A few days ago, O. asked about “ that show with all those clothes on the floor.” Turns out he’s thinking about Kai Althoff’s installation in Heart of Darkness, an exhibition we saw nearly a year ago.
O can watch a video or read a book over and over, and enjoy it as much the 30th time as the first. I’ve always assumed kids take pleasure in the familiar and predictable – and that’s why I have Cars and Trucks and Things that Go memorized. So why did this installation– which we saw only once – stick in his head?
Althoff’s installation was (to me) chaotic and creepy – the Walker website more eloquently describes it as a “ sovereign land where bourgeois codes of order, tidiness, and beauty are suspended.” Nothing about the exhibition seemed especially appropriate for kids, but maybe that’s what made it stick. As a five-year-old figuring out the world, O is deeply invested in “ bourgeois codes of order.” He wants to know what the rules are, how things work, what to expect.
So I am still curious why he remembered – and wanted to talk about – this installation. Maybe the exhibition was a safe place to experience disorder and messiness. Littered with toys and clothes and crazy craft materials, maybe it looked like a place where adult rules had been abandoned. Maybe it was scary – or maybe it just looked like fun.