School Works 2007-2009

It all started almost thirty years ago, the first time I read François Rabelais' "Gargantua and Pantagruel". The text worked in my mind for a very long time until, one April day in 2005, I knew I wanted to make a video out of it.

Many tests and thoughts later, I was looking for a French class of twelve-years-old to play with me. And I found them: March 2007. Their teachers were enthusiastic about the interdisciplinary project I proposed and the experts I called, a food historian and some modern scientists, were happy to work with us. (Researchers were involved because Rabelais was a doctor, not only a revolutionary writer, and I wanted to help science vocations in my pupils and give them a state-of-the-art view on food, together with the historic and literary point of view.)

We had monthly lessons and lectures plus a couple of visits to some Parisian historical museums and gardens. Together we established our phonetic version of Rabelais' lists of food and dishes, after I had discussed it with an expert of the ancient French pronunciation. In the ironic spirit of Gargantua himself, I added new modern words to the list of medieval ones, giving the soundtrack a contemporary feeling. May 2008: I had recorded the soundtrack and filmed my video version of Gargantua and its making of (1, 2). In the following months I edited them and wrote a book on the experience, in French and in Italian: different points of view.

Next, I was invited to work with them for a 2008-2009 follow up: a project around Gigantism. I was totally free to suggest my themes, and chose to work on languages and relativity: giant or dwarf, it's always a matter of scale and perception. All year long, we worked in Trois ateliers, three workshops, each with a teacher giving depth and knowledge to the research I suggested. More were contributing on the side. Excellent teamwork, I enjoyed every lesson.

If at first I just wanted to have the opportunity to make my videos, in the actual everyday practice I discovered I could be, at least for the students -and maybe even for the teachers- an "agent provocateur" of thought. In the end, I believe that I managed to make a new kind of social art: what's more socially useful than helping young people to think?

© 2009-2010 Carla Della Beffa