Van 12 tot 14 mei 2021 namen Bob en Karel deel aan "Le Divan sur le Danube", een jaarlijks weerkerend congres van psychiaters, psychologen, psychoanalisten, enz... uit Frankrijk, Hongarije, Roemenië, Italië, ...
Hieronder volgen de bijdrages van Bob en Karel
Élever: Dédale et Icare Robert Maebe
With Karel De Vos, my teammate at this Divan, I worked for many years in Jongerencentrum Cidar, a centre within the framework of Youth Aid. He was its director for forty years. He responded with energy and insight to all kinds of problems that arose from the development of new laws, structures and rules, in both practical management work and theoretical reflection. A lawyer by training, he undertook in recent years studies in social pedagogy at the University of Ghent, which culminated in a thesis on "The pre-structuring of care: a socio-pedagogical perspective on the evolution of the relationship between educators and young people in care".
Together, in the field of the institution, we focused on the relationships that were developing between the young people, their families, their worlds, and the centre. We chose institutional psychotherapy and pedagogy, psychoanalysis and the social analysis of movements in society as our guides. With almost all the workers of the centre, we thus conducted a weekly intervision seminar for years, in changing constellations, taking up each time what Karel had called "a situation" that one of them should bring forward on the spot. The term 'situation' was precisely intended to avoid objectifying 'case discussions', and if this happened, to emphasise the need to examine the situation it developed in, the framework, the relationships and the constraints. Particularly interesting were those moments of questioning images conveyed in the dominant pedagogies. Now retired, Karel has devised a similar method of collective examination, starting from a common vision of a feature film to initiate discussions in relation to the own work of youth workers. A method that he will no doubt tell you about.
In this Ascension week I thought I would say something about the French verb "élever", to elevate or to raise, and the word "élévation", raising understood as elevation, and "élevage", raising as breeding. I stopped at those few words that name the work of parents, teachers and educators. The expression finally given, or to be given, to this tireless task, known as civilisation, socialisation and education.
Several terms, nouns or verbs, some vague, others more precise, but all figuratively indeed say how the child of man must access adult life, or, how to conceive the burden imposed on adults to take care of this; that is to say, verbs like to raise, to educate, to teach, to form, to learn, to discipline, and nouns: education, teaching, training. Among them, élever - to raise, a transitive or pronominal verb (to raise oneself), derived from the Latin elevare, prefix "e-", meaning "out" and "upwards", and verb "levare", lifting up. Let's examine shortly the existential question attached to elevation, and the various tensions that participate in education, a drama that can turn into a tragedy.
For Ludwig Binswanger elevation evokes altitude, height and breadth, and some questions about Dasein—Being There, as we can read in his writings Dream and Existence and On the Anthropological Meaning of Extravaganza - Verstiegenheit (The term "extravagance," is used here because, despite the fact that its common English usage is not adequate to the German word, its Latin roots (extra, beyond, and vagari, wander) taken together, give the meaning of wandering beyond a limit), I quote a 1963 English translation by Harvard professor John Needleman:
"Human existence projects itself in breadth, and in height; it not only strides forth, but also mounts upward. In both respects, there-fore, it is possible for human existence to go too far, to become Extravagant. If, now, we are to understand the anthropological meaning of Extravagance, we must seek what it is that makes possible the change from existential rising into a mode of existence that is Extravagant. Anthropology can never limit its investigations to only one existential direction, but, rather, being anthropological, must always have before it the total structure of human beings. The basis, therefore, of this change or conversion from existential rising into Extravagance will, from the start, be viewed of not merely as upward movement, but will be understood as part of the koinonia or community of other basic potentialities of human existence. As I have attempted to show elsewhere," Extravagance is, in fact, rooted in a certain disharmony in the relation between rising upward and striding forth. If we call such a relation "anthropologically proportionate" when it is "successful," then we must speak of Extravagance as a form of anthropological disproportion, as a "failure" of the relationship between height and breadth in the anthropological sense.
The rising upward of human beings is not to be understood within the context of its being-in-the- world" and its corresponding spatialization and temporalization. It is, rather, to be understood in the context of its being-beyond-the-world in the sense of the at-homeness and eternalness of love," in which there exists no above and below, no near and far, no sooner and later. If, nevertheless, human existence, as a finite being, still remains "consigned" to height and breadth, it can "go too far" only where it has broken out of the home and eternity of love and is completely contained in "space and time."
Szondi’s fate analysis that stated that it is up to the person to choose his or her path between destiny- constraint and destiny-freedom, and reconsiders the relationship between health and illness. Jacques Schotte's anthropo-psychiatry, is a deepening and structural development of it. I have already presented to you how Schotte introduced the prefix "anthropo-" to sharpen the meaning of the other prefix "psyche-", which is too general because it has been applied since Aristotle to any living being (zoon), without capturing its side of existing making a life history (bios). Schotte was responding to the call of Arthur Kronfeld, who, in his book Das Wesen der psychiatrischen Erkenntnis - the foundations of psychiatric knowledge - published in 1920, accused psychiatry of lacking an autological foundation. Autological, which mean, embedded in the living and rethinking contact with the clinic itself, without borrowings from outside this field. Ludwig Binswanger also said that in clinical psychiatry an amalgam of heterogeneous sciences, foreign to the human psychiatric fact itself, was flourishing. Let us quote Binswanger again proposing for psychiatry in the introduction to his "Heraclitean apprehension of man", quote:
a "totally new task, namely: to see and describe, in their purely anthropological structure, the forms of human-being which it describes clinically as diseases of the mind (and "of the nerves"). This task came to her from having understood the inadequacy of the morally contemptuous language with which she still all too often describes the modifications ('the lower values') of the forms of human being;"
Anthropopsychiatry thus proposes to give an account on the instinctual and structural level in thinking of human development. And for what concerns us here: from birth to the dawn of adult life. Also the place to be given to the roles taken or to be taken by the entourage of the little ones that take a long time to grow and develop in the bosom of the community before occupying a place called adult.
Should we propose an anthropo-pedagogy to specify a pedagogy that concerns the human child ? Etymologically no, since 'pais' always refers to man, either in relation to his descent: child of, or to his age: not yet adult, or to his social condition, including the status of slaves or servants.
