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'Éducateur' by Mathis Collins at Longtang, Zurich

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August 25th 2018

Dear Longtang,

I am sorry to announce that the workshop I was intending to organize in the playground behind the palissade is cancelled.

When I visited Longtang in March, walking through its elongated space, I was struck by this very familiar image: the wooden palissade facing the west side of the pavilion, that encloses a 200 square meter DIY playground for the children of the neighbourhood is a beautiful cliché.

This isn’t your regular picket fence as depicted in the grotesque wood carvings of the Dolomites, nor is it exactly like the fence of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. This palissade is a fac-simile of how palisades were depicted in late 19th century press illustrations, and early 20th century comic strips. The kind Paris had in the thousands in 1888 as a result of Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s Gigantic urban redevelopment that brought us the modern police-friendly city we know today.

The palissade is the physical and legal threshold between the street and the private lots waiting to be constructed. Advertising posters for the emerging bourgeoise on one side, underground society on the other. Kids, homeless people, prostitutes, criminals. And nowhere else than in Montmartre were they more welcome. Up there, the palissade is both a piece of the charming country side surrounding the mills, and a symbol of its poverty.

The palissade will become a graphical icon found in comics throughout the 20th century, mostly depicting anarchistic figures of young people playing and hiding from the police.

When I spoke to Steven, who built the palisade and runs the Robinson playground behind it, he told me that the random cuts at the top of each boards are a technique to prevent rain-water from rotting the wood, but they enjoyed designing several random shapes.

My intention was to animate a workshop during my residency here, maybe to create comic books with the kids or something. But then all the children were on holiday except for this one kid who just didn’t care for my pedagogical methodology, and the teenagers smoking weed outside the space.

So I don’t know who stole my toupee, nor who graffitied the palissade, but please give me back my toupee

Mathis Collins, Éducateur

August 30th, 2018

Dear Mathis,

Thank you for your writing.

As I understand it, the idea of the workshop came from a desire for an exchange and interaction in combination with your enwrought artistic and educational interest. In this case, triggered by Longtang’s involvement and inclusion in its hosting infrastructure and the direct neighbourhood to mentioned playground, separated by a wooden fence. Your formal and substantial interest in the wooden fence and its political sphere is hence, accompanied by the narrative of ‚The Yellow Kid‘ (the predecessor of the eponymous yellow press), lending the leitmotif for your Éducateur works in bas-relief.

The workshop’s cancellation reveals a dialectical movement in which you respond with the Éducateur carvings, as a kind of reflection of potential reactions or situations that failed to materialise and therefore remain fictitious. It would be going too far to name this a form of learning process. But if learning is understood as something unavailable and unpredictable, as something that dismisses the transmitter-receiver logic and which is contrary to what is assumed in times of verifiable skills, educational standards and output measurement, we could regard what you ‚inscribed‘ in wood, exactly as such.

It shows in your letter!

As has come to our undestanding, learning processes carry something resistant, can be provoked by crises that potentially cause the subject to re-establish itself (according to transformatory educational theories). Intending to evoke such moments as pedagogues or artists, the figure of the trickster suggest itself within a liminal game where orders, roles, attributions and meanings can be altered and re-written.

- It’s a joy to host you and your works here!


2.9.18 — 30.9.18

Photo by Flavio Karrer


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