In Belgium’s Pajottenland, a group of children gather for a game of unequal chances: snail racing. This video is part of the ongoing Children’s Games series.
In the ongoing series Children’s Games, initiated in 1999, Francis Alÿs portrays children engaging in play worldwide. This collection spans almost forty videos and provides an intimate yet political perspective on the universal connections drawn through games. The videos capture the ingenious ways children use everyday objects — like chairs, coins, and stones — as the basis for their imagination. Through the lens of creativity and an unspoken bond of camaraderie, these prosaic items are given new, symbolic significance.
In this video, Children’s Game #31: Slakken, a group of children gather for a snail racing game.
“The work suggests a nod to German Romantic philosopher Friedrich Schiller and his idea of the redeeming quality of play, which, for him, meant enjoying the liberty of acting without necessity and duty: “for man [...] plays only where he is man in the full meaning of the word, and he is fully man only where he plays.”
“Whereas adults are more likely to use speech to process experiences - whereas adults speak -, children play to assimilate the realities they encounter. Their games mimic, mock or defy the rules of the adult society that surrounds them. The act of playing can also help them to cope with traumatic experiences such as those of war by creating a simulacrum of the real and turning the dramatic circumstances around them into a more fictional, ludic world. But the magical thing about a child’s game is that it holds no secrets, “it’s all there is”. We as adults should be faithful to the children we were; remember and trust that moment, the most precious one of our existence.”