We know that children and youth have the capacity to express hopes for their world and to effect change. To that end, the ArtsAction Group: Kosovo Collective designed two arts experiences, one for youth and one for children with our partners at Fellbach Haus Centre for Creative Education in Therandës-Suharekës, Kosovo.
"Where do you see utopia? Where do you see dystopia? and "Where are those spaces between the two?"
The youth expressed responses to these questions through a series of making activities including painting, drawing, and interactive media bringing together sound, sensors, circuit building, 3D printing and projection.
Once the students talked through and sketched out initial ideas, they began working on large-scale graphite drawings, made interactive with Bare Conductive Touchboards.
At the same time we demonstrated how to work with the technology. The youth starting thinking about what sounds they wanted as part of their drawings and where they would embed them in the artwork.
With the drawings completed and sound files prepared for upload to the Touchboards, it was time to create the circuits on each drawing. Some youth prepared circuits using graphite as the activation, others used conductive paint or copper wire.
While the theme and narratives expressed required serious contemplation and symbolic translations, there was also a lot of laughter and joy generated during the artmaking.
Each sound point is labeled on the finished artwork with post-its to help us navigate the wiring of the exhibition.
The installation got complicated. After running copper tape circuits from the microprocessor to all of the artwork, we discovered the wall paint was lead based. This meant that the microprocessor was short circuited. We decided to use plastic coated copper wire to construct the circuits.
This year we also introduced 3D printing incorporated into an interactive digital wallpaper installation, inspired by the work of Cindy Maguire of AAG, and the work of artist and designer, Purin Phanichphant.
This was our first year working with the centre's Lulzbot 3D printer. Each youth chose a symbol taken from their Utopia/Dystopia drawing and brought it into photoshop to render it into a black and white 2D image. These these image files were converted into STL files using Selva3D. Each student's printed symbol became the content for our interactive wallpaper for the final exhibition.
The central question for the children was
"What's your secret superpower?"
By focusing on imagination, we validate the need of every child to dream big and feel important. By creating and sharing art about superpower/superhero dreams we invite children to consider what they value and even, thinking into the future, how they might make choices when in a position of power (Jaqueline Jules, Children's book author).
In the past we designed youth projects that brought together traditional studio art skills with contemporary art practices and emerging technologies. This year we introduced two new technologies to the children to explore technology and interactivity in artmaking with the Makey Makey and e-textiles.
Before engaging in the artmaking, each child decided what their superpower was and made a recording of their name and (not so) secret superpower with Barrie.
Next, the children started designing and embellishing a pair of pre-cut styrofoam hands provided by a donor. These hands were then wired to Makey Makeys to be 'played' at the final exhibition using Soundplant.
The children at work
The final hands
The e-textiles project was based on a lesson from the book, Sew Electric, a joint project between MIT researchers and the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) by Leah Buechley, Kanjun Qiu, Sonja de Boer, and Tayo Falase. The children worked with felt, LilyTiny LED lights, sewable battery holders and a range of materials to embellish their own bookmark book light.
E-textiles makes hidden technology visible and tangible. Some of the concepts explored included conductive materials, basic sewing skills, polarized components, and planning a basic circuit combined with personal imagery.
By working with sewing, a craft and skill with a long history in the region, combined with electronics, we found that the girls (and boys) were especially motivated to engage. They learned how to sew and design circuits along the way.
The healing process fosters hope, which is an important prerequisite for meaningful civic engagement and social change. Together, healing and hope inspire children and youth to understand that community conditions are not necessarily permanent, and that the first step in making change is to imagine new possibilities. For young people, healing fosters a collective optimism and a transformation of spirit that, over time, contributes to healthy, vibrant community life (Ginwright, 2011).
ArtsAction Group: Kosovo Collective