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Saturday, 9 February 2013

Tripping over children at Light Show

Sunday afternoon the first weekend of the Hayward's new (creatively named) Light Show. Tickets are sold out, the queue wraps around the gallery with people hoping to get the chance at an unplanned ticket release. The Ministry crew swagger up, flash our passes, and head into one of London's hottest new exhibitions.


 So please tell me, why is it crawling with children? I couldn't believe that with the line outside they were allowing this many infants (even prams!) into a gallery full of delicate glass and neon. Surely they are not counting all of these babies in their admission figures? What is a three year old taking away from a Jenny Holzer or Dan Flavin piece? How dare proper art lovers be forced to wait in the cold while children lay on the floor watching the reflections. Had I accidently stumbled upon some kind of yummy mummy meet up?

In spite of myself, I couldn't help but smile as I watched a little girl, armed with a blow-up mallet, run in and out of a splash of light on the floor. Shrieking with delight, she attempted to wedge herself underneath a security barrier to get a closer look at this enormous neon work.

And why not? Light art was always meant to be accessible, to draw on something really basic and human, our obsession with reflection and colour. Isn't this kind of spontaneous and exuberant interaction exactly the kind of thing the artist would have wanted? Maybe the children were even experiencing the work with more honesty than any of the be-spectacled bearded hipsters pompously reminding everyone they saw this artist first at MoMA.

That's not to say this kind of 'interaction' is always a good idea, like when a 6 year old boy jumped through this Dan Flavin sculpture shouting 'Look at me, I'm in a picture frame!'. Perhaps it was an interesting analysis of light, celebrity and space, but what if he accidently kicked it? The security guard who elbowed his way through the crowd clearly had the same idea.

Not to be ignored of course were the number of teenage girls taking what must be very 'arty' profile pictures in the violently coloured rooms and heaving strobe lights. We decided to join them and you know what? It was fun. Why not? We naturally interact with light by seeing how it casts shadows on our surroundings and ourselves (see below for proof).

Is Light Show encouraging a new generation of art conscious children? Probably not. But who is to say who can and cannot enjoy art in their own way? Light Show is light hearted and fun, although migraine inducing at times. Be sure to get down to the Hayward and check it out. But be warned: prepare your mind for a mild headache, your eyes for a work out, and don't forget to dodge the prams.

Light Show is on (ticketed) at the Hayward Gallery from January 30th to April 28th

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