Mas in Young Hands
Imitate a sabre
During a first stage – the input stage – the training program challenges young people to do more than just hang around the corridors.
It asks them to dive into the museum’s underbelly: to explore the exhibitions. The assignment ‘run through the exhibition rooms in ten minutes and try to gain as many impressions as possible’ for example opened up a whole new world. The young people were also immersed in the permanent exhibition, Display of Power on the fourth floor. ‘You can teach them all there is to know about all the objects on display but you can also ask Eric Raeves to set them a number of assignments, requiring these young people to incorporate power in movement and allowing them to make noise in a space which they associate with a hallowed silence’, says Geerts.
The young people were confronted with the ‘Dora’ collection of pre-Columbian art from Middle and South America in the same sensory way. It includes a series of anthropomorphic earthenware objects. They were given the opportunity to choose an object themselves and to translate its spirit into sound using random objects which they picked from a bag: to scratch, to rip, to scrape...
The other participants then had to guess which object they were referring to. ‘When you approach the objects on display from this angle you start to look at them in a completely different way’, says Geerts. ‘This sensory approach elicits a fascination for the background of the objects. Suddenly these young people start to look at the signs to find out more about them. And that’s what you want to achieve.’ This marks the beginning of a sustained interest.
The end of this exploration stage consisted of a brainstorming session about where you can find information about certain objects outside of MAS: for example in a Buddhist temple in Wilrijk or in a traditional puppet theatre. ‘You encourage young people to link the collection to the present again, and to establish links with their own reality’, said Geerts. ‘For example, they realised that the Poesje puppet theatre was not that different from present-day comedy with its same emphasis on talking dirty and its social criticism. They became interested and it inspired some new ideas. On the first anniversary of MAS they invited slam poets to the museum. Although the context was not quite clear it was an interesting first step.’
In a second stage – the experimentation stage – De Veerman incited the young people to start developing some initiatives of their own.