Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Guernica Workshop at University Saint Denis, Paris 2009 - 2010

First contact

When the class of Monique Kissel came to Athens, Greece as part of an exchange program with the Academy of Arts, a first contact was brought about. The group stayed for one week on the island of Hydra. Jad Salman, Palestinian artist, brought about this contact.

Lecture at Saint Denis University, May 4th 2009

To find out what aesthetical principles are behind Kids' Guernica actions bringing about murals through a collaborative learning process, the contact with universities is both needed and crucial to give credibility to Kids' Guernica.

A key problem has been to become recognized by academics and scholars since they do not usually study and evaluate informal learning processes despite this has gained as of late some importance. Informal learning entails other socialisation experiences which are needed for children and youth to make it through the educational and training system in order to find their places in society.

Monique Kissel showed interest in the Kids' Guernica project also from another perspective. She needs and wants to provide students with learning opportunities which link education to prospects of finding a paying job thereafter. This includes questioning but also examining anew the role of artists. A prime example within the Kids' Guernica project has been given by Savina Tarsitano who lived as artist in residence in Martinique and there began to initiate an action painting. She reached with this method youngsters who otherwise could not be addressed by the usual tools any cultural centre has available to integrate into its program those who preferred to stay till now on the outside. An artist can see him- or herself as a cultural in combination with a social worker to ensure inclusion of those left stranded or remain outside society.

A lecture was given by Hatto Fischer at the University of Saint Denis to the class of Monique Kissel.

The class of Monique Kissel visited in October 2009 Picasso's atelier where a Kids' Guernica action was taking place around that time and this in anticipation of the 15th anniversary of Kids' Guernica was to be celebrated by an exhibition and symposium on Art Education for Social Justice organised by Tom Anderson at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida USA in January 2010.

Appraising the Kids' Guernica action in Picasso's Atelier

Monique Kissel in Picasso's atelier in Paris

After having visited the atelier and in seeing what was done with the children, and the main coordinator of the action, Boris Tissot, not responding to any criticism or suggestion to do it otherwise, an entire discussion within Kids' Guernica erupted about the role of adults in the painting process supposed to be a collaborative learning process into which the children enter with adults being merely facilitators but not instructors. The key criticism of the action in Picasso's atelier was that professional formalism prevailed as approach to the subject matter of what to paint on such a huge canvas and that fear children could do something wrong prevailed over the need to give them the freedom of choice as to what they would want to express themselves in form, colour and subject matter. The mural created in Picasso's atelier was reduced to a black-white scheme by adults coming from design rather than from painting and who did not understand the Kids' Guernica philosophy.

Thus Monique Kissel responded in her own way and wrote a letter to all within Kids' Guernica in order to point out what she felt was in need to be observed.

Subject: Picasso's studio - Kids Guernica: 3 Points


Hello to all of you,

I’m Monique Kissel, about whom Hatto Fischer spoke in his mail.


Excuse me to take such a long time for this first mail. I preferred to read your mails before, and thank you to welcome me. And please be kind with my so bad English!


1- The canvas :


I cannot say that the canvas done in Picassos’ studio is a canvas done by the children.

I can say: it’s an adults’ canvas.

Done from forms extracted from kids’ drawings and paintings, reduced to signs by a computer treatment and organised on the canvas by adults. Executed under control of adults.

Children were just allowed to “paint” some selfish little adds at the right place.

The process on the canvas comes mainly from decorative art or design. It transformed the children’s “creative process” into an “execution-work” of their own inventions processed by computer and adults’ mind.


So we cannot say it’s a painting and we cannot say children created it.


My sensation is that an interesting work had been done before the work on the canvas started. It was done by a collaborative team with Boris Tissot and very professional cultural workers. It inhabits Boris’s works with children, based on discussions with the children about war and violence and after which their remarks were written down again by adults and published in the form of an elegant newspaper. Something changed in this process afterwards, when Jad Salman , the only painter, joined.


The works on the canvas are linked to previous words formulated in the preparative phase,  all black and white works. These drawings and paintings done by children are truly creative and expressive. Each one made a nice sketchbook.


But, bringing all that onto the canvas, all that was changed in the process.

Why? What happens?

What would have said the giant Picasso who “didn’t search but find?”

Who “had to forget all he learned to recover spontaneity”?



2- the matter is not between Hatto and Boris:


The children were frustrated because they could not paint very freely.

One part of the accompanying adults realize that the children were upset, disappointed and unhappy to see how all this adventure ended and so for them.

I tried to provoke a discussion with Boris but any reasonable consensus seemed possible then, turned out to be short lived.

Students of mine, who are used to working with kids, said that isn’t a kids’ painting. One of them called it “a professional patterned work”


The facts in Picasso’s studio are such that they annoyed Hatto Fischer because of his peace’ and K.G.’ high idea. Not for anything else. And I can say that he was really patient in Picasso’s studio. And sad.

Hatto Fisher doesn’t speak for himself alone, and what he says, he does so in a bright perspective, generous way. As a political philosopher he doesn’t stop looking to find a good way to peace. As a human being he knows that the solution comes from the heart.

My opinion is that Hatto Fischer is a precious devoted ambassador and worker for Peace and for Kids Guernica here in France.



3- Kids’ Guernica is a bright and generous commune project

We are honoured to work for it, as Katerina said.

I feel all the works done so far are linked by the same breath of goodness.

What I understand it’s that a K.G. community exits and that each of us have to make it known to the world.

Thank you for inviting me to join this project.

And I shall do my best when giving Kids’ Guernica as a course and workshop at Saint Denis University in Paris.


Monique Kissel

Maître de Conférences - Université Paris8 - Département Arts Plastiques.


Le Vannereau. 18240 Santranges - France

Tel : 33(0)682 222 881 –33(0)248 726 822

Mail : kogaku13@yahoo.fr

Work in progress from May 2009 until October 10th 2010:

Monique Kissel started to organise the Kids' Guernica workshop at Saint Denis University in Paris with the plan to exhibit the works of the students in Vincennes come October 2010. She writes in a letter of 24.4.2010 the following:

"Here, in the University after students conducted very personal, interesting researches as to the them of Guernica, some of them are beginning to try to work together. Nervously they danced around the deal more than two months without results, or they realized only un-interesting results (that was their judgement and I did agree). Overcoming shyness and narcissic fears, breaking down non-confidence in the other, as in oneself...15 days ago, two of them painted together for 5 hours. The unexpected result was strong, full of engagement and meaning about war, and nevertheless done with joy. All of this is seeable on the painting. So they are glad to see wha is possible. Especially in the case of these 2 artists, this is important as both have very different kinds of aesthetical approaches and sensibilities, Ali Ibrahim from Middle-East (Iraqian-Kurd), Remy Delaplace North-West Europe (French).

(A happy fact is that the Saint Denis University in Paris is, as the case in our Departement of Art to, a real Laboratory for Mondialisation because of numerous foreign students from all continents.)

We shall show photos of the personnal works and begin now to realise things together. We shall present different protocolls reflective of the experimentation the students went through, in order to be able to compare this with the way it works when doing such a painting with children. Perhaps we can begin a reflexion about the  project went we gather in May in Berlin."

Monique Kissel, Prof. of Art at University of Saint Denis


The exhibition of the mural done by five students was opened in Vincennes Oct. 11th, 2010.

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