rewrite my paper, I want to rewrite it thinking about how the design of the museum differed from what I was used to, and how that affected my reading of The Postman.

Samantha Plate's picture

A new outlook

Knowledge about the Barnes Foundation's history has changed my outlook on the new Barnes Foundation and the art within its walls. I have a high respect for Albert Barnes that I didn't have before. He spent his life collecting all of these amazing pieces of art so that he could protect them. He didn't care about their worth. He cared about the works for the pieces of art that they were. He wanted to guard them from the people of the art world that cared more about their monetary value than there inherent worth. It makes me very happy to know that there are people that really do care about these works and wanted to give the most common citizens access to them. And importantly, he didn't just wants to see the art, he wanted us to learn from it. I feel like I tried my best to do this during my viewing of The Postman. I'm still figuring out how I want to improve my essay, but these are some thoughts I had after class on Thursday.

Claire Romaine's picture

Price Tags

Barnes had the luxury to not care about money, and, when it comes to art, he didn't want money to be a barrier to others either.  That was the point of creating a school rather than a museum: to help others learn about and appreciate art, not for the price tag, but the qualities of the piece itself.  In my paper revision I want to talk about these great names (Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir etc.) and their even greater price tags.  How the media's and art enthusiasts' focus on the monetary worth of the collection, violates some of Barnes key principles, as well as negates the importance of many of the other pieces in the exhibit.  This relates back to my prior paper because I focused on a piece with very little historical and artistic importance, but Barnes nonetheless included it. 

tflurry's picture

The Attack

What drew me to this painting is primarily the subject matter, and the way the subjects seem to almost glow against the dark background. Two men in white and a ferocious tiger battle desperately deep in some jungle, and there is no way to tell who will win. The piece is “Scout Attacked by a Tiger”, by Henri Rousseau, and it made me think.


Student 24's picture

The Tree's Solemn Warning

The gallery was full of conversation, dialogue, and dynamic between each and every piece of art. Try putting a bucketful of paintings into one room and keeping them silent. Please, they have so much to say to each other. Compliments, complements, completion and competition. So many voices; it was an exciting hum. But to find one painting, I needed internal dialogue, between the elements within a singular piece. I needed a filter, so I listened to the paintings while keeping a lens of my own poems in mind. A few paintings reached my ears, but it wasn't until I saw a sketch by Glackens that I chose which of my poems I wanted to use. The sketch was of a park with trees and a bunch of people simply milling around. That took my mind to a poem that I wrote, sitting in Maçka Park in Istanbul, Turkey last year on the 24th of October. So I knew that I wanted to use this poem as my filter, though it didn't quite fit this sketch in particular because there was no lamppost. I needed trees and a lamppost. This is the poem:

24th of the Tenth
Do I prefer the black-painted old-fashioned lamppost?
Or the autumn tree, slowly starved and stripped to shame?
Do I prefer the misty beam of yellow light and electricity buzzing, humming, in harmony with the fluttering moths,
the tree’s solemn warning:
“Don’t make me beautiful because you’re lonely,”
as it shakes its balding head.

Amy Ma's picture

Gallery Crush

“Would you please turn on the light?” That’s what I first thought when looking at this painting, because the general appearance of this painting is very dark. The left side is darker than the right side, so dark that you can clearly see the tiny cracks on the painting due to it is very old. A woman is bending her back, drawing water from the urn. The light part on her apron makes her apron adds some three-dimension effect, and also makes it seem so heavy. The loose clothe and the creases on it make her clothes seem worn. The white cloth on her head covers her eyes, but it seems that she is looking at the bucket on the floor, tiredly. The light comes from the open door. There stands a woman, with something in her hand. I couldn’t see it clearly. I stepped back, tiptoed, stepped forward, and crouched: no matter what I did, I just couldn’t get what is in her hand. It seems long, probably a broom. There is a little child next to her. Her fingers are thick— she probably do a lot of chores every day. She looks like a servant, not hostess of a poor family, but servant, because the woman at the door dresses the same as her. Everything looks daily: the brooms, the buckets, even the women. Everything seems routine: the women may do it repeatedly, every day.

