A Humble Revolution ( ENG / FR / ES )
Has Arno already come to Spain to give trainings? He did come, yes. Before knowing me, he had come to Barcelona, nobody understood him, they didn't understand. For more than 120 years, countless adults have analysed child play based on their area of expertise: be it psychology, anthropology, art, architecture, they were interested in childhood. They interpreted what the children were doing. And for over 120 years, they tried figuring out what children should do. They didn't listen, because they would have had to give up their knowledge.
Then came one person, an ignorant, who didn't know anything, who began to listen to them, to observe what they needed. It's Arno. Then after 120 years of various studies carried out on this subject, by people from different fields, Arno is the one who gives us what this Play is Arno hardly speaks of this framework, because for him, it's obvious. He could not see it happening under other conditions.
He speaks especially, if you have seen his videos, of Formulation: this is the universal code that Arno finds, in his exploratory journeys. You know that in the orphanage, he is amazed to see the children painting practically the same things: houses, trees, people, vehicles. He wondered if it was because they were all Jews, orphans, and he wondered what things would paint other people, other children, in very different places. He always thought of cultures completely different like the nomads in the desert. And since no one had the answer, he figured he was going to go and see for himself. And from the end of the sixties, he begins his exploration trips in the jungle, in the desert with the nomads, on the highlands of the Andes at 4000 meters altitude.
And what he found was not exactly the answer to that question, but something even more transcendent: is that there is an inherited universal code ... common to all human beings, that we need to emit, to be able to express ourselves. And this manifests itself only under the conditions that we describe here, not necessarily between these 4 walls and these 18 colors, but also with a black ballpoint pen and white paper, for the little ones, because what they need is Trace.
And basically, with assistance and without judgments. For me, I found meaning: "finally someone who says things that make sense, which resonate with what Life could be, something more natural. " Now I have returned to Coruña. The whole family could not do without the workshop, we said to ourselves: "no, it is not possible". One of the things we missed the most, precisely, it was the workshop, the group, with whom we played with every week.
And now I have decided to open a workshop. What they gave me [Diraya] knowing that I can help other people. I come from public education, I am a music teacher.
and in my daily life, at school, I realized that my vision of education did not coincide with my way of thinking. And with Diraya, there was a complete connection with my way of thinking. So I did the training this summer and I decided to leave the public service to open a Painting and Clay workshop in Murcia from January on. But hey, these are reflections on Life itself, on daily situations with family, with friends, [This reflection] goes for everything, assistance is for everything.
Something very important to me, and I think for everyone, is to have a space where it is made possible, something that is hardly possible anywhere else, and which is very simple: it is being able to be yourself. I believe it's a need, and it should be a right to be ourselves, and to feel that when we are ourselves, we feel perfectly valid, and in addition accepted. A place where we live a way of relating which not only does not condition, and which in addition frees relationships that condition and this conditioning. The experience of non-comparison, of non-competition is fundamental: because when you discover your own ability, when we discover other possible and satisfying types of relationships, which do not condition anyone, which do not limit, who do not claim to control anyone ...
When you experience this kind of relationship, we no longer feel the need to compete. It affects everyone, do you remember when we described to this lady our way of working, during an interview, and she started to cry. Yes, the idea that there could be a place where no one would judge me, it seemed completely unusual to me, because we are used to the contrary.
What does a human being do when acting, or when playing? how does he do it? He can do it in a bodily form or in a projected form. With his body he builds things, the children put themselves in cabins, play at being dogs. They play in a bodily way Or they can play by projecting themselves: by drawing or building. By projecting, this can be done in 2 dimensions: is to paint, is to draw.
or else they build in 3 dimensions. The important thing is to know that the things they are doing, both children and adults, activities, learning, playing, can be done in another way: They can be made so that the homogenizing ghettos disappear, people, who for some learning, do the same thing, at the same time with a common program. It can be done in another way. We can say that we all know how to paint.
