Lev Vygotsky states in the book “Thinking and Speech” (1934), based on his and his working group’s research: “Taking a pencil in their hand for the first time, the child begins to draw and only later names the product of their drawing. Gradually, in accordance with the level of the development of their activity, naming the drawing moves first toward the mid-point and eventually to the beginning of the action. At this point, it begins to define the whole action and the purpose that it realizes.”
The short film MUN KOTI (My home) sprouted out of a wider process during which I have spent time with different kinds of archives: documents, literature, and images of growth, raising children, education, learning, and childhood. I have watched, read, written, gone for walks, made scribbles on the margins of notebooks, I have thought about my own childhood and the childhood of others: those of my children, my parents, and of people that I don’t know. My interest in this realm is more than a mere artist’s curiosity in a subject. I am drawn towards these things. I end up near them even when I am not creating art about the topic. I am trying to remember what it means to be born into this world, to grow up and learn the world.
I live inside this world and therefore my own relationship towards these issues is sticky (I am a child, I am an adult, I am a parent) and my memory is incomplete. The words I have do not reach to remember. Also our shared memory is lacking. Not everything has been documented. Not everyone’s childhood has been written down as a story. Only parts of histories have been preserved, and the theories of growth and education have been rewritten from different perspectives during different times.
I read somewhere that in certain old educational guides parents were told to tame the free will away from their children before the age of three, during the time that is veiled with the dusk of early childhood. This way the child won’t remember that they ever had a will of their own.
Childhood is both hard to forget and hard to remember. I do remember school, also a school that I never went to: where the discipline was strict and the teacher had the right to physically punish misbehaving children. This knowledge of such schooling affected my own experience of school. The fact that adults somewhere can beat children has influenced my understanding of both adulthood and childhood, despite the fact that I myself have not experienced such things.
At the same time it is too easy to assume that the story of educating people is only a story of steady progress towards better and more gentle pedagogies. Educational texts have talked about the understanding of a child’s emotional needs for centuries. The wrench between child-oriented pedagogy and the demand for discipline is not a new struggle.
Last summer I filmed roses. I had read texts about childhood and pedagogy and watched several old educational programs at the television archives. They were all filled with metaphors related to gardening.
My films emerge from collaboration. They are not only mine. The narration, structure, and thinking in the film MUN KOTI was created in dialogue with sound designer Kaino Wennerstrand, cinematographer Joonas Kiviharju, curator Mariliis Rebane, and my children Aran Saiyar and Dunja Saiyar. I also had long conversations with my mother and with my friends. My loved ones are often involved in the process. This feels comfortable, as my films often travel between personal and shared memories and knowledge. They mix the experiences of different generations. With this closeness and coziness comes also responsibility. The people, like my family members, involved in the process, need to have agency to think and decide how they want to be part of the process and the work.
Parts of this film are constructed from archival materials that I have searched for and found in television archives. Collaborating with the archive staff is a part of the process that too often remains invisible. And I see the presence of archival materials in my works as a collaboration in itself, a dialogue with them.
I often think that as a filmmaker I am above all a spectator. My relationship to the work is a viewer’s relationship to the images. I often feel that my works are two-dimensional. The eye moves on the surface of the image, not in moments or places. It touches the skin of the film.
My eye itches. I pick up a drawing compass and scratch the surface of my school desk with the needle.