But to speak of anthropo-pedagogy serves me here to give an 'anthropic' meaning that is based on an instinctual and existential approach to man, that sets the problem of the so-called 'pedagogy' in a new perspective proper to humans as existants. That is to say other than as an evolved zoological variety of mammal. With repercussions on any thought that seeks to approach the proper destiny of man, of each man in person, and of humanity as a whole. Of each child in person, and of childhood in general.
It is true that the child grows naturally and by necessity in a protected environment. But immediately too, as time goes by, the little person emerges already in the process of carving out a place for himself or herself in the world, towards and with the other, experiencing duties and powers, discovering oneself ... opaque and objectifiable. For this childhood, starting as in-fans, not yet speaking, subjected to the latency of its sexuality, undergoing the pubertal thrust and the question of its identity in adolescence with a view to an adulthood that is both feared and coveted, education is to be conceived as a way of making possible to cross this pathway full of successive separations, traps and obstacles, and also of blossoming, as much for the young person as for those who have to look after them.
While Freud developed the Oedipal relationship of the child towards the parents, George Devereux in 1953 introduced the concept of the "Laios complex" to account for equivalent feelings on the part of the father for his son, seeking to understand it from two psychosexual aspects; one according to a magical unconscious belief in one's own immortality as long as there are no offspring, the other insisting on the reciprocal mortifying narcissistic relationship between the son and father.
To illustrate, let’s take the well-known myth of Icarus that focuses on the pride and temerity of the young person who, on the wings made for him by his father Daedalus so that they could – together – escape from the labyrinth that Daedalus himself had built, flies so high despite his father’s warnings that the sun melts the wax that held the feathers to the frame, precipitating his fatal fall into the Aegean Sea.
The focus in this myth is usually not so much on the father, Daedalus. Nor on the father-son relationship, which nevertheless emerges when we reconsider this father’s story. He was a creative artist, architect and inventor of prodigious instruments. When this man of genius was confronted in Athens with his nephew Perdix, who had become his pupil and who showed a nascent talent equal to, if not capable of surpassing that of the master, Daedalus threw him down from the Acropolis. Thereupon Pallas Athena turned the young Perdix into a partridge in his fall, allowing him to save his life in a flight, preventing the fatal outcome of the attempted jealous murder by his teacher and pedagogue.
In Crete an analogous but reversed scene occurs, where it is the father who gives wings to his son in order to – like himself – escape imprisonment in a labyrinth that he too had built. But is it not also this Daedalus, himself presumptuous, who leads the young man entrusted to him, voluntarily or not, towards the fall? No goddess here to rescue the unfortunate boy.
From the invention of pedagogy and its methods, education is understood as the application of techniques and practices designed to achieve a goal, which often aims at disciplining and making people fit to function in a concrete society. To the detriment of the question of what is human, human existence, human living together.
Yet Schotte told us
"And the first thing I would like to do now is to eliminate a vast misunderstanding about the place of theory in science. It is still said that what counts is practice. Yes, the problem is that practice never goes ahead - whether we like it or not, consciously or unconsciously - without already having a theory. And we have to reflect on this from time to time, as a beautiful Germanic word "sich besinnen" says, i.e. to (re)turn to the meaning of what we are doing, of what we are really doing. ...
Raising children could be thought of in terms of an encounter between existants who sometimes may or may not respect, know or recognise each other. What is to become of the child as an existant "in progress", driven by his or her own instincts - which can get out of hand - but also by the possibility and the task - also instinctual - of making choices, and of assuming more and more the problem of an existence in abyss. Adolescence is often the crossroads where such a confrontation will take place; the sufferings that are specific to it, such as school failures, crises, suicides, the beginnings of psychoses, the great questions of personal and sexual identity, attest to this. Often by surprise.
Adults, often oblivious to their own development, then risk missing the importance of this dimension of encounter, that is, of interested openness to the other, and miss it through mistrust, arrogance, ignorance. Often under the guise of principles and rationalisations of this or that pedagogy.
What psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis and also certain pedagogues shed light on is the counter- transferential side heavy with disastrous consequences, as described by Ferenczi as early as 1932, or the failure of the existential encounter according to Ludwig Binswanger, or the profound tensions and questions between freedom and discipline in education, from "ducere", to guide, to direct.
Between the child and the adult a relationship is woven that is mixed with love and hate, respect and rivalry, recognition and misunderstanding, at the risk of obliterating the existential dimension and its elusive ground.
Let me end with the most famous freudian quote from 1937 Analysis terminable and interminable:
Here let us pause for a moment to assure the analyst that he has our sincere sympathy in the very exacting requirements of his practice. It almost looks as if analysis were the third of those 'impossible' professions in which one can be sure only of unsatisfying results. The other two, as has long been agreed, are the bringing-up of children and the government of nations.
The same quote appeared, slightly rephrased, in Freud’s Preface to August Aichhorn’s 1925 book Verwahrloste Jugend (‘Wayward Youth’).
As I remembered that quote it seemed to me appropriate to follow the ideas developed above, and the I discovered this 1999 article by French Mireille Cifali questioning and discussing that quote in « Métier « impossible » ? une boutade inépuisable »,
... it can be said that there is no 'definitive' science of government, education or care. We will never reach the end. There is certainly knowledge built either by the clinic or in the laboratory through experimentation, but the living encounter between people around healing, education and living together can never be reduced to this. On the other hand, in order to think about our actions, we need to build a knowledge of the living and the singular that takes into account uncertainty, chance and complexity.
Referring to the clinic as a perspective for thinking about these professions therefore requires us to assume the "impossible" as a precious commodity so as not to freeze ourselves in a state of theory that would take itself for a timeless truth.
