The School of Magical Politics

WORKSHOP WITH ESZTER NEMETHI

21 | SEPTEMBER | 2021

The Living Commons Community Space

We are working with Eszter and her fellow collaborators in workshopping their new pedagogical card game Mythmaker, where children get to imagine the kind of futures they want to belong to. This is currently being tested in a primary school in Cork by boys from 5th class.

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"On Sunday we played a future for the living commons. We were: members of the Cork Democratic School and children of people setting up the Living Commons. Five children, seven adults in total. An awkward shyness of doing 'something', having been brought to do something in a strange shop on Shandon Street, in masks. Hiding in corners, and behind phones. There is a question of this, how to create a way for independent access but this is maybe for a later day, on Sunday the focus was on beginning together.

 

We adopted the Mythmaker game for the space and the occasion. Mythmaker is a game I am developing since the start of this year with three Indian theatre makers: Satchit Puranik, Anitha Santhanam, Pranav Patadiya and seven children from India, Belgium, Hungary, Greece and Lebanon originally in the framework of 'How to live and work today?' programme of the Kaaitheatre in Brussels, Belgium. This was the first time the game was played in person with children, it was the first event at the Living Commons and a first practice of the School of Magical Politics a research I just started with the support of the Art's Council Arts Participation Bursary Award. This is the credits and the context.

Workshop summary written by

Ester Nemethi

We began by closing our eyes and looking around with our memories and imagination, finding ourselves in the almost same space we were sitting in together pointing to the window and the door, the ceiling and the floor. Arriving to an almost real in our minds eye, where the future can be spotted as it criss-crosses the present. Where the future is something very difficult to see, but also already present - something hiding behind the everyday things.

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The Living Commons was populated by 13 futures: a blue unicorn, a yellow triangle, a white pulsating light, a green catepillar, purple energies and fox-creatures,a man in a grey t-shirt and some more. The game then began, using the cards on the newly finished tables of the Self Assembly unit by storytelling and deepening the world for these futures to come together, a world big enough to cater for the imaginaries tied to all these many beginnings on this particular Sunday.

Mythmaker

'Mythmaker' is a cooperative card game of writing new myths for the children of the future. And our myth on Sunday went a bit like this:

There was a man who owned a shop and he worked there with a unicorn. The man invented a language of numbers that he spoke all day. But because he spoke the numbers in a foreign language to everyone it all sounded like gibberish: 'gedebak-gedebuk' 'gedebak-gedebuk'. To make himself understood the man invented a colourful code system for his langauge and for his numbers that was easy to use.

 

Then one day a evil Kermit the frog came and swallowed the language, into a black hole in this throat. The unicorn tried to warn everyone by crying out, but ultimately all he knew how to speak was Horse, no one there understood and the colourful code of the language of numbers disappeared down the black-hole throat of the devil. The unicorn was all alone, with the mute man in a purple haze that was left where the language once was.  Kermit-devil was already asleep, the unicorn also went to sleep and had a very strange dream. While they slept Parents (some of whom were also language eaters themselves) and a friendly bear came by the shop to help tidy up, and  put paintings up on the walls.

 

The unicorn woke up and noticed that the black hole that swallowed the language was slowly sucking everything in, and fast. It swallowed up everything the paitning, the mute shopkeeper, the parents even the unicorn but before it managed to drag in the Kermit-devil he bound a string around everything and pulled them all right through the hole, through a white mist into a parallel reality shop just like the one they left. Along with the everything the string also caught a lot of flying purple jellifish who were now floating in the room. One of the parents asked 'What should we do with all the jellyfish?'.

 

The mood was tense. The suggestion was to kill the jellyfish, or get them to float out the door and shut the door quick, there was talk of watching them as they float but keep at a distance. The jellyfish asked to speak. The unicorn translated their words to the humans. The jellyfish spoke long and with great pathos, the unicorn then simply said: could we please live? It was decided that they could, someone then coughed up the language of numbers and more of the purple mist.

After lunch we wanted to take these futures out to the street, carry them around, entangle them with the presents, pasts and futures that roam the public domain. We tied what we wanted to hold onto from our baroque story onto sticks , everyone following their own ideas, desires tying strings, cloths, paper onto wooden sticks. I found these a couple of days earlier in the studios behind the Living Commons. The sticks were destined to become award winning walking sticks but were left behind by someone.

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Now they were finding a new purpose mingling with cutoff bits of paper and leftover materials from past projects. Materials, bodies and narratives becoming colourful assemblage. We walked out to the street as if walking with the future in your hand was the norm on Shandon Street. Pretend play, wishful thinking, a parade or a miniture protest. The children enboldened by the adults, the adults taking their cue from the children. Fake it till you make it. A rehearsal of a different world.

There was no real plan or destination so we walked over to Jane's cafe to say thank you for the lunch, and then the sticks transformed and developed.a function. We crossed over to a building up the road that Eve pointed out . Eve is one of the co-founders of the Living Commons and she would like to gain access to this bigger building for the Living Commons, so we wished it, holding up the sticks pointing the future momentarily felt light and while we were at wishing, we also wished space for the circus on the poster to be  in there

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The fiction of the story we told spilled out with us onto the street but we were too few this day to carry it far.  We returned to the shop. Inside we  carefully balanced our futures on each other to create a temporary fragile structure, something to gather around for our momentary community.  We then let Athi, the youngest, knock the futures to the ground . We clapped and returned to the rest of our Sundays."

Photo credits:

Eve Olney,

Eszter Nemethi,

Michelle Todd