To subscribe to Afterall journal, starting with this issue, please click here.Alternatively, if you wish to purchase this article individually, you may do so via JSTOR. Please follow the instructions on this page.
Between the centre of Los Angeles and the High Desert outpost where Andrea Zittel has dotted the landscape with self-contained structures for living, there are a hundred-and-thirty miles of human innovation. Zittel’s A–Z project isn’t the only thing creating systems for living; new structures are everywhere, providing mini and starter utopias for the masses in a huge variety of shapes and strategies. The idea of creating a structure which allows life to flourish is what connects planned communities to communes and playgrounds to weekend art events. As Zittel writes in her list ‘These Things I Know for Sure’: ‘What makes us feel liberated (and consequently more creative) is not total freedom, but rather living in a set of limitations that we have created and prescribed for ourselves.’1
We set out to consider playgrounds in terms of Zittel’s work, and in particular in relationship to the High Desert Test Sites (HDTS), an ongoing project of site-specific events and projects that Zittel began in 2002. Ours was an exercise of physically pushing our bodies to move in unfamiliar ways, and of engaging our minds to go beyond daily tasks. The possibility of transformation — of the self, of materials, of social constructions — is key to Zittel’s artwork. Situated outside the museum, playgrounds could be seen as on-the-ground manifestations of Zittel’s over-arching idea for her practice, of presenting a set of physical limitations within which we are invited to explore. A playground invites a boundless reading of the universe, even if the space delineated by the ground itself is not so open-ended — attention is paid to a playground’s boundaries, perhaps to discourage lawsuits