Event: Scribble: early childhood art, or ‘the becoming that breaks out of time’ – a C & S seminar with Dr Victoria de Rijke

Date & time: 6th June 2018, 1-2pm

Location: C107, College Building, Middlesex University, London


Children’s scribble is often under-valued and thrown away as junk. It is a ubiquitous part of young children’s mark making, and from a developmental perspective is invariably labelled early, random, unintentional, at best experimental mark-making, indicative of a child’s movement towards more mature communication. Educationalists may even be trained to spot fixed stages of development through children’s scribble, as adults gradually persuade the child towards written or drawn recognisable shapes. If writing is visually representing verbal communication in an encoded, discernible form, scribble escapes through the holes in the sieve in that it is marked out by nonsensical, non-durable, or illegible forms of transfer. Scribble is therefore not strictly proto-writing, or deliberate mnemonic symbols, as with children’s attempts at recognizable letters forms. Scribble is a riddle.

Victor Lowenfeld fixed scribble as the first stage of creative and mental growth in human development (aged 2) viewing it as ‘simply records of enjoyable kinaesthetic activity, not attempts at portraying the visual world.’ It is too easy to label the scribbles of primates and children as ‘primitive’ marks towards increasingly sophisticated artistic evolution. Not all progress is developmental or linear, particularly the playful, creative kinds. The artist Paul Klee was searching for something freer, younger than writing or drawing, not just as a child is young, but as a process or culture starting out is at the same time complete in and of itself; ‘a line that eats and digests scribbles.’

Using young children’s scribbles juxtaposed with avant-garde artworks, I will explore and illustrate how scribble is characteristic of what Georges Bataille (1929) termed the ‘informe’ or formless, falling beyond the boundaries of reason and control; a postdevelopmental ‘capture of forces’. Full of bodily sensation, sensory beauty and dynamism, scribble has the potential to be as young or as old as air.