Thursday, 17 April 2008

Children of the Revolution

The staff at La Fille's nursery are on strike. This is the fourth or fifth time this year. I have no idea why; there is nothing in the news. I am still cringing over the raisins-sans-condoms incident so I am ashamed to say I could not bring myself to ask.

I took La Fille to the Pompidou Centre hoping to catch one of its children's workshops or something interesting in the Children's Gallery. I came away feeling decidedly lowbrow: it was far too clever-clever for me.

The current exhibition in the Children's Gallery consists of four rooms: the first invites children to build something out of small bits of material - wood, pipe, plastic - then to see it in another perspective by looking at it through a lens against a backdrop of photographs of grim urban landscapes; the second instructs them to put a variety of plastic objects - including a My Little Pony, dinosaurs, plastic food - on a series of glass shelves with a projector underneath and look at the effect on a screen; the third is an aerial film over a 3D model of a map; the fourth, a muzzy film of someone piling miniature cars on what looks like a small plastic slide. (Stay with me, I am making this as simple as I can but it is not the Tate Modern). We tried all four but La Fille was quickly bored. Call me Ms Philistine but I thought she had a point. The leaflet on this exhibition said it: "examined the confrontations between the real world and the world of small objects...introduced confusion into the order of things and questioned the world of values that a child becomes accustomed to from an early age." La Fille looked at the box of objects, made a value judgment and stuck a fluorescent pink My Little Pony and a plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex on the glass shelves. Perhaps three is too early age, but I do not think there was much questioning of values going on in that pretty head. I had a sudden pang for the user-friendly populism of the Tate Modern's interactive games, but there were half a dozen French youngsters engrossed in making mini constructions who seemed to be having a good time.

I dragged La Fille up to the Contemporary Collection. She liked a blue splodge that she said looked like a crab, dived into a contoured white cave painted with black lines and went "Wow!" very loudly at a life-sized shiny red plastic rhinoceros. Room 34 (Inflatable Structures) was an ordeal because she wanted to sit on a blow-up orange armchair and I had to drag her away with one of the curators shouting: "Don't Touch" as we beat a hasty retreat. We never made it to Level Five to see the Matisses, Miros, Man Rays and Picassos. As we headed for the lifts, La Fille started chanting: "My Little Pony, My Little Pony, I want to go back to My Little Pony". Make that the Philistine Family, I thought as I frogmarched her in and pressed the 'Down' button.

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