It all started with a very dull schoolyard and the story of a female gym teacher who in the 60´ties were fired because she had painted hopscotches in the scoolyard without permission. She drove away on her motorbike. I started out redoing her hopscotches – as a cadeau to her, and anyway the schoolyard was still very boring. I loved to go and paint the hopscotches outside in the early spring, talk with children and old people who themselves had gone to the school – others who came by and could show how they used to jump the hopscotch, or talk or jump in and about them. The hopscotches developed with input from all these my informants and users. I was a mixture of archaeologist, game-researcher, folklore collector, promoter of abstract art and I felt the joy of using the local context and art right there where I lived. All the hopscotches ended up not only being originally painted hopscotch squares, but also new ones on requests, or as I had seen elsewhere. They were always refreshed each easter, freshly painted for the spring games. I used hours. Gradually the schoolyard was covered with more than 20 different hopscotch and gamediagrams, all in red and yellow. Some were obvious hopscotches, some others approached the decorative, where one might find a way to use them – or not. Some were beautiful and strange old shapes almost occult looking. A boy came from Poland and could show a special way of dancing – jumping with both legs in an old hopscotch square, maybe it was actually an old Polish way of jumping in them, maybe it was something he just made up, but the other kids started to do the same at some point. We made a film of the jumpings, which unfortunately got lost.
To paint hopscotch, by hand, all both red and yellow, was a simple way of painting, and using the abstract painting as a form of recipe, or an instruction, 1:1.
It was to learn more of hopscothces, their origins and their distribution worldwide, that I came across the many divergent views and all the different claims of the origin of hopscotches.
And everybody wants to claim the origin of hopscothes! Either to early Christianity, (claiming the shape is the same as the floor plan of old Romanesque churches, with the apse as paradise – and that hopscotch squares thus helps to identify another Christianity where body and movement, dizziness and dance played a major role) Or roman military training (do 20 of these 100 m long hop scotches, fully equipped!), or occult geometrical with a hidden meaning (something with keeping evil spirits away),or just a fertility ritual, wandering through the maze and getting out on the other side, safe. Or maybe just this- that finally there is something that shows we have a non-language, trans historic, transnational thing …I was then invited by Jon Paludan and the project Play with them , considerations of art as games, to do a recidency in the apartment belonging to play with dem in Berlin, in Neukoeln.
And here starts then the hopscotch artistic research….
Method, system, and accidental meetings
I have always had something with research and methods, trying to make accidental systematic – My favorite method originates from biology, where the instruction goes to have a metal circle 1 m in diameter(maybe a hulahop ring will do), stand with your back to the object (field) you want to do a research in – and throw the ring behind you, in a relaxed way, 10 times, and see what, or how many (spices)is in the circle. But here in Neuköln I started my research on hopscotches with the romantic stroll- method.
The romantic method – the stroll
It was the first evening in Neuköln, just arrived. We started off – should we turn left here? – let’s just try -you want your feet just to walk – but we quickly got tired of major roads and clothing chains and went looking for small and peaceful paths. On one path, we found duck feet and a mysterious, occult drawing painted on the pavement outside a tennis court. We had a jump in it.
We went on even smaller tracks and minor roads and came to an area with many different Christian churches. It was a Herrnhutter – which we couldn’t remember what was – spiritual retreat, and we found ourselves suddenly in a village with lots of hedges, small houses and gardens as a German village 100 years ago. Someone tried at least to restore it. We got lost. It was foggy and dark, and the map was small, rainpuddles to jump over – the trees growing wild, just dirt on the paths. In the end we found ourselves on the Tempelherrenstrasse .
Google search: Herrnhut were officially formed in 1722, where they were allowed to settle under Hutbjerget, hence the name which means the master’s hat. They were later allowed to establish a mission station in Christiansfeld in DK and in Greenland and Norway. ”With a deep, play full and craft relationship with God” Focusing on the emotional relationship to Jesus instead of the correct interpretation of the holy word .Kierkegaard under the influence there of. You could also order a specially handmade paper folded Herrnhut Advent-star (picture), which I did. The city of Christiansfeld in Denmark – almost looks like one big hopscotch.
Google search: What is hopscotch square in German?: Himmel und Hölle-square or Tempelhupfen – Himmel und Höllehüpfspiel with a Hinckelkstein.
Method: User Survey at a children’s birthday party: Many knew nothing of hopscotches at all when asked for it. They couldn’t remember if they had done it, or what the name was. Those we in Danish call lice (paper folding stuff) – is in German also called Himmel und Hölle. Unfolded they look like hopscotch squares.
Chance, geometry and the maze is there all right. Instead of jumping it, you use your fingers. Miniature hopscotch squares. But one person remembered a photo exhibition from Neuköln where she had a postcard with hopscotch squares. She gave it to me the next day. This showed the classical hopscotch: drawn by kinders, with chalk, square and unequal at the same time. In a way the romantic hopscotch.
Romantic bookstore research Walther Könic at Hamburger Bahnhof artgallery.
There was an exhibition about all the unknown eccentric artists, and there were books to promote the occult in art – in connection to that.
Art of incantation and divine geometry. All some people in contact with God through which symmetry patterns are trying to create meaning and order in the world. Many squares, figures and drawings in order to grasp and occupy the meaning of life.
Local Newspaper research method: Angrily post arguing that grownups should not paint hopscotch squares. Then the whole idea would whistle. Let the kids paint them themselves. Another incident of parental interference!” … ..
Around Neuköln again
There is graffiti all over the place. Everyone seems to want to Reclaim the Streets.
Actually I was not sure if I was to go Neuköln to paint some hopscotch squares, but at least I had toyed with the idea. I tried to draw them with chalk –no good.
Hopscotch’s are a construction, not a composition, and painted by hand, instead of a machine, it becomes much jazzier. Repainting them is also something completely different, and repeating it, is again something different. And drawing with chalk on the asphalt is such a different thing. It is temporarily, it is with lines, and as a drawing it is much more revealing. And then the jump-performance connected to it, the instructions and very local traditions –
Lots of other artists have used hop scotches – drawing them on the pavement, and focusing on the behavior of people passing by – but again that’s is different.
And somehow there ended up being a connection between the hopscotch, the accidental meeting with the divine symmetry through the romantic stroll. And then the jump. A hopscotch is a method.