“WOMAN WITH X-PATTERNED DRESS (AFTER BILL TRAYLOR)” BY ROBERT PRUIT IS A PROPHETIC, CHALLENGING AND IMPORTANT WORK OF ART. IT IS NOT VIRTUAL REALITY. DESCRIPTION: ‘ONE QUICKLY NOTICES THAT BEHIND HER BACK SHE CLASPS A BOX CUTTER, RAZOR EXTENDED. THIS DISARMING DETAIL IMBUES THE PORTRAIT WITH A SENSE OF PENDING VIOLENCE.'
Contemporary art is crucial to our social and political documentation of real life. Artists who are called to this work are prophetic, courageous and visionary.
¿POR QUÉ PARA LOS NIÑOS?
Did their parents know their 'lil ones would be directed to sit and consider this roomful of very complex art? When the same group of children (3rd grade at most?) are asked to turn around and consider a larger than life photograph of a man (depicted as disheveled and slightly annoyed by the presence of the photographer), how are they to interpret this?
My own experience and interpretation guides me to think these children were hostages to an adult agenda.
I've been around children my whole life -- my own and others, often in large groups. I'm no longer what I used to be called -- a religious professional or a children's coach (group leader, teacher, mentor, etc). It will take the rest of my life to understand and heal just a little bit from the tangle of harm and trauma administered by institutional/structural dogma and norms (and adult agendas that ruled over my own sense of what's good for children; for what's appropriate for children; for what children want -- and mostly, what children need most.
I haven't had deep sleep in years because of the recurring storylines of pernicious bullying, threat and gagging I have witnessed and experienced. In the course of my leadership, never have I ever led children into a field trip that that was not:
b) purposeful and meaningful (according to them),
c) explained to, understood by and supported by the children's adults
d) scary af.
Would the children's parent/s/guardian/s who have experienced horror and war themselves support exposing their children to larger than real life and larger than life-sized albums and displays of danger and atrocity?
During my time at the ICA, I try to find that lovely harbor view amphitheater sitting spot so I can get calm and mind my own business.
Turns out the way to this tranquil spot is through the exhibit, "Art in the Age of the Internet." It's been only 28 years since the interWWWebs came into permanent existence. I'm still thinking about this short trajectory, as prompted, and the profound (understatement) impact on every sphere of existence.
Turns out the path to the sitting place is through another room. I didn't then and won't research this. An inadvertent peripheral glance in that direction reveals a realistic rendering of a decapitated head, some limbs, burned skin, and more. I turn around and decide to go to that beautiful long hallway lined with floor to ceiling glass, overlooking the Boston Harbor.
Turns out I have to go through the same room. I stare at my feet as I walk through, says the art guard. I'm thinking of the children. I'm thinking of #metoo. I'm thinking that I just don't get it.
In the room with a view, I'm offered to experience 20 minutes of virtual reality. I'm hoping to experience the Boston Harbor in a way that my good dreams give me wings and make clouds into marshmallow fluff. I've never done VR before. I put on the VR headset. Turns out after 30 seconds, a huge wave is already coming at me. A tidal wave. I take the googles off. My hair is tangled in it. I am pissed and want to cry. Had I stayed, I would have ‘VIRTUALLY EXPERIENCED THIS TSUNAMI SMASHING THE MUSEUM TO PIECES, PLUNGING ME BENEATH THE SURF WITH ARTWORKS, SHARDS OF GLASS AND CONTORTED BODIES.’ “VIEW OF HARBOR," TAKES YOU ON AN IMMERSIVE, APOCALYPTIC JOURNEY."'
Trigger warnings are one thing and there is no one norm; insensitive and inexperienced curation is another thing. Adult agendas without considering the children is irresponsible and unethical -- to choose what is allowed over what is best.
How about bringing children to an open field or simply a giant, empty big room?
~with scissors, paste, and paper and print advertising that would otherwise be discarded
~have them be the artists who crop that up and make meaning
~don't decide ahead of them what they will experience, interpret and express
-sit with them, play with them, listen to them
~actively and rigorously empathize with them as a necessary discipline
-write down and study what you learn
-use your moral imagination to consider what is best for them
There is such a thing as poverty porn, when the subject/object is unknowing, unaware, and especially -- vulnerable. Children have no choice regarding most matters. They have to trust adults around them.
This is an op-ed piece for adult guardians and for the ICA and for those who assemble artists' works into an overarching theme -- well meaning folks who believe in the power of art to engage all ages in the complexity of creative and culture to express and contemplate others' experiences, consequences of economic and political conditions, and the world (and to infinity and beyond). I implore adults to imagine the children who will pass through the spaces they curate and decorate.
There is a story about a little girl who answered the adult question, "have you ever had to do something really hard even though you were scared?"
"Yes," the little one said.
I'm Learning how to go nigh-nights by myself."