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Childism refers to prejudice or discrimination against the young, as well as to systemic conditions that promote stereotypes of the young.

Childism is also a critical term used in art theory. It can be attributed as originating in the work of sculptor Richard Graham, also known as 'Dicky Graham'.{{factlink title}} The term was used as the name of his exhibition, 'Childism', held at Harrow School, where he described his ready made sculptures in the following terms: "Using a combination of found utensils and apparatus to create his works, Dicky Graham recreates a family of animals that peer through eyes of lightbulbs, that pull tongues with the finger tips of red gloves and walk along with the keys of old pianos. His Character-filled works nod to Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades and also reveal the idiosyncrasies of objects in our everyday lives through their imperceptible and overlooked details. As 1917 magazine The Blind Man established: ‘Whether Mr Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance… He took an ordinary article of life… created a new thought for that object."

Dicky Graham’s animals and other works are, at once, a celebration of change which purports to reflect a sense of playful childhood nostalgia. The engagement with objects that do not usually sit together, nor appear in the white space of a gallery create a subtle air of irony; they are thrown away; yet newly found; mundane; yet unique. The interpretation of a recognisable form, like a bird or a tree in the medium of ready-made objects gives an acute, almost diagrammatic understanding of the symmetry between art and play as there are no apparent skills used in the making of this artwork, except the skills from those who originally made the objects. The artist has only attached things together that have already been made, reiterating this idea of creating new thoughts for the object. By placing them in a new way, it shows the imagination as an ability to see the world in many different ways, and “play” as an important method of cultivating human understanding.

Graham notes, "Both art and play have an equal measure of importance for me. I am interested to show that "play" is essentially an invisible thing, as is the divide between being an adult and child. By this I mean that we only forget ourselves as children in order to define our adulthood. There is no real definition as to when it ends. Is it when we leave school? When we can legally vote or drink alcohol? And of course we can end our childhood but we will always be our parent’s children. So for me I find it difficult to understand where play ends. My work is simply the remnants of my own personal play. Like the proverb "The boy is father to the man"; our desire to imagine, create and understand comes from our inner being, our inner child, yet there are ideas of play being regarded as an inferior channel of learning – especially in traditional education. Much of how we learn is left for us to figure out for ourselves. However the importance of play is huge. Through play we find out things first hand through trial and error, risk and failure and expressive therapy. Ultimately, the freedom of discovery is just as important as the knowledge we learn from secondary sources like books. Picasso once said “every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up”. I think he was referencing this idea of play being artful, like when children realize areas of life by playing war or play pretending with toy prams. Continuing play in adulthood maintains a balance in our lives as it contributes to the continual widening of understanding and meaning. We are all constantly learning.”. Please see www.dickygraham.com for further details).

Sources

  • Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth (2009) Childism—Prejudice Against Children, [1]

www.dickygraham.com

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