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Soft Toy Art

Toys are functionless and as useless as art. Toys appear to be a category that runs somewhat parrel to art; it is hard tell what the divides the two categories of objects maybe it is all the “do not touch” signs on one side of the division. Toys, unlike most art, are intended to be touched. Toys are intended to be touched, handled and played with.

Toys do not just act as the tokens or signifiers for the imagination at play. Toys are animated with a spirit, a kind of childhood voodoo. And for this magic reason their spirit depends on who is touching the toy, that this spirit can be desecrated by the wrong kind of touching by the wrong person. It is not simple selfishness that restricts sharing toys.

In this new brow era (you know, new brow, neither high brow nor low) there are art/toys created artists are art/toys. There is a lot of it about. Toys created by artists are becoming increasing common in art exhibitions. Toys are part of the street art influence on contemporary art. “Urban Art 10A” earlier this year at BSG included custom soft toys by Amy Calton, Antonia Green and Rob Thompson, from the Australian Guild of Toy Makers, amongst the work of stencil, cartoon and aerosol artists. Snappy Yabby was exhibiting stuffed toys in the window of White Elephant Artspace in Brunswick in August. Cecilia Fogelberg’s “Super Groupie” at Craft Victoria in 2008 was clearly soft toys art for adults. There is also the Toy Society, what started as a small street art project in Australia is slowly spreading around the world.

Sounds fun. I often describe art that I like as fun, as I would like to see more fun art. Fun is a big category, from silly to serious, that excites people’s body, emotions and imagination. Fun has rarely been taken seriously but it is important to life (and not just human life, all vertebrates, like Cindy Lauper’s girls, just want to have fun). Food and sex, the basics of life, are often fun for vertebrates (the same cannot be said for invertebrates). And toys are unashamedly fun creations.

What I find uneasy about much of this art/toys is that although toys can be a miniature representation of the real world but they are not a comment on the world. Toys are a withdrawal from the world rather than an engagement with it. And that most of these art soft toys are ugly monsters.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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