Serious Play as Art: The Saving Power in LEGO-building

Heidegger’s writings, especially his later works, stress how art can help us break free from the control and manipulation characteristic of calculative thinking. In “The Origin of the Work of Art,” Heidegger interprets Van Gogh’s depiction of shoes, writing that the shoes show the world of the peasant, the work and toil of a life rooted to the earth. Heidegger claims artworks—not just scientific studies—open and reveal truth.

By art, Heidegger does not just mean Van Gogh’s paintings, Mozart’s sonatinas, and Rodin’s sculptures. Rather, he has a very broad and expansive understanding of art and emphasizes how understanding art can help us approach ourselves, others, and nature in less domineering ways.7

Using Heidegger’s descriptive approach, we can analyze a more contemporary shoe example. Even commercial ads show up and reveal the values of our culture in the ways Heidegger describes. The famous “Just Do It” Nike sneaker slogan reveals the contemporary values of individual achievement and pushing your body past what you think it can do.

We see another example of how art reveals normally hidden truths in a 2014 LEGO ad by Union Made Creative and director Brigg Bloomquist. Focusing on young girl LEGO builders, the ad emphasizes how girls can solve problems on their own. Because gender impacts our world and makes it especially difficult for girls to keep building into adulthood, the ad urges girls to #KeepBuilding. Thankfully, traditional LEGO pieces allow the construction of differently gendered characters during separate play sessions. Thus, the ability to create and re-create characters also highlights gender’s constructed- ness and fluidity.

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