European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The magic vacuum cleaner of peace or La aspiradora mágica de la paz

Kids' Guernica action in San Sebastian 2016 took place during the phase when the bid was prepared for a final presentation to the Jury. Coordinated by Beatriz Churruca with Manual Gonzales visiting from Gent the children to tell them how his father was evacuated as a child from Guernica after the bombardment took place there in 1937. He was taken as a child their age to Gent for adoption. This prompted the children to ask themselves what would they do themselves if they had lost everything?




The magic vacuum cleaner of peace is the contribution of a group of 25 children from the city of San Sebastián-Donostia (Guipúzcoa, España) to the project KID’ S GUERNICA.

As the coordinating artist for and guide for the development of this work, I would like to begin by thanking the children who participated in this project. I would also like to emphasise, while thanking all involved, the interchange of ideas, the creation of illusion and once more, the demonstration that artistic expression is magical, just like the vacuum cleaner in the title.

Painted with acrylic paint, brushes, markers and pencils, this canvas shows the silhouettes of the participating children. This was the result of the first session and print of a game in which we imagine what would happen if one day “something” awful happened and we lost what we most liked from our environment, from our lives.

This starting point was determined by the need to quickly advance with the painting of the canvas, which I tried to present to the children as a task from their city council, and in this way approximate our challenge to that which Picasso faced in his day and introduce some of the peculiarities of Guernica.

Another determining factor was the session previous to the presentation of the Project, in which we were joined by Abel, a member of “+55” Group who told us of the bombing of his village in Cantabria which he lived through at the age of 6. We did not realise that we were going to do it, but we ended up talking about the fear of losing everything and the “coincidences” which arise from dramas and natural disasters.

For all practical purposes, we debated the benefits of using colours or like Picasso, decide on using black and white. There were two teams and a vote was taken which seemed interesting to “broaden” the first work session. In this way, with the vote, we started to delimit the silhouettes to black and the faces to white and grey. The children worked with a partner to draw their figure and on their own to make their self-portrait, in order to try and capture the possible expression of one when faced with an imagined disappearance of those things held dearest to them.

In the second work session, the children circled the canvas stepping on it carefully (at first because of reminders, but finally because of respect and caution) on tip toe in the few spaces not coloured in. This work, done in pairs, was iniciative of the children, which was logical since each pair was in charge of a colour and object. The organization that was spontaneous and yet arrived at by consensus, marked this second work session, which impressed me because of the compromise they had with the project and also because of the ideas and proplosals conceived of in just one week. Before starting with the presentation of the objects and people threatened by that “something” which we continuously spoke about, sometimes called “war”, other times “earthquake”, others “tsunami”, others “weapons-bombs” and others “child exploitation”, I installed a vacuum cleaner tube in the extreme lower left part of the canvas that I introduced as help. That is why, when meeting to decide the title of the art work, the word vacuum was not debated.

A much more calm third session in which we were under the impression that most of the work was done, was used to dedicate time to the detail of the inside of each silhouette, oddly enough with much less interest in personalizing them than the first day.

In a relaxed atmosphere and with a closeness difficult to grasp in the mind of an adult, we clarified any questions left unanswered: about our collective process, the work of the artists, our lives and the future of the canvas.

As a final point, The magic vacuum cleaner… is a canvas that within it holds an initial contact, quite a few red splashed sketches, an expansive game, a few inquisitive glances, an explosion of colour, effort, respect and excitement, a number of rays of sunshine, peace of satisfaction and the uncertainty of the future.

I hope that the children who were painted have the opportunity to learn from this experience. It has been a pleasure for me.

I would like to thank all who have made this possible.

Beatriz Churruca.

Beatriz with Manual Gonzales (Gent, Belgium) and the children


San Sebastián-Donostia, mayo 2011.

The action took place in framework: City candidate for European capital of culture.

Duration: 13, 20 y 27 of May 2011.

Presentation of the canvas was made on 29th of May next to the Aiete Palace, today House of Peace and Human Rights of City hall.


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