In 2015, Atelierista and early childhood educator, Sylvia Kind, exhibited visual documents of material explorations and engagements with her young students at the A. Wilfrid Johns Gallery. She writes,

“In this exhibition, largely a collection of photographed moments, we are interested in doing more than reporting on experiences, relaying information, or describing the world as it is. Our goal has not been to capture or record accurately, even if we could, the divergent and inventive process of children, the many transitory, ephemeral and inconclusive acts, or the movements and lives of materials. Rather, being aware that methods produce realities (Law, 2004), we set out to open up our perception to the vibrant entanglements, happenings, and intra-actions: to speculate about how the world might be, so that we might more carefully, ethically, and attentively respond and in turn enter more fully into children’s processes and fabrications and the vibrant life of things.”




Material Encounters is an invitation to invent, create, and experiment. Experimentation is a complex social-affective-political phenomenon, that we might embrace in our classrooms to transform life. 

Experimentation tends to focus on human agency. In early childhood education in particular, it focuses on children’s expressions and excludes the dynamic role that seemingly inanimate objects play. Yet materials, objects, places, and environments are inextricably bound to experimentation. In this regard, Gilles Deleuze helps us to see encounters of materials, objects, places, and humans as part of the flow of experience. In his view, we are never separate from the world; we are made up of relations; thought creates itself through encounters. For Deleuze, thought is experimentation. Stories are told through it, forces are harnessed, roles are performed.


Experimentation opens up worlds, creates new venues for thinking and doing. It actively extends experience. It reveals what human and nonhuman bodies can do and produce when they encounter each other. Through experimentation we discover how something works by relations among the parts of assemblages – structures, flows, and connections.

Material Encounters sees teaching and learning as a process of creating what Deleuze calls lines of flight. By testing new and unpredictable mixes of bodies, forces, and things, experimentation invents. The process of inquiry into the unknown is embedded in the experimentation of experience with all its unpredictable connections.

Experiments are not without risk, of course. Outcomes cannot be predicted or known in advance. There is always the danger or reproducing the same, of decomposing one or more elements of the assemblage. But if we are prudent in our experimenting, we can open up worlds.




Nothing is static; the world is full of movements with different rhythms and intensities. Things move, bodies move, materials move. Life is filled with movements, motion, new becomings and emergences. Movement opens up possibilities and potentialities. Brian Massumi reminds us that it is measurement that brings movements to a still.

If materials are not just static bits of matter waiting for someone to do something to them, but are always already in the midst of becoming something else, then materials have their own vitality and we find ourselves participants in an active world of lively materials. How might we use the movements of one material to open up possibilities within other materials, allowing objects, things, or bodies to suggest new relations through movements?

When we play with possibility, questions immediately arise: How is the movement of a material to be
identified? What would material movement involve? How are possibility and potentiality invited to early childhood classrooms? One thing for sure, there is no master plan. Movement, again, is always present.

Tim Ingold describes improvisation as a rhythmic quality of working with the ways of the world.
Following Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas, he views artists and makers as itinerant wayfarers. Their work
is not iteration, a repetition or re-presentation of the world, but itineration as they join with the forces and flows of the world.


Children, like artists and makers, follow materials as they work with them. They join with materials as they circulate, mix, and mutate. Clay blends into the river, a fire burns and leaves charcoal behind, paper is caught up by the wind, paint slides and slips over surfaces. Children join and intervene in these processes, moving with materials’ own inclinations. Every mark, gesture, and action becomes a question: What can this material do? What can it become? How can I join its becoming?




Once upon a time there was time. Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock. We tend to link time to predictable, measurable, regulated movement or change. In early childhood education classrooms, time is perceived as linear, having homogenous and equivalent units.

But what if time encompasses more than this linear static movement? Along with many theorists and artists we question the epistemic, ontological, and political status of time. Time is not a neutral medium in which life can be framed or matter constructed. It is an active, dynamic participant in shaping life. Physicist Karen Barad refers to ‘temporality’ instead of time. Time is unpredictable, a materializing force that brings newness and surprise. 

What if we think about time as an intensive flow? What if we conceived of time, not as discrete compartments that follow one another, but as durations. Through the concept of duration, we can understand time as particular to bodily experiences. Perhaps time is an external state that organizes a body’s movements. Perhaps it is not discrete compartments that follow one another but an internal, unified, multiple flow of difference. Dynamic.

How does time endure in bodies? How is it experienced differently in different bodies? When we see time as becoming, as duration, we can see that it doesn’t exist as an organizational structure outside of, or regardless of, children’s experiences. As duration, time is particular to a body’s experience of it.

We are provoked to engage with everything each moment entails, as artist Leah Oates reminds us: hundreds of small gestures, motions taken, sounds heard, words spoken, images recorded, the wonder, the many confusions, the intensity of the whole moment. 


Long moments of waiting, spontaneous moments, pulsating moments of intensities at the edges of time, produce the flow of time. During intense moments materials and bodies intra-act. Particular rhythms are produced beyond sequential, easily manageable units to a dynamic, rhythmic flow.

Ripping, tearing, curling paper. Time after time sheets of newsprint are torn into tiny pieces. What memories are held within these curled pages? As fingers glide along the text, searching for the paper’s grain or a familiar image, what do they remember? As paper transforms into fluttering pieces, time intensifies. It takes flight with the paper.

Collecting, grinding, smudging, Charcoal covers bodies. White floors turn black with traces of footprints. The charcoal spreads, transforms into tiny pieces. Hands collect the charred pieces of wood, sticks that were collected from the forest and placed with a firebowl. What do these hands remember? Time intensifies, Human and nonhuman bodies are in motion. They transform into charcoal-bodies, hands and faces disguised in black.

Time is layered. Bodied memories of tearing and fluttering paper, histories of the material, the now, and the future are entwined. Entanglements between the past, the future, and the now exist as children move from the studio to the classroom, carrying with them the transformative, airy qualities of the paper. How do we see these complex spaces in between? Travelling across the road to the classroom with tiny ground pieces of charcoal stuck in the crevices of their clothes, emerging from the cracks to encounter other fluxes of movement. Our bodies become distanced from the intense intra-actions in the studio, yet the force of time continues to move with our bodies. 


How do we live with the rhythm of these moments of intensity throughout the day? If moments are not linear, do not end, might they flow with our bodies?


All Text and Images © Copyright Sylvia Kind.