As soon as we are born, we have everything within us to develop these things. Thus, in general, we see that on this point, there are many thinkers from very different backgrounds: Emmi Pikler says that from birth we have everything we need to know how to walk. Carl Rogers tells us the same thing about our conflicts: we are able to resolve our conflicts; In philosophy, Krishnamurti tells us that we can learn from ourselves. In gynecology, Michel Odent tells us that we know how to give birth from birth. But all of them tell us that we know how to do it, but not alone. We need someone to help us.
They all communicate it in different ways, but all speak with one look, of a type of acceptance relationship, which suggests that judgment is transformed into acceptance. How it all began? Yes In my childhood, in the fifties, in the midst of a dictatorship, I went to a college run by a religious congregation, where the fundamental currency was: "we learn in pain." We got beatings, slaps, punishments all the time, for any reason.
It was hell, day after day. And this hell, I never talked about it, because I deduced that this was what I deserved, nothing more. So ... at home, I didn't talk about it, and my parents were also trained in authoritarianism. I didn't see too many differences between one space and another, in the sense that I couldn't do the things that I liked, etc.
In my free time, to escape this reality, I was drawing. So as a child, I drew a lot, whatever I could. I saw no point in competing with anyone, ever. I don't believe these were the right conditions, but rather some neuronal disconnection ...
caused by some slap or something which led me to be able to agree only with myself. And when I found something that convinced me, I adopted it. But if the next day I found something more convincing, I gave up on the first thing and adopted the other.
When I first got to know Arno Stern's work, it was like ..., For me, knowing Formulation ..., with everything I had read, as well as with all the intoxication that I received, because I had an artistic education ... for me it was like finding a closed safe, that I open and inside is the treasure: all the answers to all the questions I had asked myself. So for me that was great.
But on top of that we wondered, if these conditions made it possible that, what was considered a privilege some talented people, what was considered a privilege some talented people, the artists, if with these conditions it was possible for everyone, to do this apprenticeship, to deploy all of their expressive abilities, and for all of those things that we all consider accessible: learning such as reading or writing, for example or any other learning, for which these conditions are necessary. Well, there are people who think, that when they know this space that Arno designed, they think it's a privileged space, and that is not possible in school. How to do this with children of 2 or 3 years? They think it's not possible. You know that here we bring people together in a completely different way from school: in each group there is a 3-year-old child, without there being another; a 6 year old child without a 6 year old; a 15 year old girl, another of 30, a woman of 42, a man of 70 ... That is, people who are clearly different. Here there is no power, relationships in this place are something else.
We are poles apart from power to be of service to those who come here, identify their needs and meet them. Here we distinguish power from authority: we believe that the mighty takes power and imposes it on others. Authority comes from oneself when one assists the needs of others, and if we do our job well, they trust us and entrust us with this authority, gentle authority. I learned that from the horses.
Hello, how are you girls? Do you want to go to the other side or do you want to stay here? We sometimes find this image of the herd led by a strong and fantastic horse, that was the idea I was having, after seeing those cowboy movies i guess, but I learned that in a herd, the leader is the oldest mare, the males are away from the herd, they are not used for much, the old mare, she is the one who knows where to find the water, the fodder, that is to say, it is the one who serves the needs of the community, and this community entrusts him with the authority because she's the one who will take care of them. Miguel drop! If we need to be ourselves, [besides] it should be a right, we [also] need the group, because we need to be welcomed and accepted by a group, a group that accepts us and does not judge us. This group is a human necessity, It is not used to save more time by putting several people to work at the same time, and thus do more business, no, it is a need. This is why assisting a heterogeneous group is a fundamental principle. The other [principle] has already been mentioned by Vega, this is what they come to do: is Play, it has nothing to do with art, nor a therapy center, it is not therapy, what they're doing here is Play. Play that Arno takes very seriously.
Play is for everyone. Art is for artists, therapy is for the sick, it lasts a set time, time to resolve a conflict or problem, and this is for everyone and it lasts a lifetime, and it is very healthy. Play has no objective. Play has worth for itself, for oneself, not for others, in such a way that if we keep a residue of Play, to exhibit it, display it and turn it into a show, that destroys Play. In reality, society does not promote Play, because Play is not productive.
