By K. Lesnik-Oberstein
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Extra resources for Children in Culture: Approaches to Childhood
18 Here too I wish to draw back into the discussion Foreman' sand Müller' s hints with regard to a politically unsatisfactory negotiation of the Symbolic and the Real in certain cinematic traditions. The key term in their hints was' experience', a non-terminological term if you like, as if what is under erasure in the Symbolic of the cinema (the ethical issue) is something like a 'common sense' phenomenology, the circumstantial experience of things in their quotidian materiality. Of course, the experiencing of things as such is 38 Children in Culture problematically entangled in an heuristic process, the making and the faHure to make meaning of things (the experience of the child, perhaps).
A world of images is created that does not lend itself to conceptual formulation and that cannot be reduced to a one-dimensional metaphor. This is what I try to do in my theatre. This is also what Foreman tries to do, who is basically opposing what he identifies as a banally constructed naturalistic aesthetic for which film here stands in ('film works to persuade you that the material world perceived on-screen is the only possible wOrld in which human consciousness can function') - with an aesthetic that attempts to make another sort of grab at what, employing another piece of terminology, we might refer to as 'the Real': There are other realms of possible experience, other modalities of consciousness, which you may or may not be able to 34 Children in Culture immediately picture or articulate; yet if you maintain the dream that they're possible, something slowly changes in your consciousness, which then changes the way consciousness registers the environment, which means that, in fact, the environment itself changes.
These things happen, but any psychologist or anthropologist who concentrated on them alone and presented them as a dominant feature in the attitude of modern western sodety towards children would be drawing a distorted and flawed picture. 29 In this language we see clearly and openly expressed what is at stake in the creation and protection of an essentialist 'childhood' and the 'child': the assertion of the existence of an emotional tie to children which is 'normal', which endures, and which restores and protects within this field (and others like it) a watered-down and threatened version of liberal humanism.