Discovering audiovisual art with children
If you are looking for a child-friendly cultural experience this Bank Holiday weekend, I recommend you take a stroll through Museo Lázaro Galdiano to see the temporary exhibition of audiovisual art which graces the rooms of this beautiful museum. The curator of Video Regimen has carefully chosen 21 examples of contemporary audiovisual art with the aim of showing visitors how and why video can be collected in the same way as collectors such as Jose Lázaro Galdiano collected art, books, artifacts and curiosities in their time.
This selection of video art is highly accessible to children – they find it amusing and eye-catching. I took a group of 6-10 year old children on a tour of this exhibition last Sunday (26/4/15) to see how they would react to watching unusual videos in an atypical scenario. I asked them to think of an answer to the simple question: what does the word video mean to you? The unanimous answer after viewing the exhibition was to say that videos aren’t solely Disney films.
It may seem obvious to state that children are more used to deciphering audiovisual information than adults due to the fact that they are growing up in a digital world. By giving them the chance to discover contemporary visual art I found the children more expressive, more confident and less reserved than usually is the case when we visit museums. They were able to capture the message of the artists with very little explanation and only a few hints from myself.
For those parents or teachers who wish to follow my example and visit the exhibition with children before it ends on the 11th of May 2015, please find below a few tips on some of the pieces of art that form part of Video Regimen.
Sala 2 – Paul McCarthy – Pinnocchio Pipenose Household Dilemma
The most frequent question asked by children who view this video is whether it is one person or two. In fact, it is a mannequin and a man dressed up as Pinocchio. As the video is 43 minutes long and also contains scenes which are not suitable for young children, it is wise not to linger long before this screen. Suffice it to say that this video serves the purpose of opening the children’s minds to the fact that not every artist portrays Pinocchio on video the way Disney did.
Sala 3 – Bruce Nauman – Walk with Contrapposto
This video is a real hit with children. In fact, we were laughing so much that the room assistant told us to be quiet. For them to understand the video it is important to explain what a contrapposto pose is (best after they have seen the video than before).
Sala 5 – Eulalia Valldosera – Trapo, velo, lienzo, pantalla
The artist explained in an interview that her motive to create this video was to draw attention to the fact that so much museum space is dedicated to art from previous centuries that there is very little public space left for contemporary artists to display their work. By telling the children this they spontaneously began to debate why museums are full of “old things” rather than “new things”.
Sala 6 – Douglas Gordon – Kissing with Amobarbital
I had some doubts about explaining the story behind this set of slides and was in two minds about letting them see it. Their first reaction was typical – “yuck, they are kissing!”, followed on by “are they gay?”. Then one of the children asked who was Amobarbital and so I explained that Amobarbital is actually a sedative and that the artist had covered his lips with this drug before kissing each person in the photograph. As the photos are of the kisses, we don’t know what happened to the people who’d been kissed afterwards. The children I was with immediately threw themselves on the floor and pretended to fall asleep.
Sala 9 – Javier Peñafiel – Conquista básica te vuelvo a pedir que te definas
I agree with critics who say that this video is a selection of crude, decontextualized and absurd gestures which beg the question: why bother? However when the children saw it they were mesmerized by the clear glass box and the fact that we cannot see the woman’s face.
Sala 16 – Fiona Tan – Downside Up
This video gave the children another chance to throw themselves on the floor in an attempt to see the images the right way up. Although I did not have a chance to mention Plato’s Cave and how images are perceived, the comments the children made left me with no doubt that they were asking the same thing themselves.
Sala 19 – Patricia Dauder – Película Abstracta I
This video was a hit with the children, although I have to admit it baffles me somewhat. They stopped in front of the film and started “daring” each other to say what each image was: a butterfly, a star, a spot, an echo (!!), a face, a tree…
Sala 20 – Allan Sekula – Untitled Slide Sequence
I told the children that this series of slides from 1972 was nicknamed by the artist disassembled movies because it evokes a post-cinema era. I also mentioned that the first film to be viewed by a paying audience was of workers leaving a factory and had been filmed in 1895. Allan Sekula was making reference to that film when he took a series of photos of twentieth century factory workers leaving work in this Untitled Slide Sequence.