And we are in a capitalist system that wants everyone to be productive. You know that nothing comes out of the workshop here, you already know that. Nothing comes out, everything is archived, by us, forever. So it is of no use to them other than playing.
It starts very early, I know it's hard, like Miguel said, we can try to imagine a person, a child playing. in the state described: for itself, with pleasure and following his needs of the moment. I imagine at the beach, a child who runs, who jumps and his parents who read alongside ... when he makes a jump, by imagining that it is not conditioned, he may say “Look!” But what does this “Look” mean? And how do we read it? A quick first read that we do is: I'll highlight it, and then I will say to him: "it is good!", "Bravo!" But is this really what he's looking for? The “That's good!”, The “bravo!”? I say first of all, when the child is not yet conditioned to seek that.
In principle what a child is looking for when he says "Look!", it is to share the joy of conquest that he has just experienced, because human beings, we share our joys, we need to share them. [The Assistance] is not a method. There is only individuality of each. We can only bring what the Other needs and what we can bring at any given time. This is a bit like Assistance: that we offer you what you need right now ... someone come and bring it to you, me, when I paint in the studio, sometimes I don't realize that I am coming close to a pin, and as I'm about to paint on it, Miguel arrives, he removes the pin from me and I can continue painting.
It's like someone helping you and making your life a little bit easier, right? This assistant role is a type of relationship, which does not condition, quite the opposite, it frees conditions already in place, it takes shape through actions, verbalizations, that meet certain needs. For example, one of the actions we perform: if a person works in the upper part of the sheet, with the arm raised, and his arm starts ... you know when you work like this ... the arm starts to shake, we give him one of these benches so that he can work at this height with all the amplitude of his gesture.
That is to say, put a bench, or remove a push pin which interrupts the movement of the hand to accomplish the necessary Trace. We can say that removing a pin or putting a bench, these are actions that anyone can do, and that they know they are capable of doing. That’s why we don’t steal their own discoveries. We don't take the lead by solving a technical problem for them, for which they will find original technical solutions themselves. What we do are things they know they can do in order to make their work pleasant, comfortable. You could say that we are a bit like midwives of Expression.
It’s humble work. We can only work with humility, because it is only with humility that we can work by having confidence in the capacity of the human being to find answers, solutions, to move forward, to resolve crises. This is what we work from, with this confidence, and by accepting the place where one is.
There are a lot of people who envision spaces with a lot of material, with colors. but they forget that the most important thing they can give to a child, but they forget that the most important thing they can give to a child, it is to be present with him, with his own wealth, emotions, passions, interests, affection, So here on the one hand I'm talking about the need for humility, and on the other hand the need to continue working on yourself, to enrich oneself, to learn, to know how to relate, etc. I remember a sentence from Arno, when asked if anyone who has completed his training could open a workshop like his. He replied, “Yes, of course, as long as you are an autonomous person.”
almost no one…, right? Building our own autonomy ..., for him, that goes without saying. It is a construction that sometimes does not succeed ... which does not succeed, it takes a lifetime.
Building our own autonomy, it's not "am I or am I not self-sufficient?" it's not financial independence from our parents, how far and how am I autonomous? And I insist, autonomy is not a question of self-reliance. They are very different things, autonomy and self-reliance. Hello! In my earliest memories human relations have always been very important to me, always ... before I used to say that what really matters to me is what can be behind. But it's not so much to know what's behind it, but rather the connection, the relationship that exists between human beings ...
Now I have words to say it that I didn't have before, when I was studying ... The key word for me today is: "from vulnerability". For me, one thing that seems essential to me in my process, this is how Arno looks as an assistant: that look of unconditional acceptance that is ... which is the imprint of vulnerability in a relationship. Self-reliance is more about loneliness: “I alone can!” In my opinion the autonomy, if it comes from me, but it is also with the others. To ask, seems to me one of the most generous acts that exist: to ask for something is to give a gift to others.