She concludes her contribution with: ... let us return to the Freudian quip of assured 'failure'. If insufficient success were to find its example, education would indeed provide it. For some, this is its tragedy;
for others, it is a question of human freedom. Those who want to forge an "other" to their measure, according to an established plan and goals set there for his good, find one day that this other thwarts their plan, transforms it, and resurfaces where they had not foreseen it, the educational measures that they had believed to be effective turning into their opposite. And if, by chance, their mastery succeeds, if their previous wishes are obeyed and their path is followed, there comes a moment when the surface cracks and the symptom appears. A misfortune occurs when the project is too faithfully followed: the living being is objectified, killed in its singularity, prevented from accessing its position of inalienable subject. Life takes its revenge, laughing at the best intentions as well as the worst. So what would be the standard by which success or failure could be judged? Some have argued that the success of an education lies precisely in the fact that it fails: the person who is the object of it thwarts the project forged for him or her and finds himself or herself emerging as a subject in difference and separation. And vice versa: an education that is successful in the eyes of the one who provides it turns out to be a failure in the eyes of the one who undergoes it.
If education is the exemplary place of power and might, its insufficient success would also attest to the fact that this power is nonetheless limited: the human being escapes predetermination; he resists normative attempts as well as the totalizing enterprise. If this power is actualised at his expense, it rarely achieves what is intended: the other saves himself as a subject, even in his own destruction, to the point of violence and madness. This forces us to postulate its irreducibility, as a guarantee of freedom, but with a very heavy price to pay in psychological suffering. In education, it is the certainties forged in advance that mutilate. There are no comprehensive measures, no rules for all. The only way to avoid giving in to the violent incomprehension that the thwarted project arouses is perhaps to be able to recognise that, at the outset, there is something unknowable in the encounter that takes place between the child and those who have engendered him or her, and to accept that knowledge is built up from day to day with, as the only reference point, the recognition, each time experienced, of this child as a subject, and not as the object of rationalised measures, even if this is in the name of psychoanalysis.
Film beyond cinema
Karel De Vos
May 14, 2021
What follows is a reflection, starting from the observation that the projection of the film “Etre et avoir “ of Nicholas Philibert, as starting point for an intervision, as well as the production of a videodocument on young educators in residential settings, in both cases led to changes in the mutual relations among the persons for whom the presentation of “Etre et avoir”was organized, and among the young caretakers who co-operated at the videodocument.
These remarks are confronted with some views of Fernand Deligny (1913-1996), on the use of the camera in special pedagogical situations, and with the insights in the metacinematic dimension of film, as proposed by Imogen Stidworthy in her doctoral dissertation (Voicing on the borders of language (2020). Imogen Stidworthy refers also to the work of Deligny.
- Introduction: background.
In September 2020 we organized with some friends an autonomous group for reflection on pedagogical issues, that occur in care-taking, education, social cultural work a.m. We called this group the “Edu-academy”.
We tried to realize a platform for exchanges, to liberate ourselves from the instrumental approaches on professional acting, as they are wide-spread today: pedagogical action, and interventions in pedagogical actions like child-rearing or education, are nowadays mainly approached from a behaviorist and adaptive perspective. In the mainstream view, the child, eventually the parent is obliged to adapt its behavior to the prescriptions of professionals, and the professional in turn is obliged to regard his actions as based on the prescriptions of behavioral scientists. This hierarchization provokes in turn a continuous power struggle, that leads in youth care to escalations in interventions even resulting in locking young people up in closed facilities in the idea, this would help them. The underlying interpretational framework is rather simplistic: the behavior of young people legitimizes more intrusive reactions on this behavior: the difficult child is regarded at the same time as a dangerous child, and with this assumption the actual youth care joins the assumptions on which youth care was based in the 19 th century: the difficult child is in the same time a dangerous child, against which society is allowed to defend itself.
From the start of our initiative we choose to use film as a starting point for free exchanges, based on the idea that film as visualization and as documentation is easier to use as a starting point for free and direct spontaneous exchanges than recites or theoretical elaborations.
Till now we worked in three formulas with film:
- We organized presentations of films (Ce gamin-là/ Renaud Victor and L’enfant sauvage/ François Truffaut) with an introduction and at the end the possibility to engage in reflections on what has been shown. This line of our work has been interrupted by corona.
- We proposed “Etre et avoir”, (a film dated 2003 by Nicholas Philibert, about a teacher in a school in the Auvergne, a rural area in France) as starting point to engage in an institution (Jongerencentrum Cidar) an exchange of reflections about the pedagogical principles of this organization. This initiative was asked for by the team responsible of the institution, because due to corona there was a lack of possibilities to reflect on pedagogical issues in the organization.
- We started ourselves to produce some videodocument. A first document was about young workers in residential settings, who talk about their work and experiences.
The projection of “Etre et avoir” and the recordings of the videodocument on young educators leaded to the amazing observation that the projection of “Etre et avoir”, as well as the videodocument had a direct impact on the mutual relations between the participants of the event.
-At the end of the projection of Etre et avoir, we asked the participants to divide in smaller groups and to choose fragments from the film they were attracted to, we also asked them to explain their attraction. This was the preparation for a next session that consisted in elaborating their choices and connect these choices with their work. From the very first explanation of the choices, it was noticed that members of the team who seldom spoke in public, could explain their choices without fear, in their own words. This was a first observation of changes in mutual relations. It was as if the formal and informal hierarchies usually determining mutual relations in the group, were suspended. Gert Biesta, a Dutch pedagogue would notify that this interruption enabled “subjectification”, in other words, enabled them to develop a subjective sense to what they experienced. This was maintained in following elaborations and leaded to further interventions in their mutual relations.
By way of example:
One group choose a fragment in which the teacher was severe towards one particular child. Their first interpretation of the fragment was that the teacher was inconsequent because he punished the child without explanation, while on other occasions he was very friendly with the child. During the preparation of the following session, the group changed this interpretation: they no longer regarded the teacher as severe, but on the contrary as very involved. At this point they made a loop to their own working situation as a team. They noticed the shift in interpretation and they brought this in connection with a difficulty they experienced in working together: they missed each other’s feedback to enable to understand their mutual approach towards situations with the youngsters in the group, for example during the transmissions due to change from the night-shift to the day-shift.
-During the recordings of the document on young residential caretakers, there occurred something strange. We designed the recordings as a series of conversations with one or two educators at the time. When the series ended, there would follow a general edit. That was the plan. But it turned out differently. At a certain moment the situation changed. One educator, who had just been interviewed stayed longer out of curiosity for what other educators would tell. They didn’t know one another. At the end of the interview with the following educators, there occurred a conversation between the first educator and the following ones. This conversation was totally unforeseen, but changed the construction of the document completely. Suddenly the conversation turned into an exchange on pedagogical regimes in the various institutions they worked in. The whole setting of the recordings changed the relation between the educators involved: the first educator changed from a passive witness to an active participant, changing by the way the focus of the document.
