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P. Roch Smith: Fun Work - Hard Play   P. Roch Smith: Fun Work - Hard Play   P. Roch Smith: Fun Work - Hard Play   P. Roch Smith: Fun Work - Hard Play   P. Roch Smith: Fun Work - Hard Play

P. Roch Smith: Fun Work - Hard Play
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Really to play, a [person] must play like a child.” 1

My interest in concepts of the index, memory and the archive has most recently led me to amass objects that were once handheld in their use: axe handles, broom handles, hammer handles, baseball bats and hockey sticks. Traces of memory inhabit the surface of the objects through the repeated layering of pucks shot, balls hit, stick ends taped, nails struck and acres of floors swept. There is a visceral and almost indescribable pleasure of using a vintage tool that was obviously loved, cared for and extensively used for its intended purpose. Having to replace a hammer handle brings forth some degree of remorse and trepidation – the daunting prospect of breaking in the tool once again to my hand.

The formal connection of the work derives from the fact that the items have been used – most times to excess or breakage. The hands of the former owner/user are present by virtue of the patina left on the smooth worn handles of the tools or the battered and torn taped ends of the sticks and bats. The ghost mark of the hand is represented in tactile form on the objects.

Using these artifacts articulates my interest in the work/play dialectic. In Canada, there is an obsession with hockey as both an imagined and real identifier of culture. Hockey presents a site of bonding, relaxation and socialization. In all cases it is the hockey stick that is the primordial tool that is wielded to do the work of the game. My work marks the hockey stick as both a tool and a weapon. This can easily be seen in the number of times during childhood that a gun or sword was made from a broken hockey stick. Equally, the stick has also been utilized as a weapon as witnessed in the infamous Wayne Maki/Ted Green stick swinging in 1969 and more recently with the Marty McSorley/Donald Brashear incident in 2000.

Games have been theorized as a means of playing out warfare without the bloodshed. My choice of hockey sticks as a material is not a simple convenience. The reorganizing of the play form into a militaristic one enters the complex territory of nationalism, security, warfare and perceptions of identity. Examples of the proxy wars of hockey include the seminal 1972 Summit Series against the USSR and more recently the 2004 and 2010 Olympic gold medal wins over the United States by both the men’s and women’s national teams.

Recently, I have revisited Ivan Illich’s essay “Tools for Conviviality” as a means of situating the idea of tools not only in terms of utility, but also within the larger context of community. Many of the post-secondary sculpture students who I teach have had very little or no experience with basic tools such as a hammer or saw. The current paradigm which distinguishes between “high” and “low” types of employment causes me to question our collective notion of work when a basic tool – the hammer – is first seen and handled by someone in university at the age of 18 or 19.

There is also the concept of creativity within the work/play dialectic. As Illich himself writes, “Convivial tools are those which give each person who uses them the greatest opportunity to enrich the environment with the fruits of his or her vision.”2 As an artist/teacher/maker who uses tools to create my work, I have seen these opportunities realize their potential – an evolution of creative play to tool use to material investigation to completed work.

1Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955), 199.
2Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 21.

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