Travel Diary » Being 21st Century Kids at Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art
Over the last year we've discovered some amazing and educational things to do with kids around South East Asia. Petrosains in Kuala Lumpur, learning about elephant conservation at Kuala Gandah and in Chiang Mai, catching hermit crabs on Langkawi and learning how to care for them, learning about everyday life in 12th Century Cambodia by gazing at the carvings on Angkor Thom. But this week I was suprised to find a fantastic one in our old backyard of Brisbane, Australia.
This summer the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) is hosting the 21st Century Exhibit. GoMA's website and all the reviews said the exhibition had fantastic activities aimed at children but I was a little sceptical - I mean art gallery's and kids that love to run, touch and yell usually mix as well as oil and water. But we really wanted to catch up with Theodora Sutcliffe and her son while we were finally in the same town and with the parks all soggy from the weeks of endless rain GoMA seemed the best choice.
As soon as we entered the gallery it was pretty clear that my expectations were wrong. Two giant slippery slides inside an art gallery?
This really was an exhibition for the kids.
Of course being Australia, the rules for using the slide were ridiculously over protective. Kids were spaced what seemed to be minutes apart between turns. Certainly longer than needed to ensure personal safety. The effect - a huge cue with people waiting up to half an hour for just one slide. At the base was a giant mat that no one was allowed to step on for fear of colliding with a child. Yes from three meters away a child is going to shoot out the slide sideways and collide with me, injuring us both! The mat was a great idea ... just a bit of overkill! I heard from a friend that her husband accidentally stepped on the corner of the mat, resulting in staff jumping straight on walkie-talkies screaming at each other to stop the slide. Noah even got in trouble for skipping two steps in the gallery on the way to the slide
wanting to pull our hair out at how ridiculous Australia has become, the slides were a lot of fun. And when else are you going to get the chance to whizz down a slide in an art gallery! The next child friendly attraction to greet us was Olafur Eliasson The cubic structural evolution project 2004. A fancy name for what is essentially a giant table filled with lego that has been turned into the most amazing architectural structures and thousands of blocks just waiting to be used.
At first we thought the main lego buildings had been constructed by the artist, with visitors to the gallery just adding on. We were blown away to find out that every building had been constructed by gallery visitors. For the past few weeks kids and adults alike have sat at that table for hours, even days, creating giant buildings that would inspire even the architects in Dubai. Hundreds of towers line the tables while children and parents sit creating new buildings even as the less sturdy ones topple. Temples that the gods of Olympus could call home, MS Escher-esque stair cases, replica's of famous buildings. It's amazing. In the past year I've seen a lot of evidence of the worst side of humans, from polluted landscapes raped to grow palm oil, young girls rescued from slavery in Cambodia, appalling greed sitting side by side with the most unimaginable poverty, racism and crime, not to mention the mind-numbing horror stories and legacy of the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnam war. ... after all of this, seeing average people on mass working to create innovation and beauty was inspiring. It was also a lot of fun! Colin and Noah were hooked and worked together to create the tallest tower off all. They could have stayed there all day.
While the boys created us girls explored. This arch is made entirely from cardboard boxes.
Looking for a way to use up unwanted plastic bags? How about turning it into an artwork! Perhaps I've just watched too much Dr Who but I can't quite work out if the photo below looks like Hayley is holding up the artwork or if it's about to suck her in and eat her!
Hayley wanted to share all the artworks with her dad so eventually we had to drag Colin away from the lego with kisses.
The first thing Hayley had to show her dad was ... a swimming pool! One of the installations we had discovered was a very clever illusion of a swimming pool with a room underneath that people could enter - from above it felt like you were looking down on people trapped underwater.
The kids really enjoyed going into the room under the pool and pretending to swim for the benefit of everyone above.
The kids found the most comfortable looking giant pillows they had ever seen in a large deck area over looking the Brisbane River and the boys excitedly set about climbing to the top.
While Hayley had a little rest.
Unfortunately we soon found out that they weren't pillows or couches despite appearances and the fact that they were placed next to chairs when the kids got in trouble. Oh well, onto the next thing! We soon found Pierre Bismuth's Follow me exhibit - TV screens set on a bench with action movies that kids were encouraged to follow with a pen and overhead transparency paper sitting over the TV.
Downstairs was another kids craft area, where crazy bird nests could be made from everyday materials. This is Fiona Hall's Fly away home 2010, where the artist's interest in the migratory patterns of birds and nest-making is translated into a hands-on activity for kids. It looked like amazing fun but unfortunately we'd spent so much time with the lego we'll have to save if for another visit.
After a final turn in the pool illusion it was time to head off in search of ice cream (for the kids) and beer for us. We spent a good two hours at the gallery and only made it through 1/4 of the exhibit and the attractions for kids. We're heading back there in a few days so stay tuned for part 2 of our visit to GoMA. By the way, apologies for the fuzzy photos - being a gallery I wasn't allowed to use a flash!
The 21st Century exhibit is on at the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art at Southbank until April 26 2011. Entry is free. There are attractions for kids of all ages and you could easily spent 3-4 hours there if you have enough time. Given how close GoMA is to the Museum with its summer dinosaur program for kids and the swimming areas at Southbank it's well worth heading in there.