Squaring the Circle
Anett Keller, WEEKENDER | Tue, 05/01/2012 12:28 PM |
Regardless of their background, children’s imaginations know no galactic borders.
If you were to draw an alien, what would it look like? A green manikin with a huge egghead? Very well – you are grown up and have been irrevocably influenced by the clichés disseminated by television and comic books.
But for the kids at Aulia Foundation’s home for street children in Yogyakarta, an “alien” is whatever their imagination wants it to be. Some of their aliens look like little ghosts, others like teddy bears; some are like a clown and others like a devil. Some children’s aliens look like a heart walking on two feet.
The Aulia children drew their own imagined version of an alien as part of a global arts project called “The most realistic alien”, running since August 2011 and initiated by the CRE8 Foundation. CRE8 is a transnational network of artists and volunteers that aims to inspire and unite children around the world through collaborative art. The realistic alien project invites participants “to shed preconceived notions and have fun exploring this intergalactic paradox”.
At Aulia’s headquarters in Pakem, Yogyakarta, it’s obvious how much fun everybody is having as they explore the paradox. Around 40 children and adults sit in a circle on the floor. After listening to some background information about the project, given by CRE8 volunteer Jana Kehren, they cannot wait to get their hands on paint, pencils and paper. Not only the little ones are keen to draw. In the end, everybody – from social workers to administrative staff and driver – joins in, and everyone has fun.
“Our aliens are sucking human blood,” two children tell me, faces very serious. I first attribute this to the negative influence of television, but in the kids’ world, good triumphs. “Our aliens are just getting the evil humans. In the end, Earth will be inhabited only by good ones.”
The “work instruction” by CRE8 is itself a paradox: “Draw an alien! Make it realistic!”. It sounds like squaring the circle.
“Of course, no one has the final authority on what an alien looks like. The contest is intentionally absurd,” CRE8 states on their website. “We implicitly suggest discarding mental judgment and trusting imagination instead.”
Nevertheless, the organizers will choose the “best drawings” – submitted not only from Indonesia but also from Brazil, Spain, India and Germany – for an exhibition to be held soon in Bangkok. Why they will do so remains their own mystery. Maybe the initiators will find themselves overwhelmed like Goethe’s sorcerer’s apprentice who, in the end, complained: “Wrong was I in calling/Spirits [aliens], I avow/For I find them galling/Cannot rule them now.”
For more information, visit www.aulia-kids.org/English/ and www.cre8foundation.org/the-most-realistic-alien/.