When I assist someone under these conditions, it gives me enormous joy: the pleasure of taking care of other people who have offered me this vulnerability, by being served, assisted, they trust me, they offer me their trust, and the gift of confirming that I am contributing to their well-being. Now it is clear that this Play in a 2-hour workshop format, we know it's short, this Play is what children do all the time, from morning to night. This is why we are talking about daily elaboration Play here, because this is the context of "Personal Drift". You have seen that there are games that can last ... and we have all lived and seen it: for example they played being dogs all morning. But often this Play is prolonged in time, as the children grow up ...
and even in the workshop where they configure in 2 dimensions, when they paint, when they are very young, the Play lasts 1 hour 30 minutes, during the workshop, the next day they take a leaf and start something else. But there comes a time when they start to continue the same picture, the next day and then the next ... In fact there is Play that never stops, and that lasts for years: remove a piece of paper on one side and put a new one on the other, and again and again.
Yesterday we evoked a concrete motive: that of the circus, in parallel with other simultaneous patterns. This is what happens with children: they grow up and repeat again and again the same pattern, and it is in this context that a "Personal Drift" unfolds, where they will incorporate whatever interests them, transforming the content of this Play and making it evolve. The term “Personal Drift” comes from other slightly different circumstances: the second daughter of my first marriage, at one point, due to the panic I was feeling to see her lost, then in a situation of functional illiteracy, aggravated by school, I decided to take her out of school, not knowing anything. It was like seeing someone drowning and then you dive in to her and once in the water, you realize that you can't swim. That was the situation.
It was a long time ago. A story of crazy people say, and so my friends, curious, frequently asked me, “How are you with your daughter?” Me, I had given up the school habit of standing in front of the children to show them where they should go, what they had to learn ... With my daughter I had placed myself behind, to meet the needs that arose from her own learning. But her learning process was very different from those I knew: it was not linear, in accordance with a program, like in school, it was more of an apprenticeship that started in one place, then bounced, she associated things that I did not understand well with others who seemed strange to me.
These connections and movements during her learning, seemed to me to be an absolute chaos. In such a way that when I was asked: "How are things going with your daughter?" " I said: "I don't know. We're going adrift… without a clear objective". Later, in hindsight I realized that this strange path was the only one possible for her learning process, according to her own needs, her own curiosity and her own emotions.
And that of course had nothing to do with the straight path of a curriculum. And that's why I named it "Personal Drift", in reference to these strange, labyrinthine, arborescent movements, branches that seem to cut at first, then they reconnect with others, at a higher level. And for each person it's different, and this is why I refer to the term "Personal Drift". The other day when I was painting it occurred to me, how my son can do so many things, as well as all the good that the workshop brought him. What I see from Iñaki is that he is able to be "multi-functional" so to speak, able to do a lot of things and I think the workshop has greatly influenced his life in this direction: to be able to do anything. I started in the paint shop when I was 16 And now you come back? Yes, I wanted to rediscover creation through painting, because it brings a lot, at least for me.
I will always be grateful, recovering my own pleasure with my body, to realize that I liked to play with my body, that I liked to dance. I always thought I didn't like dancing ... When I started to define the Movement workshop, and that I first started working at school with the children, then in a room, considering the needs of space, dimensions, material, when I started doing this, my fundamental focus was…, not Formulation, I wasn't thinking about Formulation, besides, thinking about it, or looking for it, was like using the participants, that was not it ... What interested me was to find the conditions at the service of Play.
Just like for Paint Play, where Arno had precisely defined the optimal conditions so that it can develop, Miguel had, not transposed, if not redesigned conditions, to be able to play in 3 dimensions with clay… The body is something that we play with too. We need to move from Play, freed from a gaze that judges, in acceptance. The material we use today is scarves. This is the material that people work with in the Movement workshop. If a person lies down on the ground, you can see she needs a mat, or if a person keeps their arm like this you imagine it will hurt them, she therefore needs a cushion ..., or she needs a blanket over her.