- How can we understand this phenomenon?
In both described situations, there was an immediate impact on mutual relations between the participants.
The work of Fernand Deligny and of Imogen Stidworthy give us some clues to understand this aspect of film.
- Fernand Deligny and the use of a camera as pedagogic tool.
Fernand Deligny (1913-1996) used film intentionally to change pedagogical relations.
He wrote some interesting texts on the subject: I would recommend “Caméra, outil pédagogique” in 1955, and later “Camérer” in 1983
Shortly after World war II, Deligny was renowned in France as pedagogue who worked with socially maladjusted children. He wrote also some pedagogical bestsellers amongst others: Graine de crapule (1945), a collection of aphorisms about the work with “dangerous” children. He developed some experimental and radical practices and visions, and he put himself at a great distance towards the common adaptive approaches of these children, approaches that are still common today. Deligny changed radically the focus from adaptation of the child to adaptation of the circumstances in which the child lives or is received by others, adults. A basic thought that he maintained during whole his life, was enunciated in 1946 in another writing (“Les vagabond efficaces”): “Créateur de circonstances, voilà l’éducateur aux prises avec toutes les inerties. Bon courage”. These circumstances are aimed at providing the child with the possibility to live a live, by being enabled to take own senseful initiatives. In a radio interview on France culture in 1977 Deligny elaborates this idea further: it is about the possibility for the child to free himself of the compulsion to repeat and to free himself from the vision of the others (society) on the maladjusted, unadapted child. This idea refers to Henri Wallon , who was a Marxist psychiatrist in France, who tried to create a development-theory in which he tries to think the child and its environment in mutual coherence.
Deligny is especially renowned for his care-practice of autistic children in Monoblet, in the Cévennes in France, from 1968 to 1996, when he died. There he lived together with some adults, and autistic children, in an open space, involving them in all the actions of everyday life: providing food, looking for water, looking after animals, baking bread, etc.
During his time in the Cévennes, there have been made several films about living together with autistic children, like Ce gamin-là (Renaud Victor 1975) and the documentary Projet N (Alain Cazuc 1979).
Film was also used as a tool to engage in conversations with parents about their children within this practice of Deligny. His daughter ( Caroline Deligny) made a lot of these recordings. In Projet N, Deligny clarifies the use of these fragments: he sees them as an alterna tive for memory, a reference for personal history, filling in the gap these children have because their lack of a sense of historicity. In the same time, he uses the records to enable the parents to witness the initiatives their children develop, and to be amazed, in order to change their vision and their approach towards their own children.
With “Ce gamin-là” Deligny had a similar ambition, but more aimed at society: he wanted to communicate the way of being of the children with the intention to change the vision of society on these children, as an alternative for placement in specialized institutions. It was his ambition to visualize “autism” as a possible human form of life, by showing the possibility to create circumstances in which these children can lead a life that enables them to take initiatives.
Deligny’s use of film goes further back in time; Already in the 50ies he experimented with film. In “La grande Cordée”, an initiative for maladjusted adolescents who were sent to him through the instituted system of youth protection, he introduced the camera among these adolescents. Deligny had the ambition to make visible their way of seeing the world, by letting them film. This project didn’t really work out well, but he developed from here on other initiatives with film making. In 1966 he made an experimental film (Le moindre geste), in which youngsters with a mental handicap played the main role. Also, in this film he had the ambition to make their way of seeing in its turn visible, but it was the adults who manipulated the camera. Filming became the setting in which was worked with the boys, it structured the day for them as well as for the adults around them. In Deligny’s words: filming provided the circumstances that enabled the boys to develop initiatives, for example in what they spontaneously speak out in the movie, and how they develop their dialogues without script.
Deligny’s efforts to use film intentionally opens the question how the intention of the maker or projector of a film relates to the experience of the public. It is a tricky question, because here we enter in the subject of film as “propaganda”, - see the actuality of the creation of alternative eventually virtual realities. Deligny tried to escape from this question when he proposed the infinitive “camérer” to indicate the use of a camera. The infinitive would allow to detach the use of the camera from the intentions of the filmer, i.c. making a film. At that point the camera becomes a tool to register, a machine that structures the vision. This is of course a difficult tenable position. One notices that Deligny is getting blocked here, because a lot of elements like the moment to record, the distance, the use of light, the framing, all are bound to the decisions of the user of the camera, you cannot make a total abstraction of the intentions of the makers or cooperators to the production of a film.
- Imogen Stidworthy: the metacinematic presences through film.
Imogen Stidworthy analyses starts from the ascertainment that underlying the production of a film there is a totality of decisions concerning frame, sound, light, editing and also spoken and unspoken interactions. `She researches what we could call ‘not-into-spoken-language’ transferable communication in and through film. As a video-artist she is fascinated by “voicing”, which means the non-verbal voice-sounds in film and video, that contribute to the communicative qualities of film and video. She concludes that there is always a communicative dimension in video and film that goes beyond what can be expressed in spoken language, and she adds that this dimension is relatively independent from the intentions makers or even the public have. Relative means that what the makers intend, is not necessarily understood as they intend, and vice versa the public doesn’t see necessarily what is meant to be seen. The accordance between intention and effect is not given, it is in Imogen Stidworhy’s view a delicate construction- process, in contrast with Deligny’s hope that his intentions would be realized and recognized as such. Imogen Stidworthy investigates this dimension in the product, the film as it can be made experienceable during a projection, as well as in the production process. This communicative dimension that goes beyond spoken language, and not necessarily leads to the responses that are intended, she calls “the metacinematic dimension of film. “Meta “stands for “beyond”: meaning that the emotional complexity of film or video goes further than the “message” or visualization of ideas, that can be expressed in spoken language. The atmosphere, the emotional load and layers become like the manifestation of a presence that invites to relate with, beyond the message or visualization of the film. Imogen Stidworthy indicates this process of relating in a non-verbal way with a presence: “rubbing up” (fr.: se frotter)
In that sense, film and video are special media because sound and moving images are a unity, and even in the spoken parts the metacinematic dimension is at work through intonations, way of speaking etc.
