This assignment asks students to choose one or more texts of a total of no more than 100 words, and without altering the text, create a convincing typographic argument in any medium, guided by the principles of classical rhetoric. Tutor: Jason Grant.
Cheyanne explains: “The Parental Lie Kit expresses the damage that little white lies have on children. The aim of the Kit is to engage parents, persuading them to be honest with their sons and daughters. These lies often occur when parents are attempting to escape an awkward situation or simply to make their children happy. Parents believe in teaching their children to tell the truth, but in reality most parents are guilty themselves of uttering these sanctioned untruths.”
Influenced by Fluxus kits, Cheyanne has built a mock polygraph instrument that comes with a collection of ephemera cataloging common ‘white lies’ and justifications.
The polygraph kit attempts to elevate a parent’s half truths and harmless exaggerations to the status of mendacious subterfuge and fraudulent deceits. Polygraphs are typically associated with unearthing criminal guilt so the machine aims at syndechdoche in revealing ‘little whites lies’ as more a serious manipulation.
The appeal here is pathos and ethos, but perhaps more logos would have been more convincing. Including evidence of the negative consequences of manipulating trusting children might have helped counter a dismissive parents tendency to defend their parenting. This is all leaving aside the intrinsically problematic nature of truthfulness, not least in relation to child-rearing, when, as any parent will testify, formally rigid realities melt faster than arctic sea ice.
The humanist and monospaced typography evokes an instructive, scientific authority that also sells the Kit’s subtle humour. Nearly as funny as a cynical baby bonus.
by Sarah Kanowski
Truth is a tricky thing. When my 3 year old son asks – ‘Was that man alright?’ – in response to a horror news story he’s half-heard, I don’t tell the truth. ‘Yes, he was fine, the doctors made him better.’ But perhaps it is a different truth I am trying to honour – that of childhood, and innocence…?
When my 5 year old daughter points to the photograph on the front page of the newspaper of a 10 year old Afghan refugee, orphaned in a boat sinking, and asks who he is and where his parents are, I try to tell the truth in a way she can make sense of, hoping to draw out the truth I’m wanting to teach about connections and empathy and responsibility.
What about the truth, ‘I’m angry!’, or ‘I want to run away!’? These truths are raw and sharp in the moment, but they shift and change. New truths take their place. ‘I’m sorry’. ‘I love you.’
Does establishing a binary between truth and falsehood pick up these kinds of nuances? Is Yes or No really how something as nebulous and complex as truth can most usefully be approached?
But, then, part of adulthood – including parenthood – is learning to watch the inner gauge move along the spectrum between Reality and Fantasy. These two end points are often confused. But sometimes, hopefully – ‘I want you, my child, to be like this!’ – is punctuated by, ‘Ah, I see you are this.’ It is in the long learning of watching, noticing and asking that the many truths of a human life can be realised.
As the parent learns to navigate her own lines of truth and falsehood, the child’s truth is traced out too.
I really like boxes. They call to mind Joseph Cornell, who said “Shadow boxes become poetic theatres or settings wherein are metamorphosed the element of a childhood pastime.” Fibs from fear or wild imaginative meanderings are a pastime of childhood, as is truth, in both its heartbreaking and golden guises.
Hooray for boxes. Hooray for truth, in all its trickiness.