Using Deleuzian concepts of the Imaginary to rethink children’s drawings

Year: 2013

Author: Knight, Linda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper focuses on two particular texts: Negotiations (1990) in which Deleuze discusses via interviews, his thoughts on the imaginary in relation to his writings about cinema as time-image and movement-image; and Desert Islands (2002/2004), a posthumous publication of essays he wrote, one of which includes comments on imagination in reaction to Kant's esthetics. Each text is useful in theorizing on the value of foregrounding the imagination/imaginary in the appraisal of young children’s drawings and helps prompt reconceptualizations of early childhood growth and development discourses. For example, Deleuze's opinion that the imaginary is contingent, without power due to its reliance on frictions between contrasts is useful in articulating a challenge to popular advocacy statements about what drawings, and, more broadly, what children’s art primarily contains and demonstrates. Deleuze’s thinking on imagination and the imaginary are quite different. He considers imagination through Kantian thought on reason and judgment, and presents a critique on fixed determinations of judgment, taste and aesthetics and whether its conditions are natural or universal. He considers the imaginary and declares it unimpressive, as being tied to other factors that present moments of tension and that these are required to bring the imaginary into action. Deleuze placed little importance on the imaginary, saying 'It depends, in the first place, on a crystallization, physical, chemical, or psychical'. Because it dwells in the in-between, it relies upon the jostling energies of 'actual-virtual, clear-opaque, seed-environment' to enable/initiate it. Alone it 'defines nothing, but is defined by the crystal-image as a circuit of exchanges' (1990, p. 66). Theories about children’s drawings have historically pertained to establishing schematic universalities rather than acknowledging the agglomerative connections they make to the multiple things occurring around a drawing as it is created. These universal schemas persist within early childhood art discourses despite the growth of critical theory research into other aspects of childhood. Deleuze’s assertions about the signs and classifications of cinema help to contest notions of schematic development, i.e. children should progress through particular iconic drawing stages at particular ages.

The paper uses examples from a databank of intergenerational collaborative drawings created during a pilot study. Deleuze’s quotes and thoughts on the imaginary and imagination are referenced to interrogate ‘scientific’ knowledges and the gathering of evidential truths about children’s intellectual growth and development.