Play Digest: Paul McCarthy, Rivane Neuenschwander, and Pedro Reyes

These three PlayTime artists exhibit a range of expression—from sculpture to video to sound to textiles—but all three are inspired to negotiate political and cultural forces through play.


Paul McCarthy draws inspiration from the realms of childhood movie fantasy: Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Pinocchio, and other tales of mischief, silliness, and naughtiness (along with more adult Hollywood fare). The piece that appears in Playtime, Pinocchio Pipenose, embodies McCarthy’s (and to a large extent, Playtime‘s) spirit of play rewarding misbehavior and, as Trevor Smith puts it, acting as a safe space for transgressions (to which McCarthy is no stranger). At the same time, McCarthy is a complicated figure whose work sparks as much controversy and revulsion as it does praise and critical acclaim

Rivane Neuenschwander is known for a playful approach to her work, which—like the piece presented as part of our exhibition, Watchword—also requires wordplay, communication, and participation to activate the work for the viewer, including games, wearable work, and comics

Neuenschwander has also created work geared directly at children. In London, in 2015, she initiated a program whereby kids created their own superhero capes, of sorts, that helped the children confront their fears. 



“We are doing holes in these rifles before the rifles make holes in us.” Pedro Reyes flutes made from guns were played recently at a March for Our Lives rally in Cincinnati, Ohio. Like the “gun flutes”—a signature part of the Reyes’ art making—his Disarm Mechanized II in Playtime comments on the depth with which deadly weapons have infiltrated our culture and have come to define different, fraught aspects of it. No stranger to building protest and politics into his work, Reyes has been known to employ satire and comedy to surprising effect. In a new projectManufacturing Mischief—to premiere later this month at MIT, the artist uses puppets to expand Reyes’ commentary on the impact of new and old technology on current politics.

Check in next week for a new roundup of the latest play news and stories.

(Image credit: © Paul McCarthy)

About Eugenia Bell

Eugenia Bell is the guest editor for She is the former executive editor of Design Observer and Design Editor of Frieze. Her writing has appeared in Frieze, Artforum, Bookforum, and Garage, among other places.