Last week I had the pleasure of watching the results of a two week INTOPOLITIKS workshop led by Dominique Margot (Co-founder INTOPOLITIKS) and Susanne Hofer (Co-founder INTOPOLITIKS), with the help of Seraina Duer and Christin Glauser,
as part of the http://www.blickfelder.ch/ Festival 2016. Blickfelder is a Festival of ‘Arts for a Young Audience’ held every 2 (or 3) years in Zurich. We applied to Blickfelder in 2015 and were invited to create a 2 week INTOPOLITIKS workshop for the Festival. Although we have been developing and delivering our workshops for over a year now we have never done a two week workshop so this was an opportunity not to be missed and also an opportunity to trial the ‘Generateur du Hazard’ for the first time.
The Festival is spread out in different venues all over the city with a central ‘office’, not dissimilar to a circus encampment, just opposite the new Tony Campus of the Zurich University of the Arts. This is where the children’s work was on display in a ‘container’ museum
and also where they did they public performance inside a marquee. The Festival is not commercial and its position, nestled amongst the huge buldings of ‘Techno Park’ as the area is known, created an interesting juxtaposition.
INTOPOLITIKS Workshops allow children to create the society they want to live in, however they want. We give the children practical, emotional and psychological tools but NO RULES. There is no right or wrong answer in INTOPOLITIKS because we want the children to create what they think will work, what they would like to see; a place where they would like to live. Dominque, Susanne and the gang were lent an empty school hall on the other side of the river just by a high bridge (which I was told the kids liked to jump off into the river in the summer!!!) and spent two weeks introducing these wonderful children…..
a year 6 class from the Unteres Letten School in Zürich to ‘POLITICS’; how does it feel to be a leader? How does it feel when no one agrees with your ideas? How does it feel when your city is destroyed by an earthquake? How do YOU feel in this scenario and what would you do to change it. The children were given building materials
and were able to film their progress and the ‘Generateur du Hazard’ would bark instructions, which interestingly they followed unquestioningly; Susanne commented that they were happier taking orders from a digital voice from a computer than from a human adult.
During the two weeks the children visited the Mayor of Zurich, Corine Mauch at the Stadthaus (Cityhall) and they got to sit at the board table where the ministers debate and make important decisions for the City. They had a guided tour of the Rathaus (Townhall) and were invited to assist at a meeting of the Parliament. The political scientist Michael Hermann visited the children during the workshop, he creates politically orientated maps concerning the inhabitants of the country. The children were also visited by a young and very engaged female politician, Flavia Kleinert who is 25 years old. And Zamboradio came and did a live broadcast with the children.
Abigail Melville (Collaborator INTOPOLITIKS WORKSHOPS UK) and I were very excited to see the results of the 2 week workshop and arrived at Blickfelder headquarters full of anticipation and we were not disappointed! First of all we had a look in the container museum
which was like walking into a secret children’s den with magical lands and beautiful maps and egalitarian constitutions written up and displayed proudly. At the far end was a screen showing the workshops in action and another showing solo interviews with the children. The effect was really powerful; when you give children the space to think about the world and a safe place to discuss the feelings it engenders, the most amazing ideas materialize.
We then watched the children ‘perform’ for an adult audience. The children had formed into 3 groups. Each group had created their own society. There was ‘Papagreen’, Rainbow and the third group had split in two; ‘Mainstream’ (the boys) and Frozzocania
(the girls). Each group performed a sketch to introduce their country. They explained their beliefs and rules and how they had constructed themselves. They sang songs, they showed the audience what they had built and how they ran their world. They were proud and loud and strong. Then they held a conference, it was like being at the UN. The group of 21 children debated propositions, that they had not prepared. It was extraordinary to watch this group of 12 year olds discuss huge political issues in front of an audience. They were passionate and were unafraid to voice their views. They were respectful of one another and conducted the conference in a civilised way even when the topic of gender came up; the girls were aggrieved that the boys had not pulled their weight when they were creating the exhibition in the container, the boys said that they had tried to but what ever they did the girls told them they had done it wrong, one of the girls then took the mic and apologized for this and admitted that, actually, they had enjoyed doing it without the boys help as tit gave them the freedom to do it how they wanted. After the show there was a tremendous storm!
Fortunately the Festival provided us all with some elegant rain wear.
Two days later I was able to see the next performance when the children performed to other school classes and their teachers. This time the audience were invited to join in the conference. It was amazing, 60 children and their teachers discussing equally ‘what is unfair in society?’, ‘is school a dictatorship?’, they voted on this one and it was decided by the majority that school is not a dictatorship. The debate was filled with ideas, ideas shared rather than dismissed. It did not feel like a competition, or a fight; it felt like a very good way to rule the world. I was lucky enough to speak to the class teacher,Götz Dihlmann, afterwards who gave me interesting feedback. The two things that really stuck in my mind were that a lot of the parents had commented on how calm their kids were when they got home in the evenings whilst doing the workshop, and that for the last 3 years this class has been unable to play football as a group because the game descends into a fight in the first few minutes, since taking part in the INTOPOLITIKS workshop they play football together every day. I also got some feedback from the children, one of the girls from Frozzocania admitted that they had tried to get back together with the boys as they had all realized they were stronger as one.
Antonia Beamish (C0-founder INTOPOLITIKS) June 2016