Cathy Zhou's picture

About Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

That is a small sized picture compared to all the other works hung up on the wall. After walking around the museum several times, it attracted my attention. It’s a portrait of a small wooden house (or room). With one single bed on the left, a table in the middle and several people around, it’s a normal scene. But it has some attractions distinguished from the rest of the museum.

The use of colors is the first thing that captured my eyes: the mainstream is black, dark red, brown and white, repeatedly. But even with these mainly dark colors, my impression for it is still bright. The whiteness is conspicuous---it has a strong sense of presence. The painting is incompatible with the other ones on the same wall, the contrast of color brought up a brand-new feel, and even it’s an old art piece talking about time few decades ago. The whiteness draws clear outlines in this painting: the pillows, the plates, the apron of the woman, and in the texture of the carpet. However, the whiteness did not have a delightful feeling; it’s just neat, or even dazzling. The only color I like is the sky outside their door: pure blue, without even a piece of cloud or a glance of horizon. I wondered that this might be the painter’s expression of life: the pure beauty outside be the dream and the inside darkness is the reality. The sky is also the light source of the room because there’s no lights inside the room.

Everglade's picture

The Girl with the Golden Eyes

Flowing. Floating. Drifting. Orange and dark blue run by, through, into each other. Like the warm ocean current from the equator meets the cold one from Arctic, crushing, fusing, solving, dissolving, creating home for diverse beautiful oceanic creatures. A man in dark clothes stands still in the waves.

Barnes Foundation, with its modern, luxurious outlook, seemed just another museum to me. I expected the inside display to be one painting per wall, so that the artworks could be given sacred majesty and be enshrined and worshiped. On the contrary, paintings are placed close together, so close that, in order to keep them from fighting for space, they are separated by huge keys, carved fences, and spearheads. Now that the artworks exist in peace and harmony, they talk and dance with each other. Two pieces of the same painter share similarity or symmetry; a huge portrait of an elderly man surrounded by smaller portraits of children like an old man surrounded by his grandchildren; an ancient African painting looks like a 19th century work; a painting and a sculpture have astonishingly similar patterns.

Taylor Milne's picture

La Tasse de Chocolat

            As I approached the chic new building that was created to hold the vast quantity of art pieces that Barnes had collected in his life, I was expecting the traditional layout of a museum, with artwork lining the walls with plaques underneath yielding descriptions of the works and their creators. However I was overwhelmed by the vast amount of artwork pieced together into a playful collage that led from room to room with hundreds of paintings, works of iron, sketches, and sculptures, all intentionally placed into a specific pattern, allowing for pieces of art to play off of one another, making each work better than it would be if it were displayed on its own. As I toured along the walls and walls of art, I kept finding myself drawn to the soft shades and strokes of the Pierre-Auguste Renoir pieces, I love the impressionist era, and Renoir pieces seemed to line the walls.

Muni's picture

Two Women by the Shore

Henri Edmond Cross 1856-1910, Two Women by the Shore, Mediterranean 1896 Oil on Canvas

Perhaps missing the ocean drew me to Two Women by the Shore, by French artist Henri Edmond Cross. The painting is set on what looks like a cliff, with a bright turquoise ocean and pale purple sky as a background. There are blues and purples in the shadows, and yellows and pinks to accent the highlights, with some red, green, and orange mid tones. It is late morning or early afternoon; the colors are bright but the shadows are long. The horizon line is barely visible, and the ocean reflects the slightly purple clouds as if the sky and sea are one. The scrubby brush and deciduous trees remind me of the chaparral of California, but the shockingly saturated colors and lack of wind or fog in the painting suggest a more equatorial zone. Looking closer, I try and figure out what’s going on to draw me into the painting.