The girls and I (Day as usual was at the home of one of his friends, he isn’t interested in family outings anymore) went to one of our favourite haunts, the National Museum, one of the few places which is free, educational and under-shelter. (it was drizzling)
* Outside the museum, on an outdoor escalator built on a hill
I led them straight to the lowest level because we have seen the other exhibits many times, and stuff at the lowest level changes.
In the past, we’ve seen things there which can be rather boring. Upon approach, it didn’t look very promising.
It appeared a terribly serious art exhibition: “What is Not Visible is Not Invisible broadly surveys the imaginary and the temporary through selected artworks from the French Regional Collections of Contemporary Art”.
French and Contemporary. Two very intimidating words. I wasn’t even sure if kids were allowed, or if we would be allowed free entry.
Then the museum staff beckoned us over: “You want to go in? It’s free”.
“Come, come. You enter here. Be careful, it’s very dark in there, and there are some flashing lights.”
Ooh. How potentially exciting!
And it was, surprisingly, delightfully, so. What a wonderful space to stumble into.
* Upon stepping into the pitch-dark room, the exhibition title only flashes on when the visitor steps past a certain point, perhaps to prove that what is not visible is not invisible?
The art wasn’t paintings on walls you are supposed to gaze upon. It was all dark spaces you tentatively wander through before emerging into something 3D and out-of-this-world, like a room filled with smelly fog cut through with laser lights playing tricks with your perception, or a spider web made out of a glue gun, or a video shown on a TV lying on its side of a glitching cellist with strings attached to her arms like she was a puppet, which scared the hell out of the girls. It was all rather engaging.
* Optical illusion thingy
Our top picks:
The girls squealed when they turned a corner and observed the gently pulsing blue chiffon ball. “Ohhh so CUTE, Mama! Take a picture! It’s so CUTE!” It’s essentially a piece of square cloth hanging from the ceiling with a fan under it.
There’s a very complex cheem write-up which I forgot to take a picture of but in reply to Jo’s incessant questions – Why did the artist do this? – I summarized for her: The artist wants to say that sculptures can also be created out of thin air.
* Jo, Lu, B and the Ball
The glue gun spider web. I don’t know what it means.
The video of an artist living his life in a small white box. Why we remember this is because the moment we passed by the video the artist had just peeled off his underwear and while he was facing the side, the girls couldn't stop giggling. The write-up says: “The cell is a mechanism that determines his movements and with time and practice, the mechanism will become his relief.” I tell the girls, even if you need to stay in a very small box you can get used to it and you may like it.
* After he has removed everything he sits in his coffin-like bed. At least I think its a bed.
The room of green balloons.
* The green viewing window to the artwork: Work No 262, Half the Air in a Given Space
So pretty, we were admiring the sight when the staff walked over, led us to a door and said, “You want to go in?” This became the girls’ #1 attraction, as they gingerly tiptoed their way around the enormous, curiously soft orbs (yes, soft, not hard like party balloons) and tossed them around.
Apparently a lot of had been popped by less-disciplined visitors. Again, Jo bugged me for meaning. The write-up said: “The monochromatic and formless sea of spheres offers visitors an opportunity to navigate the work from within, while also challenging them to consider that the location of art can be found somewhere between physical experience and sculptural construct.” WHAT? Why do these explanations always give me headaches?
I didn’t know what to tell the girls. Jo was dissatisfied with every one of my attempts to explain. In the end I told her, the artist wants to say that when you enter and play you are a part of the artwork.
The UV beach. This was supposed to be Repulse Bay in Hong Kong. The girls are supposed to enter one door, walk up a ramp, climb down the ladder, take off their slippers, lie down on the towels and sunbath. I have no idea why but they loved that beach. They lay down for a long time. (By this time I had given up on meaning.)
Overall, Lu had a lot of fun. I hope she has seen that artists don’t just do 2D paintings.
Jo did, too, but she was (as can be seen from above) left frequently scratching her head in frustration. She who demands proper explanations and clear answers exclaimed in exasperation, “THIS is ART? How is this ART? Even I can do this! What does this MEAN, Mama? Wait don’t run away! Explain to me!”
I tried, I really did. Make sense of the esoteric. I actually read aloud the explanations and tried to make it reader-friendly for her. Once when I finally gave up and exclaimed, “I don’t KNOW, Jo, I don’t get it,” the fellow next to me stifled a giggle, not in a you’re-so-stupid kind of way, but in a you-read-my-mind kind of way.
I didn’t quite satisfy Jo, but I think she has become even more convinced that she doesn’t care too much about Art and subjective things like interpretation.