speculative evidence for a children’s autonomous zone

We met in their elementary school gym, the kind with a stage and curtains built into it like a closet — the proscenium facing the basketball hoop. Division One, or DO as we’ll call them, welcomed us with folded arms and hungry questions. “This isn’t a game,” DO tells us, “games are fun.” (1)

[Image description: Scanned image of a QR code printed and cut into a blob-like shape outlined with red construction paper. Behind is a blurry and pixelated view of an intersection from Google Maps view, we can hardly make out “Guelph St” and “E 11th Ave” with a sketched blob shape drawn into the intersection. Sharpened pencil shavings sit on top of the image. END.]
[Image description: Another scanned image, this time of a recorded cassette tape placed slanted with a white label inscribed with black fine liner that reads: “DIVISION ONE 23 JUNE 2021”. Cutting across the top is the edge of an iPad and a familiar fragment of the Google maps view of Guelph Street in black and white. The shadows of these three dimensional objects are cast on a magenta plastic sheet. END.]

During this un-game of scanning and researching portals of queer-led liberation, we tried to imagine the human body as an autonomous zone: sensing and feeling the many micro-creatures that make up our guts and skin. (2) DO blinked in resistance. We pose our inquiry again, as direct as possible: we will devise a public performance that enacts a temporary space-time to upend the usual order here, where you will choose to enact, within this body/zone, anything you want to. DO: “You mean anything?”

  • slip ‘n slide
  • hot tub of ice cream
  • bring pets

When we saw DO again, they said:

[Image description: Facing down at a section of sidewalk inscribed with pink chalk reads, “the difference between balanced and unbalanced forces y=mx+b”. Dappled light from the trees above the sidewalk makes the writing difficult to make out. There is a bushy patch of grass to the right side. END.]

With their mathematical invocation, we begin to wonder about the stories inside DO’s name. Can the process of division be a generative way to create a discrete and temporary whole? What can we learn or feel from the many attempts at collective creation?  “Wait,” DO calls to us from across the room, “What is this supposed to be?”

  • this failed visual assembly (3) 
  • this public demonstration of vulnerability (4)
  • this attempted speculative presence (5)
[Image description: Extreme close-up on scanner image fragment: the boxy-maze shapes of the B+W QR code, a little hair sparkling on top of the blurred lines and the ric-rac edge of a sharpened white pencil shaving. END.]
[Image description: Extreme close-up on the edges of multiple polaroid photos, most prominent is one that has many colourful distortions in the emulsion that nearly reveals a fingerprint left by the small hand that roughly massaged the frame of the instant picture. A tactile manipulation of light. END.]

Before our un-happening, we practiced adorning ourselves with tickle trunk miscelanea, smothered our palms in paint and chalk, and made sure to speak too close to the microphone. Suddenly, the bell rang for the last time, leaving us with another query: how can we sense the edges of our moving collective body without creating an enclosure? DO responded, “a slip ‘n slide and snacks isn’t doing anything except thinking about ourselves.” In parting, we exchanged water balloons and DO inscribed the sidewalk with “No More Canada Day” in honour of:

  • this untouched megaphone
  • this cancelled queer utopic rehearsal for living together
  • this children’s autonomous zone permanently postponed on account of a heat wave
[Image description: More polaroids sit in fragments on the scanner, but more noticeable is the quilted white texture of the built-in plastic frames. The images are all difficult to make out: chalk drawings and writing on sidewalk tiles and a black surface, including two eyes. END.]

(1)  “The child represents a potentially permanent state of rebellion and refusal that threatens to upend the whole enterprise of bourgeois stability.” — Jack Halberstam, essay in Multiple Elementary

(2) “Small is good, small is all. (The large is a reflection of the small.)” — adrienne marie brown, Emergent Strategy

(3) “Visual Assembly is a distributed method of collaborative imagination and visualization that is:

  • facilitated by artists
  • produced in public space for a virtually connected community
  • documented for future reference

—I-A-F-S.org, as directed by https://v-a.city/

(4) “Imagine if vulnerability were central to our world view instead of a symbol of failure: it would become possible to shift the universal subject to include central aspects of the experience of children – which are also sure to be aspects of the adult experience. Within a vulnerability framework, every child is one of us and, as such, has the same right to participate in the world, and any systems not amenable to their participation – capitalism, say –would be considered unfair. If the universal or typical person – the vulnerable – has a hard time getting their act together to be of use to capitalism, then how useful, really, is capitalism?” — Darren O’Donnell, Haircuts by Children

(5)  A “speculative present” was the framework Reed Jackson and I used to qualify our participatory research project with DO, set to culminate in a public performance on June 28th, 2021. 


Alysha Seriani is an emerging interdisciplinary artist working at the intersections of film production, pedagogy, media art and community projects. Her work proposes horizontal modes of collaboration and seeks to witness intersectional practices, intergenerational learning and queer joy. In 2019, she was a recipient of Telefilm Canada’s Talent to Watch program, and her first short film SOAK (2014) is distributed by the CFMDC. She developed a youth mentorship program and associate produced THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN (2019) and has been a contributor and collaborator for many media artworks and independent films that have exhibited at film festivals and galleries internationally. She has also led and participated in multiple community projects within and alongside artist-run and youth-serving organizations, public schools and museums including VIVO Media Arts Centre, Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG), Writers’ Exchange, Museum of Vancouver, Cineworks Independent Filmmakers’ Society, and Vancouver International Film Festival.