We live in an “adultitarian” state, where the rules are based on very adult priorities and understandings of reality. Young people are disenfranchised and powerless; they understand they're subject to an authoritarian regime, whether they buy into it or not. But their unique perspectives also offer incredible potential for engagement and innovation.
Cultural planner and performance director Darren O'Donnell has been collaborating with children for years through his theatre company, Mammalian Diving Reflex; their most well-known piece, Haircuts by Children (exactly what it sounds like) has been performed internationally. O'Donnell suggests that that working with children in the cultural industries in a manner that maintains a large space for their participation can be understood as a pilot for a vision of a very different role for young people in the world — one that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child considers a “new social contract.”
Seen and Heard is a practical proposal for the inclusion of children in as many realms as possible, not only as an expression of their rights, but as a way to intervene in the world and to disrupt the stark economic inequalities perpetuated by the status quo. Deeply practical and wildly whimsical, Seen and Heard might actually make total sense.
Darren O'Donnell is an urban cultural planner, novelist, essayist, playwright, director, designer, performer, and the artistic director of the Mammalian Diving Reflex theater company. O'Donnell currently resides in Toronto, Ontario.