The ethics application was submitted so my focus has shifted from ethics to assisting with conducting research. I delved deep into Palle Nielsen's exhibit that emerged out of the Playground movement in the 60s. Nielsen’s exhibit, which he titled the Model for a Qualitative Society, offered a space exclusively for children, without parents or educators. Art historian Lars Bang Larsen published a major source on the Model in which he views the exhibit as a utopia of a self-organized society that aimed to encourage personal freedom and collaboration between individuals. An additional source that I looked into was published by the ARKEN Museum of Modern Art in Denmark on their 2014 exhibition that replicated the Model. It contains several articles from academics and art historians, including Paul Nielsen himself. The authors often draw on the original Model to compare it with ARKEN’s 2014 version. Nielsen comments on his intention behind the original Model in 1968: rather than writing newspaper articles, he says, “[he] took direction action in the city spaces to show alternative solutions and dreams” (The Model 68). Before taking over the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and creating the Model in 1968, Nielsen took part in playground development planning in hopes of making the neighbourhood better for children. His priority was to deconstruct ‘the white cube’ as the idea of an art museum (68). His second aim was to blur the existing boundary between the artist and its surrounding society. It was interesting to learn the difference in intent behind the 1968 and 2014 versions of the Model.
As I just mentioned above, in 2014 the ARKEN produced a reconstruction where Nielsen himself took part in the process. 46 years later following the original Model, the children demonstrated the same enthusiasm for the activity playground. That being said, the 2014 version may be a reconstruction, but a reconstruction can never be the same due to the passing of time. The main difference between the two involved the political objective behind the project. The 2014 Model was not a project for social change. Overall, it was a less anarchistic and more controlled experience than in 1968. Factors such as health and safety regulations have penetrated structure of the work (the Model 26). Further, playgrounds at this point were no longer subversive; in Denmark and in the rest of Scandinavia, for example, these types of constructed spaces were considered ‘natural’. Even in North America, there are establishments set up focused solely on creating playground spaces for children. And no museum today is without an activity programme for children. At the time, the Model was highly provocative – even Nielsen himself was becoming more isolated from the Danish art academy because of the political intent embedded in his artistic work.
Another notable difference in the descriptions of the 1968 versus the 2014 Model is the incorporation of technology. For example, in the 2014 version, music and soundscapes could be played from iPads. Social media also played an integral role; the collection of photos in the ARKEN book demonstrates the various shared Instagram posts of photographs taken of children playing. Nielsen seems to be against the incorporation of technology as he believes it inhibits children from experiencing total freedom in a creative environment (The Model 71). While we want to stay current since it is not possible to ignore ever-expanding role of technology in our lives, it might be worth considering limiting technology’s involvement in a museum environment so as to not hinder children’s creative development. As Nielsen encourages, it is paramount for parents to “set their joy, imagination and creativity free – it makes them free, social and curious children.”