ESKYIU To Marisa Yiu and Eric Schuldenfrei, curators of ESKYIU PLAYKITS, play is important – it’s what makes work, well, work.
With the closing of adrenaline-packed sports challenges, ArtisTree re-emerged on 22 November to host a handful of Hong Kong’s CEOs at the C-Suite Dialogues to further contemplate the notion of play. Knowing that many views were better than a few, ESKYIU set out to design a space that would facilitate a genuinely open conversation. We speak to them ahead of the Dialogues to ask them how.
Step 1: Let the space set the tone
According to ESKYIU, the ability to engage the audience is very much about the setting that’s constructed.
“It’s been a very active week of sports dynamics so far,” says Yiu. “So we’ll soften the space by re-netting the football goals into couches, and have cushions made from recycled yarn, which haven’t been used yet at PLAYKITS.” Hurdles from the sports circuit are also used to create chairs, turning ArtisTree from a high-energy sports ground into a cosy, living room-like space.
Step 2: Let the design dictate the mindset
“To facilitate speakers’ and audience participation, we thought about geometry, and how to reconfigurate the space for a roundtable, dynamic conversation,” says Schuldenfrei.
This meant constructing a circular platform in the centre of the room to hold the reincarnated furniture, on which the moderators and speakers sit. The audience surrounds the stage. This unrestricted layout also took care of another common obstacle to a group discussion: hierarchy, especially when you have CEOs headlining the event.
“We’ve always been interested in the actual physicality of a space,” says Yiu. “For talks, there’s always a structure. So we thought, would it be possible to build something that was non-hierarchical, and play with those ideas so that everyone feels it’s their platform to speak? I love this idea of three-sided football turning into a ‘trialogue…’”
Step 3: Let the debates begin
The evening’s two panels, titled “When Work is Play” and “Beyond Play”, delve into definitions of play and placemaking, while also tackling play in terms of politics, performance, and more. Whether you believe in the necessity of play, or refute its existence during work hours, the Dialogues seek to challenge your assumptions of career success and life balance
“We need [open] forums like this to pull out the best ideas,” adds Schuldenfrei. “Instead of one or two speakers being really prepared to speak, it’s better to have different voices and different perspectives.”
Step 4: Let the message resonate
The exploration of play and the invitation to engage don't end there. Immediately after the Dialogues close, ArtisTree transforms into a large-scale musical instrument that stretches out into the lobby. Opening a “visual corridor” has been key to ESKYIU PLAYKITS’ success so far; extending the exhibition space into passers-by’s views has made the event all the more spontaneously participatory.
“This is a dream project,” says Yiu. “It’s a human survey of social interaction – and PLAYKITS has been beyond [our] expectation.”