To celebrate the first day of his spring break, eight-year-old O. and I made a mid-day trek to the Walker. I’d seen the Abstract Resistance exhibition, and knew it wasn’t a show he was ready to see, but there were lots of other artworks — like Rirkrit Tiravanija’s installation featuring a GIANT and absolutely impossible jigsaw puzzle — that I knew he’d really enjoy.
Shepherding a kid through a museum of contemporary art can be tricky — every parent has different ideas about what is appropriate for their kids — but the staff was really helpful. At the admissions desk, the staffer mentioned that the Abstract Resistance show might not be good for kids, without making a big deal of it. And when we stopped to watch Lorna Simpson’s Recollection, a guard warned us about the language, but didn’t make me feel like we shouldn’t be there. I felt like I got warnings, but that they were delivered with a light touch that left the decision up to us.
And even though we didn’t visit Abstract Resistance, it did generate a good discussion. I explained to Oskar why we didn’t see the show (that there were lots of violent images in it that I didn’t think would be good for him to see), and, after a long pause, he asked, “Why would artists want to use pictures like that in their artwork?” Luckily, there was a useful phrase in the otherwise dense exhibition brochure: the “tyranny of comfort.” The kid-friendly version of that idea? Sometimes, artists don’t want us to be comfortable. Sometimes, they want us to see things that make us really uncomfortable, because that’s a way of getting us to think about things we otherwise might not want to deal with.
And then we worked on the puzzle, and hung out in the hammocks.