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The un/useful: art, activism and children

July 3, 2015 5:30 pm

Between March and April 2015, Beirut art center organized a series of animation workshops for children curated by Joan Baz and lead by artists Lina Ghaibeh, Maria Kassab, and Wael Kodeih. Participating in those workshops, children aged five years and above explored various animations and sound design techniques and finally produced a short animation film inspired by Umberto Eco’s children book “the bomb and the general”. The film was released on social networks in the beginning of July and has been since circulated widely. the different techniques explored at the workshops and the space allowed for imagination, improvisation, and collaborative work, introduced us to a new territory of inquiry about art production for children and by children. a set of questions were raised relating precisely to the specific opposition: on the one hand, art as an experience whose effect is immeasurable and hence cannot be instrumentalized as a social tool; on the other hand, the strong emphasis made on psycho-social support projects for underprivileged and traumatized children through art. while this kind of activism work has flourished in the past three years due to the incoming flux of Syrian refugees fleeing violence, the recent experience with children at Beirut art center has highlighted two main areas of investigation:1- how is the quality of the art produced from social artistic activism viewed and evaluated in the process of working with children suffering from war trauma or precarious living conditions in Lebanon? The forms of evaluation brought into question here include those performed by the NGOs responsible for organizing such projects, social workers, and funding organizations. It aims to look at the extent of artists’ involvement in such projects and at the way resulting artworks are being acknowledged, published, and circulated. 2- how can art for children address political transformations, politics of identity and tackle social realities with refugee children and mixed classes? The round table will include Joan Baz the curator of “the bomb and the general” animation workshop series. It will also invite activists, psychosocial NGO workers, funders, and artists for a conversation around social and political dimensions of art productions for children and by children.