This fusion of technical issues (framing, light, editing) with mimicry, background sounds, changes in perspective, make that the film as a presence becomes real and experienceable. Imogen Stidworthy stresses that communication in a non-spoken way as if relating with a presence, results from a delicate construction-process that can as well be directed by the intentions of participants and as well by responses on the spot, but with a non-predictable outcome. It is always afterwards that you can tell what a film did to you.
- Back to Etre et avoir and the young educators, to conclude these reflections.
I will try now to conclude these reflections.
Film appeals in a direct way, and can make something present, that cannot be put in words, and is also enigmatic: in the same time strange and recognizable, knowable and unknown, provoking you to come into motion, to move and to relate. There is a parallel with the situations we meet in care, education and child-rearing: the other is strange and recognizable, knowable and unknown.
More as a hypothesis, which can be discussed and questioned, and leaning on Imogen Stidworthy’s insights I would add that the context and situation in which Etre et avoir was shown, and in which the video on young educators was made, resulted in strengthening the metacinematic dimension of film and filming, so that it led directly to an impact on the mutual relation between participants.
Etre et avoir was shown in a vacuum: the possibilities for exchanges between members of the team were suspended by corona, while the members of the team were searching for mutual recognition and for ways to express themselves. The projection of Etre et avoir was at first experienced as something strange, because participants are far away from the rural conditions of life that are shown in the film, and at the same time there were in the film a lot of elements they recognized an could identify with, especially some situations between the children in the classroom and the teacher. The fact that we projected the film for all team members as a group, had a des-hierarchizing effect: the experience of the film as strange and recognizable became a shared experience and was recognized as such, and made also eminent that every participant alike was searching for ways to give expression to that experience, with no pre-established hierarchy among the team members. I think the institutional logic was suspended for a moment.,
Something similar happened during the recordings of the document on young educators. The recording situation we created had something alienating: the recording took place in a public park, with a totally different background sound than we are used to in residential care-situations (birds, machines, wind, …). The intention we had with the recordings was to enable young educators to speak in their own words about their work. The whole recording situation strengthened the invitation to speak out, and resulted in the discussion between the educators, which was not intended to happen. The effect was that the focus shifted from talking about own experiences, to discussing differences in pedagogical regimes between institutions, still in their own words.
When someone or something becomes present, relations change. In the same way we could say that the metacinematic dimension of film in both examples also is bound to the settings in which we project and use films, and settings in which we work. In both cases it is important to notice that the settings on which we rely, do not prestructure the outcome, they accept unpredictability. And this transforms the projection of a film and the recording of a document, in the same time into an exercise to deal with the strangeness and unpredictability of the other, seen as an enigmatic presence, which demands to be respected. Educators deal with this challenge continually when they are in the presence of youngsters and colleagues in residential care situations.
Following this path, we reach the core of the challenges of professional pedagogical work today: find ways to give expression to this experience, in contrast with the main discourses on professionalism that cannot respect the enigmatic dimension of relating with difficult youngsters, because the other is regarded as known through the establishment of known characteristics and equal patterns of expectations. These reductions are inherently violent. And that is not only a question of words.
- Le moindre geste (1962-1971) Josée Manenti/ Fernand Deligny
- L’enfant Sauvage (1970) François Truffaut
- Ce gamin-là (1975) Renaud Victor
- Projet N (1979) Alain Cazuc
- Dialogues with young educators
Gert Biesta (2013) The beautiful risk of education. Paradigm Publishers London
Fernand Deligny. Graine de crapule (1945); Les vagabonds efficaces (1946); Caméra, outil pédagogique(1955); Camérer (1983) in Sandra Alvarez de Toledo (2007), Fernand Deligny Oeuvres. L’Arachnéen, Paris
Marlon Miguel (2016) A la marge et hors-champ. L’humain dans la pensée de Fernand Deligny. Thèse pour le doctorat d’Arts Plastiques et de Philosophie. Université Paris 8
Imogen Stidworthy (2020) Voicing on the borders of Language. Malmö Faculty of Fine and Performing arts, Lund University
Van 22 tot 27 mei 2022 ging de laatste bijeenkomst van Le divan sur le Danube door.
Hier onze bijdrage:
Film as reflection
Dear friends, last year I spoke about our initiative, the Eduacademy, that we started with some friends. Our aim is to install spaces that enable to take a distance from the usual instrumental pedagogical logics in the interventions towards children and young people in social problems. Film takes an important place in our initiative.This year I want to give an account of our further developments. I will focus on the use of film to organize dialogical sessions for educators and caretakers in youthcare. That gives me the opportunity to deepen what I told last year. In this presentation I will use some footage.
My presentation today is structured as follows:
First I will focus on the pedagogical logic of interventions towards young people in social problems, by using filmfragments: One fragment from a recent documentary made by Maasja Ooms, a Dutch filmmaker (2017) and other fragments from “L’enfant sauvage” of François Truffaut (1971).
I will explain the pedagogical logic from an historical perspective. For this I refer to my Phd that I finished in 2015, in which I concluded that the pedagogical logics that were developed in the 19th century still persist in todays youthcare, even on case-level.
In the second part of my presentation, I will explain why and how we try to question this pedagogical logic in the Eduacademy, in a way that can be relevant for professionals in their daily contacts with young people and their families. In this part also I ill use some footage.
To conclude, I will pose the question whether you can recognize our concerns, and what you think about our way to deal with it.
- The instrumental pedagogical logic of interventions towards children and young people in social problems.
I will dwell a moment on what I mean with the usual instrumental approach of educational problems, I will interpret this on the background of the history of Youthcare in Belgium.
I will do this starting from a fragment out of a documentary made by Maasja Ooms. The fragment comes from the documentary “Alicia”, made in 2017. Maasja Ooms made several documentaries about youtcare in the Netherlands. In this documentary, Maasja follows a girl from her 8 th year till her 11 th, when she was sent to a closed facility. In the Dutch youthcare system closed facilities are often used there must be about 2000 closed places for minoraged persons.. And although the Dutch system is a bit different from the Belgian or Flemish system, the persued logics are similar. Even so that today in Flanders closed facilities will be established, following the Dutch example.
