"Barnens Röster" / "Children's Voices" concluded – November 2022

Together with Morten Okbo (writer) the art project "Barnens Röster" (in English: "Children's Voices"), previously during project "The 'little' Swedish Assignment", has been concluded for the municipality of Oskarshamn, Sweden.

The project takes its overall, political point of departure in a municipality which truly wants to be the children's municipality, which adheres to a view of children, where children are unique, equal individuals, where the children's 'voice' is heard fully and equally, and where the same children thereby experience that the place in a broad sense, the place in which they live, is also THEIR place. Hence the project's title "Barnens Röster". At the same time, the project rests on a belief that an interaction between children's visual development and the feedback of an adult artist and an adult writer together is a development laboratory and a stimulating space for formation and community and new ideas, new actions and new poetry.

- Over a period of 10 days, all of the municipality's 20 pre-schools (a Swedish hybrid between kindergarten and after-school center for the schools' youngest classes) has been visited by us. At each of the preschools, we have 4-5 children aged 5-6 sitting on the floor around a large sheet of paper 100 x 140 cm. With a given number of colors (oil chalk and colored pencils) and based on a specific theme/word that extends beyond the preschool's own domain - and in sessions of 30-45 minutes - the children have started drawing and painting. A starting word/a theme could be: "It's snowing", "We're on our own island", "We're doing a show", "We're cooking", "We're by the sea". For each theme, which everyone points to in addition to the pre-school domain, we have asked further questions along the way, in the direction of: What can we do when it snows?, what do we want to be on our island? etc.

The artist has not drawn in these 20 sessions. The artist has simply asked the questions, even the very small questions during the drawing process: "What kind of thing are you drawing there?", "Okay, a high-rise building, should it be included in the performance?" “And that's your mother at the very top, you say? "And she's afraid of heights?" "So she dares anyway?" "Because she has you with her". At all sessions, the author also talked to, but primarily noted (on the computer) what was happening around the paper and what was being said.

In these sessions, it has been the children alone who speak with their hands and their words along the way. Every session with this approach has been completely unpredictable. The result is the same.

- The 'material' raw material after the 20 sessions has been 20 sheets of 100 x 140 cm with colored pencils and oil chalk, as well as the material for a number of associated texts from the same 20 sessions which describe what happened and what was said along the way. Both parts – the contents of the sheets and the material for the texts – we have basically regarded as a goldmine. The artist and the author have subsequently, for a period of 6 weeks, each further processed the material with exchanges along the way.

- The 20 sheets have been further developed by the artist based on 3 premises: exclusively a coloristic approach, no corrections and no additions to the children's drawn/coloured elements.

Overall intention for the artistic (colouristic) further development as well as for the finished texts: To return the children's play with play. In each of the start sessions, the children have served with liberating, liberating play (paged unorthodoxly in the catalog of life). We, as adults, return back over the net with play.

- Rule for when the artistic post-processing was finished: When the sheets had acquired the character of a work of art.

As for the texts: They are available in a wildly growing 'director's cut' version (which could become a book) and a shorter version released at the Opening Exhibition.

- In November 22 an Opening Exhibition was held at the city's (Oskarshamn's) cultural center with 20 large works (the 20 sheets, unframed) and the associated texts (in a short version) alongside workshops and debate.

The children from the 20 preschools come to visit and find (through find-recognition games) the works they started. It is the intention that they get an experience of their 'start'/expression/statement returning to them in a congenial, transformed form. That their play is returned with play. That the collaborative work has gone from floor to wall. That everyone in their town, their 'world' sees it. It is also the intention that they experience a sense of greater community in the connection between their work and all the other children's works.

Harold Göthson, founder of the Reggio Emilia Institute in Stockholm, has held mini-seminars in the days leading up to the exhibition opening, in the company of politicians and children, under the auspices of the exhibition.

After the exhibition(s), the 20 works has been returned, individually and framed, to each of the preschools where they were started.

The project has received great recognition from the political and educational environment in Sweden. 

A stage 2 is currently under consideration in Sweden.

Augmented by reflections from the aforementioned Harold Göthson, founder of the Reggio Emilia Institute in Stockholm, who stopped by in the days leading up to the exhibition opening:

What if you transpose the "Children's Röst" project FROM visual artistic co-creation and transformative liberation - and the recognition embedded therein of the greater degree of freedom with which children, to a greater degree than adults, always seem to 'leaf' through and pick from the catalog of life when they need to think and created – FOR (mild) cultural activism?

    What if we see the current status of the project? (the exhibits and their prior process and accompanying texts) as a good, perhaps even excellent, reservoir for identifying 1, 3, 5, 8, 10 ideas which can be carried forward into a phase 2, 3, 4 for finally to stand as co-created realized physics or activity in the places where the children's thoughts and hands started to conjure them up?

With the children as the chief designers, co-practitioners and co-managers throughout the journey (which never ends) via the laboratory of drawing, colors and parallel words in a continuous interaction between the children's unfolding (their service) and the artist/writer's further processing (their return).

That "Hem"'s magical winding roads home and out into the world (which the five children in Misterhult suddenly drew with as much weight as the houses, which is why I as the colorist focused on them, the roads), "Skogen's" wooden cabins up on the 'balcony' after 'balcony', and "Køk"'s ice cream scoops with tomato become a magical path of fate on a winter's evening, wooden cabins as bird's nests with accommodation and an ice festival WITHOUT vanilla but WITH tomato on a summer day in real Sweden.

   That when we get this far; that the 'tennis game' (the serve and the return) between children and artist/author steps aside for a new 'tennis game' between children and directors, a team of carpenters, a row of ice cream makers.

   From an artistic project to a cultural activistic.

- Work titles: “Dom jag kjänner” | “On” (2) | “The Lake” | “Presentation” (2) | “The Forest” (2) | "The Gymnasium" | “Preställning” (1) | “The Sea” | “My Room” | “Outdoors” | “The String” | “Kalas” | “Shop” | “Home” | “Kök” | “Round Mat” (2) | “The Forest” (1) | “Round Mat” (1) | “Circus” | “Ö” (1) |

Format: 100 x 140 cm,

Paper: Fabriano Academia, 400 gr.

– Text: In a small exhibition catalogue, selected, abbreviated texts about selected sessions as well as process images and reproductions of sections from individual works. In addition, complete texts are available in the aforementioned director's cut version.

- Client: Oskarshamn Municipality, Sweden.