And when they are playing with their bodies and that they play with fabrics and they want to attach them together, sometimes they tie knots themselves, but often when they wish to make elaborations on their own body, and that they need a tie ... and there I realized that the safety pin was the key element for a multitude of situations during which they are developing, and placing safety pin is enough. The safety pin in the Movement workshop represents for me what is the pin or the bench in Paint Play, or the slip in Clay Play. It is a tool, which like the knife I have in my hand in Paint Play, or the slip that we also have on hand in Clay Play, here the tools, I have it in the belt I wear, to be able to assist each person quickly. As for the group: the same thing ... I have nothing to add to Arno's thoughts.
It is a group marked by diversity, where each is completely different from the other, where they don't compare. In this way they can develop their specificities without comparing itself to anyone, without competition. One thing that required more personal reflection it was the balance between personal space and collective space: I was not serene imagining a personal space where they wouldn't play together. So at one point it seemed essential to me that there is a space where I do not share my own bodily pleasure with others, because knowing my own pleasure, my own Play needs ... me, with myself and my own body, among others who also do the same, what it brings me, this knowledge, what it allows me in other places ... Right now, I'm unwittingly sharing my body ...
I can't stop moving. What it allows me in other places is to move with pleasure too. The dimensions of the space are also important, finding a sufficiently large space is not easy.
Here it’s a space of 130 m2, and for a group of 15 people, it’s perfect. There is enough personal space, to move, quickly, slowly, but it is absolutely necessary to take others into account. That’s why there is a balance. Besides, to everyone, and me first, when we discover the painting studio, the first reaction is: "But how small!" “15 people here! It is little ! ".
And this is fundamental, because if it were bigger it would foment individual spaces, and we would work on self-sufficiency and not autonomy. The fabrics: that they are ordered seems fundamental to me. The order, as we can clearly see in the paint shop: which brush for which color, and it is fundamental that it is always in the same place. And it therefore seems fundamental to me that each fabric is always in the same place, so that everyone can find it quickly when they want to look for something.
Order itself, on the other hand, is subjective. The music that is used is music that is considered to be more or less art, right? It is created for others. But when people use it, they don't use it as art, but they use it to play with it.
They are not watching him or listening to him, they are playing with it. If there is no music when you play with your body, what they do is Configuration Play, Configuration Play which consists of set ups on ones own body, set ups in space, and playing together as children can play: play at being dogs, wolves ... And that's what happens without music. When there is music, music allows personal space, allows to Play. The music sometimes they use it, sometimes not: some people play regardless of the music. There are people who use it at times and at others not.
It’s an element, as are fabrics. Another fundamental point about music is stability: that they are the same and in the same order [over the year] so that they do not generate any surprises. There can be no element that generates surprise, who can lead you to believe that he is the engine! The Evolution comes from ones own Play, and not provocation by an external element, that is consumption. Arno always talks about a "Space of Permanence". Is there another place? Where would it be? If there is no rain.
If it's not raining? Yes, when you want to think, where do you go? Cantabria in the mountains. I go in the mountains. In Cantabria, but it's an hour from here.
Archives I let cool and after if you want, I'll pour more. You understood? No! Are you going to write a book? Already? Has he ever written a book? If I wrote? No, I've written articles, but not books, no. On this subject, when am I going to start writing? Well from now on I had made the compromise with myself, take responsibility for publicizing Arno’s work [in Spain], and from conferences, training, I started to publish his books, to translate them, to encourage their publications.
The 3rd book has just been released, the 4th is coming out in a few months. Now I think those who want to know in depth Arno's work can do it, and so I will free myself from this first compromise, and I will start to do other things. I have already started to compile the notes of 40 years, and I'm going to start writing about the Clay Formulation.
During all those years, I managed to see that Formulation exists in 3 dimensions, with Clay, and even with other materials, provided that these materials can be handled: if a child starts playing with steel tubes, he will have difficulty. Formulation comes from the body, and manifests itself with any material with which it is possible to make modifications, and whether the playing conditions are adequate. With the Clay at the beginning I didn't see much, but little by little I realized that there were things that were repeated: the first element I saw with Clay was the Arc, it appeared everywhere, any type of arc, which repeated itself, and this for each person. And I said to myself that Formulation could exist in Clay, and when I looked more closely, I found it hard to see her. By knowing it very well in 2 dimensions, I told myself that it was possible that she did not exist in 3 dimensions, or maybe there was only one element ...