2.1. The historical perspective
What we have seen is in the same time shocking and very reckognisable. This is the ambiguous reaction most professionals have when they see this film.
In the way of speeking, starting from the assumption that Alicia and het caretakers share the same points of vue, hides a one-sided showdown, that is even enforced by the assumption that Alicia joins the professional ways of seeing, due to the position and status of the experts. Alicia is obliged to adapt herself, and this logic ultimately leads to lock her up, because she doesn’t comply.
This adaptive logic is completely in line with the pedagogical logic of youthcare, that was developed in Belgium and in continental Europe throughout the 19 th century. First it was a variation on Criminal Law and Care for the Poor, later it became an autonomous system. Youth care as we know it today is based on the developments in the 19 th century, that took place in a dynamic interaction between philanthropy, justice and “human sciences”. In Belgium this led to the theory of Social Defence, that provided in the theoretical foundation for the shift from interventions based on criminal law, to “social” interventions towards persons with problematic (dangerous) behavoiur, due to the life conditions they lived in. Personal guilt made way for “danger”, due to improper education.
The reasoning that was developed sounds as follows: Social problems must be regarded as the effect of wrong education (childrearing, upbringing of children), society has the right to defend itself against it, by improving education (upbringing) or by taking it over from the parents. And here we see an important characteristic of this logic: education (upbringing) is in the same time regarded as the cause of social problems, and as the cure for it. In Belgium it is very amazing to notice that this logic pervades while youthcare itself has broadend significantly its range of possible interventions.
This basic reasoning installs an ambiguity in youthcare that is very typical: simultaneously it installs a repressing interpretative frame, in which social causes of problems are in the same time negated by reducing them to behavioural problems, and in the same time it carries the ambition to ameliorate the situation of children , by ameliorating their behavior. And here this pedagogical logic is envaded by conditionalities and instrumentalization. The implicit message of pedagogical interventions sounds as follows: “To be part of the community, and to ameliorate your situation, you have to adapt to the image we have of you, and the way towards improvement implicates that you appropriate as well the problemdefinition as solution, as formulated by the experts.”
The fragment we saw is so embarrassing, because it seems like Alicia is a participating partner in the conversation The fragment shows how far the child goes adapting itself tot the image caretakers have on the problem, on the solution for it, in a language that hardly can be understood as the language of a 10 year old child (reaching targets etc). A conversation that fails in a painful way.
This fits well with the idea that education (upbringing) can be an instrument to create wished cityzenship. This idea emerged in the late middle-ages (Ariès) and became later a common idea, that also appeared among 18 th century- philosophers, for example Montesqieu in L’esprit des lois (1748)
This idea of the connection between education and citizenship was radicalized in the 19 th century: if you regard that education leeds to good citizenship, and you are confronted with “bad citizens ( alcoholics, madmen, beggars, delinquenbts, prostitutes, etc.,…)” you are bound to conclude that they had a bad education or no education at all. This reversion was made in the 19 th century, and is still present in the youthcare-systems today.
The approach of doctor Itard towards Vicor, the wild child from the Aveyron, provides a clear example. Victor was probably the last wolf-child that was found in Europe around 1801. The case of Victor has been described by Itard in two reports for the Ministre of Internal Affairs, Lucien Bonaparte (Brother of Napoleon). This case can be regarded as one of the first ortho-pedagogical cases,( even according to Thierry Gineste one of the first childpsychiatric reports). Itard describes how to ameliorate and re-educate a child on a scientifically and methodologically founded way.
With the treatment of Victor, Itard tried to show that a scientifically grounded education method can take away the harmful effects of a lack of education. It is interesting to notice that Itard developed his argument in discussion with Pinel, who came to the conclusion that the boy was an idiot and therefore not apt to treatment. In the discussion we see a shift in interpretation that opened the way to “youthcare” as we know it today: a social problem (an errant child) is reduced to an educational problem. . In fact Itards approach was “hopeful”: science would be able to reach instruments to ameliorate citizens. Also in Itards approach we notice an explicit conditionality: Victor will be regarded as a worthy person, IF he can read, write, speak and think for himself, be able to conclude to moral judgements, and to behave in a good mannered way.
François Truffaut made a film based on the reports of Itard, and he followed them closely. I will show two fragments:
One: The discussion between Pinel and Itard, leading to a difference of interpretation.
Two: In the second fragment we see how Itard develops a training to let Victor understand the link between spoken and written words and objects, Followed by a fragment in which Itard tries to find out whether Victor is able to conclude moral judgements.
The story doesn’t end well. After a promising start of the treatment, Itard finds that Victor doesn’t fit into his methods. Itard gets depressed and he stops the treatment, on which Victor starts to waste away. Some say he stood model for Qauasimodo, in the Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.
2.2. What is the problem of this adaptive and instrumental logic?
One shortcoming of the adaptive and instrumental logic is that changement or problematization of often collective lifeconditions, stays out of reach of youthcare. This social dimension is moved aside to the background of the problem, while Kids are not responsible for the circumstances in which they grow, and often parents aren’t even so.
In one stroke, the ways people interpret their lives, the way they see relations with others, the way they give sense to the live they lead or under wich they suffers, is wiped away, all this is not regarded as relevant, unless this can be re-elaborated towards a changement of behavior, based on an externa normativity, often deduced from a development ideal.
I will illustrate this point with a short fragment from an interview I had with a boy an few years ago. The boy had a long escalating history in youth care.
The second problem with pedaogy aiming at adaptations, is bound to the character of the interventions, regarding them as a social happening that occurs between people.
What becomes visible in this social happening is that youngsters, eventually parents have to adapt themselves to the images, ways of speaking, problematisations and eventually actions of the caretakers-experts. The relation that is demonstrated and enacted in this social event, is a relation based on the right of the strongest, while the strongests don’t have to account for their arguments. We saw this clearly in the fragment of Alicia. What happens in this relation contains all the elements of a repetition of traumatic experiences of violence, that belong to the experiential world of the young people that come into contact with youthcare. This even can lead to violent confrontations between young people and their care takers in institutions. Maasja Ooms made recently another documentary on this subject. I show you a fragment.
