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Francis alys chidrens game 11 2 300dpi

Games of Childhood

Visual anthropologist Rob Boonzajer Flaes discusses Francis Alÿs’ Children’s Games from an anthropological angle. He explores the social position of children in our society and shows how it has been reflected throughout the years.

Francis alys chidrens game 10 1 300dpi


Games of Childhood is part of the programme around the exhibition on Francis Alÿs - Children's Games. The documentary The New Boys (2003) by the renowned ethnographic filmmaker David MacDougall will be screened later this evening. On childhood and adolescence at the elitist Doon School in the northern part of India (tickets to be bought separately).

guest speaker Rob Boonzajer Flaes:

The admiration comes first. A short film about children playing. The filmmaker is just one of them, holding a camera. This is the type of work the ethnographic community should have delivered long ago. We were there, we described and analyzed just about everything - but we never noticed the children in their playful and glorious ways. It took a great artist like Alys to set that omission right.

But having seen seventeen of these – a nagging doubt starts getting in. OK, children will play, all over the world. So what? It looks lovely – children are lovable. So what? The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Sheherazade in Disney films are lovable too, and they all find their Prince in the end. But are their stories a faithful description of marriage, all over the world? I hate to be a party pooper, but as an anthropologist it is my duty to ask these questions.

I will therefore discuss the material provided by Alÿs as an anthropologist, using a method coined by Alison Jablonko as digressive search. It is simple, but effective. Whenever something happens that catches the attention, something that is hot – look around and find those who do not participate. Who are left out. Keep a weather eye for the unseen, the unheard, the unnoticed. This will help you to really understand.

Follow this road with me, and you might be in for a big surprise. About the beauty of arranged marriages, a cost/benefit analysis of children, and about the way we are ruining our children in the western world.


Part of

Francis Alÿs

This winter, Eye Filmmuseum is presenting a major exhibition of work by the Belgian-Mexican artist Francis Alÿs. Alÿs is primarily known for his playful videos that are both engaged and poetic. These imaginative and rich observations of daily life are set in sometimes politically-charged moments and places. A big spatial installation at Eye provides the setting for his impressive series Children’s Games.

Learn more
Children's Game 10 (Francis Alÿs)
Rob boonzajer flaes
Francis alys chidrens game 10 2 300dpi
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