Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

A Flexible Path for Managing a Global Movement - Discussion paper by Bernard Conlon

Gent – Ghent – Gand


17-18 February 2011


Kids Guernica: Flexibly Partaking in a Global Movement

Discussion Document

Bernard (L.) Conlon

First of all we must ask why are we here? What are we trying to achieve. What are our individual and collective motives? If I pose such questions, I am obliged to be one of the first to answer.  Answering these basic questions and filtering that information into structured discussion and dialogue in the coming months would be helpful.

We are a diverse group of people: some of us have met before; some of us will be meeting for the first time.  We are a reasonably cultured, erudite group. Culture is our common cause!  We are gathered here under the auspices of a global umbrella with the evocative and gentle name of Kids Guernica (KG). But it is an umbrella that is a little elusive, even esorteric. It is made tangible -and very visible- by producing portable peace murals using the precise proportions of Picasso’s Guernica by young people, with adults facilitating. This function is the visible tip of the iceberg.

An exhibition of KGcoordinators and associates was planned for Ghent in February.  When this encountered problems, Dr Hatto Fischer, cultural expert/consultant and poet, who has been a dynamic driving force within the Kid’s Guernica movement since 2005, quickly evolved an alternative agenda.

From this evolved and revised agenda three key propositions are extrapolated:

I propose that we briefly explore and explain each of these so that we have clarity about what they are proposing and how they might be delivered?

The aspiration for a memorandum comes against a backdrop of a number of milestones in recent years.  2010 was the 15th anniversary of KG.  Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee held a major KG  exhibition in conjunction with an annual academic conference dealing with social justice and design. This provided the setting for a succinct but incisive discussion, which elucidated some clear themes, which were summed up in a short document. This document draws from what was said in Tallahassee and attempts to follow its signposts. A questionnaire from an FSU student in the wake of Tallahassee posed pertinent questions that personally allowed me to focus on what KG is, my experience of it and why and how I got involved. The answers illustrate my personal path in relation to KG and act as a case study that may shed light for others.

Another milestone that had an impact on the movement, or the “family” as KG is sometimes referred to, was a protracted polemic over principles and their apparent subversion in the context of a KG project. Any “White Paper” will need to examine KG’s protocols, asserting the absolute primacy and dignity of the young person within KG projects to ensure that young people are not used as props or proxies.

Structure emerges as a key issue. This structural issue is about organising a global movement.  How do you define KG? Formal legal structure, networks, a foundation, an association are all concepts that are being aired. The idea of hub locations has also emerged.

Given the vastness of this canvas, as it were, achieving a clear and precise blueprint in a two-hour session is highly ambitious.  But as the suggestion of a “White Paper” has been made, then perhaps our task is to identify the who, how and when aspects of such a paper and the main themes it will address and make preliminary proposals. I have taken the liberty of getting the ball rolling with my own reflections and initial suggestions.

I must add that what I suggest and tentatively propose here is personal and subjective based on my perceptions, perspectives (and prejudices).

Florida State University (FSU) – Tallahassee

The FSU event was illustrative and instructive. It was coordinated/spearheaded by Professor Tom Anderson, a Member of KG’s International Committee. It witnessed the resources, structures (legal and otherwise) of a university being mobilised to facilitate a KG event/exhibition. Added value was generated. For instance, FSU drew in elementary school teachers and used the presence of KG coordinators as a live learning resource. There was a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship with KG effectively piggy-backing on FSU and its annual conference on Design and Social Justice. Despite the apparent neatness and convergence implicit in this event, considerable planning and coordination was involved during a long lead-in time. Events like the FSU one do not come easy, requiring considerable organisational and logistical effort - and hospitality.

I wish to formally acknowledge and thank Tom, Mary Vicky (and her husband Tom), Jacqulyn and Matt for their particular kindness to me and acknowledge the input of the other FSU staff that contributed to a very valid and inspirational experience.

Summary of FSU Roundtable (floor) Discussion

KG, which now has a significant heritage of over 200 paintings, has reached a milestone in its development, while its founders, mainly emanating from a university and academic background, it was apparent, hold a relaxed consensus in terms of their vision for the project.

Practicalities and governance issues surfaced. Now, with a substantial heritage of paintings, multiple questions arose as to how and where the paintings were to be stored, what should become of them ultimately and copyright issues linked to such a large body of artistic work.  Questions also arose as to the commercial exploitation of the paintings, for example, with the suggestion of auctioning paintings even being made. This led on to the core issue of KG governance: whether it should remain a broad movement or an international body with a core structure and coherent legal identity.

