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Playing in mosaic

Grace Zhou's picture

     Immersed in mosaic world established by Zagar, I was amazed. Because painting, drawing and doing art are too orthodox to describe what Zagar has done, I would like to believe that he is not working; he is playing. He is playing with the broken pieces, playing with the colors and playing with the audiences.

    What is playing?

    Playing is a subversive and artistic attitude.

    Playing is subversive. It changes the tradition. I have never expected the art to be like these: made from trashes and break into pieces. When I read the mosaic on the wall, there are always some separated words on pieces of bricks. It seems that these broken letters are so seductive that I can’t resist following them to find the logical sentence. Sometimes I turned my head up and down to track the sentences, sometimes blend to follow the words from walls extended to ground or ceiling. One sentence that I found on the wall of the magic garden rooted in my mind-“ Some people like money, some like honey. I love art and I make it out of trash. Some say it has no class.” The mosaic I enjoyed is playing, is not the rules that normal artists apply to their “art”. What is more, Zagar not only breaks the orthodox but also breaks out against power, social and cultural. (1) When my group wandering around the neighborhood, it is always surprised to find many unexpected mosaics on the corner of the street, or on the wall of the building. We even found a tour introducing the mosaic. There is a mosaic that when Zagar created his work on the wall, the people across the street worked against it, because they don’t like the “trashes” and even the “broken trashes” stand in front of their windows. So, Zagar just collaged some people with no eyes on the wall to criticize the people without artistic insights. Zagar expressed himself in his work. He is playing, subversively; he critically expressed himself through his work. Like it said in “critical play”, subversion is a “powerful means for marginalized groups to have a voice.” (2) Playing is subversion.

    Also, playing not only can create art, playing is art itself. For many stubborn people, only the work for elites, for nobility or artist can be called art. However, even the sophisticated techniques and invaluable pigments can accumulate a delicate art, the art created by playing, by honesty and even by chance is the real masterpiece I enjoy. For example, performing Dada is a movement “results a blunt rejection of hierarchy, craft and aesthetics.” People have no way to find an order rule and pattern in Dada arts. There’s no pretty girls, no shimmery jewelry or detailed and careful lines in the work, but it’s still an art. Zagar’s mosaic reminds me the “Collage Arranged According to the Laws of Chance” by Jean Arp. His work is playing. He dropped the paper randomly on the ground and created his work only by chance. By playing, Arp leaves some place for me to imagine, just as Zagar did. Although the work from Arp or Zagar is not that complete or clear, it makes me to think and participate. In the mosaics, I can saw myself in the broken mirror. I face a broken self that I never met before. By viewing this work, I recognized that I am not only myself, but some separate parts- I am also the artist and the art itself. I am part of ART! I was playing in the magic garden, but more importantly, I am involved. I started to feel why Zagar drew four hands on his body: is it because he wants to create his work so passionately and eagerly? Maybe he is used to use left hand? The experience is so different from enjoying a sophisticated piece- when looking the ordinary painting and drawing, I just stand there and passively watch the beauty the artist create for me, but no reflection and imagination I have when reading mosaics. Only a playful attitude can make an art this creative and abnormal. Mosaic is for everyone. It is there, on the wall, on the ceiling, in the south of city, waiting to be discovered. Different from the arts hanging on top of the museum, having a distance with audiences, Zagar’s works want to play with us closely. Playing is an attitude of creating art. Although art from playing may not be a masterpiece, although it cannot create much wealth value, people exchange feeling and arouse common sense in the art they really involved.

    When enjoying the mosaics, I find the Midas touch to communicate with myself, with art and artist in a playing attitude. There’s no need to follow the rules and obey the orthodox, no need to ask for pure aesthetic. Zagar is playing and I am playing. At the same time, playing gives the art itself vigor and soul.

Work cited

Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play: Radical Game Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2009. Print.


nightowl's picture


Grace starts her essay by describing her feelings on Zagar’s work and wondering if he is playing or working when he makes art. Grace asks, “What is playing?” and she answers, “Playing is a subversive and artistic attitude.” She goes on to describe how Zagar’s work is subversive art, so it is therefore playful according to her and Flanagan’s definitions. Then she builds on that saying, “playing not only can create art, playing is art itself.” and that her favorite art is playful, honest, and created partly by chance. Grace talks about the Magical Gardens in the context of these thoughts.

Grace’s essay uses Flanagan’s definition of an artist and critical play and relates them to her experiences in the Magical Gardens. She built her essay on definitions and then explained them with examples. Grace’s essay got me thinking of the simple aspects of Zagar’s work and how that it is statement in reaction to the mainstream art world.