But one day, after a little experience, watching children playing on the beach, suddenly I saw it and almost all of it. It was something amazing, Because I had it under my nose, on the shelves ..., thousands of pieces, and I was unable to see her until then. And so Formulation exists in Clay, all the elements exist. Color does not exist with Clay.
I believe Formulation that Arno observed, he saw it far from the body, coming from the body, in a projected form of Play. And we, we have followed a reverse trajectory: compared to Formulation that Arno showed us in a projected form of Play, that of Painting, we went back and we got to the body. And we saw it in a synthetic and non-analytical way, that is, how it manifests itself. In 3 dimensions, Formulation sometimes manifests itself in a funny way, in my opinion, because it manifests itself in unexpected ways. But after seeing it repeat itself, we realize that the same element which appears in 2 dimensions, appears unexpectedly in 3 dimensions.
For example, Transparencies in Paint are Opacities in Clay, because in Clay, we work a lot from the inside, that the outer part completely covers ... This way of working from the inside, leaving everything closed, hidden inside also shows that this work is not for others, nor to put on a show, nor to show it to others, because everything, almost everything, remains inside, covered, covered, this is one of the curious phenomena of Clay Formulation. The Clay workshop, for the Play of building and modeling ... For a Play of building in 3 dimensions, Clay is the best material, but it is nothing like a ceramic workshop. because in a ceramic workshop, there are tools that we don't have here: here, there is no baking oven, engobes or enamels, there are not many spatulas, no roll. The roller, for example, completely limits the modeling variations, because we exert pressure: and then all the different levels of pressure, from the strongest, with the shoulders exerting greater pressure with all the weight, until the most subtle pressure, the roller eliminates them.
So there is no rolls here, very few tools too. The hand is the main tool. And some of the tools present here in Clay Play do not exist in a ceramics workshop. For example: flashlights and headlamps, but they are necessary. If you can show them? We would never see tools like this, nor these pliers ...
But all this is fundamental in a Clay Play workshop, because children and adults working a lot on interiors, they want to put on and take out sometimes very small things, and they can't do it with their fingers, for that, we therefore use a simple ice cube tong that I have shortened. And, to light up the interior, we have the lamps. Some people are used to working with plasticine, they know that by putting pieces together they stick together and then they continue to work. Coming here, they want to do the same with Clay. But the pieces of clay that are simply assembled may at first appear glued, but after a while, if they continue to work, they dry up and fall off. We therefore needed an element that would allow the Clay to stick together.
Traditionally potters used slip to glue: it is a dissolution of powdered clay with a little water. When the handle of an amphora broke, before cooking, they coated the handle with slush, they surrounded it with plastic or with a damp cloth, and let it dry slowly, then they put it in the oven, and it was settled. But this is a slow process, and I needed something fast, that sticks instantly. So I thought about adding an acid, for immediate action, I wasn't going to use hydrochloric or sulfuric acid, so I thought of cooking vinegar. The vinegar causes a reaction ... using it in the slip allows you to perfectly bond two pieces of clay.
Here the slip has the same function as the pushpin and the drop in the paint shop: it is my first communication tool with the people who come to the workshop. From the outset, this clearly defines what my role is here: which is not to teach, nor to say "that's good!", nor to give ideas, but to be at their service and to assist, for example by applying the slip, where they need it. The same phenomenon of space dilation also exists here: we start first in a space like this, when we need a larger space, we place plates that can expand, like this work done on 2 plates or this one too, and it can get bigger with other plates. At some point, we're going to pull out: if this person wants to add a 3rd plate on this side, I may start removing plaques from one side, while I add more.
It's a very simple process, which is inspired a bit by the way of working in the painting studio. What's up? Our deep gratitude to Arno Stern. The knowledge he left us has completely changed the way we work.
Without him, we don't know where we would be today. At the same time, we are responsible for our evolution, of the successes and mistakes we have made over the years. Miguel Castro and Vega Martín