- Why intervene in this logic? What do we pursue?
With the Eduacademy, we try to install platforms on which professionals can have space to take a distance from these adaptive logics and from the showdowns that go along with them. We try this without proposing a certain receipt, nor a method. This doesn’t mean that we ourselves lack a conceptual framework. Institutional Pedagogy, Deligny’s thinking, critical pedagogy are involved in our initiative, without letting it become a closed ideology.
We create these spaces, because we think it worth while to take distance from the instrumental and technological completions of this work in the field of education and upbringing, because the leading educational ideology not only objectivates and colonises children and parents in the name of a citizen-ideal, but also the professionals themselves are colonized and objectivated. This leads to alienating situations which are reckognised because they provoke suffering, and on the other hand there is an impotence to deal with it, because the institutional logic is mainly oriented towards adaptation of the children and youngsters towards the images the experts have, regarding the intentions of children and young people (the intentions they are supposed to have). Deligny calls this logic: semblabiliser. (making alike)
So haw can we deal with it, how can we resist this logic?
We try to create spaces and circumstances in which professionals get to imagine that it is possible to take initiatives in the confrontation with realities and persons they have to deal with, wherever they find themselves, and to realise that it is worth while. We don’t develop a receipt, but we give an invitation to create circumstances within concrete situations, that allow children to come to surprising initiatives. Fot those who are a bit acquainted with the wotrks of Fernand Deligny. I borrow this formulations completely from his work .
- How do we do this?
In order to create spaces and circumstances in which professionals can take a distance from the institutional logics in which they work, we relie on the use of films in three ways: the movietalks, the dialogical sessions and interviews with educators in residential care.
First, about the Movie-talks. In the context of Le Divan sur le Danube, I will not dwell to long on this topic. Except for this: Every two months more or less, we show a movie for public. The film is introduced and after the projection, there is possibility to discuss the movie with the public. This year we showed the documentaries of Maasja Ooms, and Projet N of Alain Cazuc about the work of Deligny with autistic children in the Cévennes. . Soon we will show Le sous-bois des insensés from Martine Deyres, in which Jean Ory elaborates on Institutinal Psychotherapy.
4.2.Interviews with experienced caretakers in residential care.
Last year I already mentioned the recordings we made of talks with young educators in residential care, and how they experience their work. This year we started a new series of talks that we recorded, this time with experienced educators in residential care, In an adapted scenario. We recorded and edited 5 interviews. In order to realise a compilation, we followed next scenario: Each of the interviewed educators chooses a fragment and discusses this fragment with a small group of interested persons. This discussion is recorded and will be edited in the compilation later on. The perspective in which we work is to provide in documentation of the way educators think about their work, in their own words. We hope we can use this as material for reflection on special occasions.
4.3. Dialogical sessions.
A third way to use film as a tool for reflection is that we show films to teams of professionals, as a starting point and as frame in which the members of a team are invited to go into dialogue with one another. Last year I gave an example of this. Since last year we refined our way of proceeding. On this very moment we are engaged on two places: in a specific small team of a service for care for very difficult young people, often young peole with several psychiatric interventions in their curriculum. We recently started with another initiative simultaneously with 4 teams of 4 different institutions.
For this occasion I will elaborate on the proceedings with the smaller team.
This small team consists of 12 members, all engaged as caretakers of youngsters with escalating trajectories in youthcare. I mean by this that the common feature among these persons is that they have gone through all kinds of interventions in youthcare, even in closed facilities, both in youthcare and in psychiatry.
First I will give the outlines of the sessions, after that I will focus on the first three sessions, to give you an idea of how we proceed.
The sessions are guided by myself and my friend Laurent Thys, who is very skilled in inviting people into dialogue.
Here the outline: (Powerpoint)
- Session 1 (Plenary)
Projection of a movie
After the projection:
- Questions about the film are being answered
- Formation of subgroups (3 to 5 persons) who choose fragments they are attracted to.
- Each subgroup presents his choices for the plenary session and formulates a first connection with a theme related to their daily practice.
- Session 2: Subgroup 1 prepares the next plenary session:
- The choosen fragments are connected to concrete stories
- Out of these stories , the choosen theme from previous session is elaborated.
- Roles for the guidance of the next plenary session are distributed:
. one person will give an account to the plenary session of the way group 1 made the preparation, including an account of dicussions
. two persons tell the stories out of daily practice
. each person will guide a subgroup in next plenary session.
- Second plenary session.
- The choosen fragments of groupo 1 are projected
- The account of the group 1’s labour
- The stories are told
- Dialogues are set up in smaller groups around two questions: “do you reckognsise the situation in this story?” and “How would you handle it and why?”.
- Subgroups give an account for the plenum
- Each presentation is discussed in the plenum.
- The leading themes are collected in the plenum and there follows an indication of the themes that will be further elaborated in the institution.
This procedure is followed for every subgroup from the first plenary session. The totality is closed with a plenary session on which is been looked back on the pocess and on the themes that have been touched.
The whole procedure takes 10 sessions, spreaded over 2-3 months.
To make my story more concrete and palpable, here the account of the first bloc of 3 sessions in the small team I mentioned.
The choice of the film was Projet N by Alain Cazuc. Project N is a documentary on the work of Fernand Deligny and his group in Monoblet (Cévennes), who worked with autistic and psychotic children.
- Session 1 (plenary)
Projection of Projet N
Some questions about the movie and about Deligny are answered
The plenary team is divided in 3 subgroups of 4 persons. Each subgroup chooses some fragments. In total there were choosen 12 fragments.
Each group explains his choice and gives some indication on the theme they want to connect their choice with.
Here they are:
- Non-verbal aspects of care
- Intervene or not/ work directly or indirectly
- How to give form to a care-relation?
- The importance of settings.