UN bodies such as UNESCO and UNICEF were mentioned. For European coordinators, the European Union (EU) factor was also clearly in mind.

The issue of KG acquiring a defined international legal identity if not agreed or disagreed to, was firmly put on the agenda and it was obvious would be the subject of intense future debate within the “family”.

Some coordinators were already part of, or are in the process of forming legal entities in their own contexts. This could lead to a organic, umbrella movement consisting of quite a few legal organisations being linked or affiliated to KG in, as said, a sort of umbrella relationship?

The concept of geographic hubs also emerged: New York, not only because of its strategic American position because of its importance to diverse communities such as the Irish, the Jewish, the Italians and others. Brussels and Strasbourg were cited because of their European significance and Geneva because of its European and UN importance and because it is a centre of international non-government organisation.

Reflections and Proposals for Discussion on Structure and Three Ghent Propositions

I have sought to isolate the essence of what was said in Florida in an attempt to ensure tangible progress. It is important that we manage detail and avoid the pitfall of circular discussion. We need to be realistic about what is possible. Two hours is a compact timeframe, so in order to achieve real outcome, discussion therefore needs to be disciplined and strictly moderated.

Brief allusion to how this Ghent event came about and the original Exhibition of KG coordinators idea would be useful. Can the relationship with the original venue be restored/revived? This appeared to have considerable potential.

Clarification on the “White Paper” would be useful: origin of proposal:  indication of remit, methodology and means of producing?

I propose the use of the word community to describe KG, with two sub-divisions a) active community and b) broad community;

The active community would consist of the International Committee and coordinators/project leaders of one or more KG painting projects. The broad community are people who have attended KG events and have contributed in any way and are broadly aware of KG’s broad aims and purpose.

Consent to supplying contact details especially emails for communications, social networking purposes would also be an expression of approval for KG and would deem participation in the community – unless otherwise indicated.

I propose that there be an option for this entire community to participate in a broad cultural network, possibly entitled The Guernica Network. This would have interests and a remit beyond KG, but would owe its origins to KG.  It would not have legal status, but its administration/activities would potentially be managed by legal organisations, linked to KG and/or proposed network.

I propose that active community participants be encouraged to submit a short (250-500 word) profile and outline of involvement. Broad community participants would be welcome to submit as well, if they so wished. This profile/description of interest/s and experience of/contribution to KG would be a declaration of interest and be used for social networking purposes (Facebook etc.).

I endorse KG Youth section proposal and propose that its origins be formally linked with Ghent. Establishing contact and interaction in Guernica would be symbolically significant and tie in with the FSU notion of hubs. A Ghent (Brussels) – Guernica hub, with access to facilities and a place for young people from around the world to come for workshops etc, supported and facilitated by the other structures alluded to and by institutions: cultural, academic, etc. would be an impressive innovation.

I believe registering and legally protecting the KG title/brand in some way is an urgent requirement? Perhaps we should explore doing that within the context of setting a youth sector by means of a basic Belgian ASBL? One IC member from each continent and appropriate Belgian residents could provide the board for this.

I propose an Inventory of organisations, such as Non-government organisations with legal identity that have had KG involvement. From this inventory consortia can be formed to spearhead a variety of cultural actions of any kind. Such consortia would foster: collaboration, cooperation, project development, pooling of resources, funding applications, brain-storming……..They would also be used to provide support and service to KG projects, exhibitions etc. and provide KG with the facility of their legal status, determined by a transparent process with regard to KG matters.

Localised KG projects remain as autonomous entities while adhering to KG principles, protocols, procedures and practises. These will be reviewed in White Paper process and the primacy of the young person asserted and reiterated. While ownership of the paintings remains with the project, any deliberate breach of principle can result in with-drawl of the KG title/brand and acknowledgement through KG media such as the website.

I acknowledge that exploration of cooperation/collaboration with the European City of Culture movement has already begun and that linking with Wroclaw 2016 is being examined here today.  But I also think links with UN agencies, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and other bodies be equally explored. I await the ouelaration her on Wroclaw here with interest.


Bernard L. Conlonlon BA. MA

InforStructure – InforCulture, 436 Antrim Road.Belfast, BT 15 5GB, N. Ireland/UK

Tel +44 (0) 28 90 37 15 70 – Mob/Cell: +44 (0) 7837891233

Email:  bernardconlon@hotmail.com

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