Guest post from Guy Dartnell

4 Nov

Oogly Boogly at Art Play for toddlers as part of the 2005 Melbourne International Arts Festival. (PHOTO BY CARLA GOTTGENS)

I know so little about child development. My involvement with children amounts to such a small part of my life, be it work or family – I don’t have a child myself. I was thinking what I could write, having been asked if I might post something on the blog. I’m not used to writing in blogs. In the end I decided to write something concerning the existential nature of being a baby and how that relates to the performance organization that I represent – Oogly Boogly – but without going too much into what Oogly Boogly is, because that’s what my conference presentation will be about and also information about it can be got here at any time –

Almost every corner of the world is owned or managed by some person, country or organization. There are really very few free spaces remaining – even the Arctic is being partitioned up. This is one of the central facts of a baby’s life when it is born – it is not free. Wherever it lives, the land on which it lies, crawls, gurgles and stumbles is owned or organized by somebody else, even if it’s their own parents. We don’t automatically apportion each new born baby its own little freehold piece of land that, no matter how well it succeeds or fails in living up to the aspirations of those around it as it grows up, it can look forward to standing on one day. In fact the opposite is true, from day one of its life a baby has to begin to earn its living. It may not know this, (in fact it certainly doesn’t know it), but just as it has begun to live it is being set to work – and its job is “becoming an adult”.  Of course “growing up” is something that a baby is internally hard wired to do, and to this extent it is easy work – it’s not difficult to give life to something that has a “life of its own” –  just get out of the way. But then adults become involved. Adults obviously have to be involved – they are sometimes/often essential and sometimes/often useful in enabling this “life of its own” to emerge, but they can also complicate the process and mess with it. It seems to me that often this arises from adults having ambitions for their child long before the child has those ambitions itself. And one of the reasons why having premature ambitions seems justified to adults is because to a greater or lesser extent they believe their babies belong to them. With Oogly Boogly, though we never set out to make this clear (we just wanted to make a a theatrical game and spectacle that both babies and adults could enjoy), one of the unexpected outcomes has been to make clear to parents, perhaps for the first time, that their baby does not belong to them – they belong to themselves.
Guy Dartnell’s website 

Link to a video showing the Swedish Oogly Boogly company in performance. 


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