This first session ends with summing up the themes and making practical arrangements for following sessions
- Session 2 Preparation of the next plenary session by group 1
The choosen fragments of group one are showed. Here they are:
(baking bread, tomatoes, schminken)
- Group 1 starts from elaborating the theme “non verbal dimensions in care”, but soon there occurs a shift in the discussion towards the observation that the children in the movie are at ease, and no longer submitted to what Deligny calls “désarroi” (disarray). The attention shifts to this topic. The group chooses two stories in which they notice a great “désarroi”. In one story, about a boy named Silver, who made the plan to stab with a knife the girl he was in love with, but with whom he didn’t succeed to make any contact. Before he could reach her he was arrested by the police. In the institution where he was sent to, he was diagnosed as “autistic”. Problem for the caretaker was that he didn’t succeed well in explaining to Silver the logic of the intervention by the authorities, nor the meaning of the diagnosis. He didn’t succeed to explain it, nor to the mother, nor to the boy. The mother found that there was nothing wrong with her child, this caused that the perspective of further specialized care for the boy was corrupted. But referring to “désarroi”, as a way to understand the experiencing of mother and of the boy, the caretaker saw a way to continue care.
- The second story was about a girl, Gaby, whose trajectory was comparable to the one of Alicia. The actual caretaker saw the recognition of the désarroi” as a condition to be able to work with Gaby. Former caretakers who couldn’t see this dimension failed to keep contact with Gaby.
- The theme that will be introduced next plenary session shifts from “non-verbal dimensions” to the question how to deal with “désarroi” in care.
- Session 3: Plenary session about désarroi.
The plenary session starts again with the projection of the fragments. A member of group 1 gives an account on the preparations by group 1 and explains the shift from “nonverbal dimensions to reckognising and dealing with“désarroi”. The storytelles tell the story of Silver and Gaby. Again the plenum is divided in 3 subgroups who go into dialogical exchanges starting from the sories of Silver and Gaby, around the questions “do you reckognise the situation” and “how would you deal with it?”
After a short break every group explains his elaborations for the plemum. A lot of themes submerge that can be connected with “désarroi”, from the question how to deal with somebody in désarroi”, how to touch the foundation of désarroi, to the “désarroi” among care-takers themselves, over how to speak about the outside behaviour” without negating the inside (désarroi). A focus is laid on how to “clarify interventions, on the importance to reflect on ones own references, and on the question how as a caretaker to be present in an equal way, while in reality there is often perceived a huge hierarchic difference between caregiver and caretaker. Gradually there arises a lively discussion in the plenary group about these topics.
The plenary session ends with an ask around about what stays in mind after these discussions. And here we see a new shift from désarroi to the theme of “equality”, as an ideal, but also as a starting point, and the differences among the members of the team to give meaning to this topic. This will be the theme on which they will elaborate more within the institution, outside the dialogical sessions.
4.4. Some observations and possible subjects for discussion.
Last year I tried to connect the use of camera and film, the way we do this, with some theoretical concepts borrowed from Imogen Stidworthy and Fernand Deligny. Today I am going to refrain from further theoretical elaborations and I am going to make some observations that can invite to discussion.
I keep being amazed that in the case of the dialogical sessions, looking together to a movie, enables to let disappear the formal and informal hierarchies between the member of a team. This dehiërchisation, changes the way they speak. Looking together plays a role, but also the further elaborations: the choice of the fragments, and the preparations in subgroups are in my opinion the keys to understand this.
In order to realise a choice, the members of a team need to dialogue about the way they experienced the film, and this provides in a lot of opportunities to reckognise the possibilities where “equality” can be experienced: the experience of somebody in a formal higher position has not more value than another solely due to his position. Last year I proposed the hypothesis that the film himself could be regarded as a kind of person with whom every member needs to relate, and needs to talk about with the collegues. The same difficulty to deal with the mix of strangeness and reckognisability plays also a similar role in daily life as in sharing the vision of a movie. Looking together to a movie and talking about this shared experience can be regarded as building up a shared exercise in dealing with another person (the movie) who is simultaneously strange and familiar.
Next what strikes me, also previous year, is the kind of complex elaborations and the unpredictable outcome of the dialogues. In the example we have seen how the fragments about potatoes and tomatoes and about baking and schminking first were connected with the non-verbal dimensions of care. Through the stories of Silver and Gaby, we saw a shift towards the theme how to reckognise and deal with the theme désarroi, to result in a last shift on the plenary session towards what we mean by “equality”, how do we see that concretely in our relations with youngsters and parents?
This is extraordinary: In these first sessions there happens a mutual deshiërarchisation among teammembers, and simultaneously it emerges as a further to investigate dimension of the work with youngsters and parents.
This leads me to a recent development in our practice that is connected to this theme “deshiërarchisation”.
We received the question to start a formation programme for a groupo of 4 teams in residential care, I mentioned above. We formulated as a condition that the executives of the involved organisations should participate in one session, preliminary to a series for teammembers. We dit this for two reasons:
-,to give the executives an idea in which direction this way of working evolves
-to make clear that this process should be kept outside work-related evaluations because this kind of processes uncovers vulnerabilities and other difficult issues touching the persons involved.
We organized this session a few weeks ago in a slightly modified scenario. The group consisted in 13 executives from 4 organisations. The film we showed was “Etre et Avoir” of Nicholas Phlibert. After the projection we made 3 subgroups tot discuss what touched them, which theme they would regard as relevant for their organisations, and to which fragment they would connect this.
These issues were brought into the plenum. The theme in every group was the attitude of the educator. It was amazing that the executives themselves pointed in the plenary discussion to the unlivable tension between residential care as a human activity on one side and the administrative obligations on the other. Administrative obligations, quality instructions, etc. This means that they formulated the necessity to reflect on these issues and to be busy with the question how to keep care human within suffocating rules.
So far some reflections.
For starting the discussion: do you reckognise our concerns, and what do you associate with our approach, using film?
Sandra Alvarez de Toledo (2007), Fernand Deligny, Oeuvres. L’Arachnéen, Paris
Fernand Deligny(1947), Les vagabonds efficaces in Fernand Deligny, Oeuvres.
Fernand Deligny (2021), Camérer. A propos d’images. Edition établie par Sandra Alvarez de Toledo, Anais Masson, Marlon Miguel, Marina Vidal-Nacquet. L’Arachnéen, Paris.
Thierry Gineste (2004). Victor de l’Aveyron. Dernier enfant sauvage, premier enfant fou. Hachette.
Jean-Luc Chappey (2017). Sauvagerie et civilization. Une histoire politique de Victor de l’Aveyron. Fayard.