Exploring Rooms Filled With Light At The MCA (expo has ended)
Mums & Bubs
By: Stephanie Boyle, ellaslist explorer
I’m a strong believer in exposing children to as much of the arts as possible, as early as possible. I’ve seen first hand how much art transforms and expands their world, opens up new possibilities and develops their own emerging creative instincts. So whenever I hear of a new exhibition opening that might be suitable for my boys, I get extremely excited. This was certainly the case when I found out that an exhibition of acclaimed Japanese artist, Tatsuo Miyajima titled ‘Connect with Everything’, was opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art. From what I’d read about the artist, he is famed for his use of light, colour and numbers- such a perfect and engaging combination for little people and the fodder for a lot of interesting discussions. The exhibition did not disappoint and its level of interactivity exceeded my expectations. Far from being too inaccessible for children, it was almost as if it had been designed for a little audience! This is not to say however that adults cannot thoroughly enjoy and engage- the exhibition certainly has something to offer everyone. As a family, we found it to be a morning very well spent and we hope to return for a second visit.
By visiting the exhibition on a weekend, we were able to take advantage of the Miyajima Family Space which is free for all individuals attending the exhibition regardless of age (so adults are very welcome and encouraged to join in the fun). Allowing the boys to participate in the creation of their own art after viewing the art of another sounded like the perfect combination to me!
Interactive Activity Booklet
Before entering the exhibition with children we were sure to pick up a copy of the Kids Activity Trail booklet which is available at the Family Space front desk, but on weekdays is no doubt available at the general information counter located on level 1 of the museum or by enquiring at the ticket desk at the entrance to the exhibition.
Conversations always flow readily when i visit the art gallery with my 4 year old (as I’m sure all you mums of pre-schoolers well understand!) but the Activity Trail booklet provided a lot of interesting and age appropriate information some of which we might have missed had we not had it with us. The booklet is clearly aimed at school aged children (probably from early to late primary) since it asks them to record their thoughts and feelings and draw some of the things they’ve observed but I still found that many of the activities were readily adaptable to a younger, pre-school audience. From the booklet we learnt that Miyajima’s art explores three main ideas- ‘keep changing’, ‘connect with everything’ and ‘continue forever’ and these were concepts my four year old and I enjoyed discussing as we moved from piece to piece. We really enjoyed the additional information about various installations, explained at a level that was perfect for a child’s understanding while not being condescendingly simple.
Rooms Full Of Light
My boys’ favourite pieces were the larger ones that filled entire rooms. ‘Arrow of time (unfinished life)’ was a large space lit with red lights where visitors were invited to lie or sit on large floor cushions and look up above them at the changing numbers. Another favourite piece, and one that the boys spent the most time with (we actually had to drag them out!) was ‘Floating time’, where Miyajima projected numbers across the floor. Children of all ages were congregated here, having the most marvellous time chasing numbers and seeing them reflected on their own bodies, searching for their favourites and marvelling at how these changing numerals ended up all over the ground! My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed just watching the boys enjoyment of it all- too thrilled really to worry that we were ‘missing anything’. I occasionally feel a need to return to art exhibitions alone to really appreciate them quietly and at greater length but that was certainly not the case here.
Another thing that made the exhibition particularly enjoyable was the lovely manner the gallery staff had with children. They were clearly prepared for little visitors and while of course ‘touching’ was still off limits, they were extremely tolerant and indulgent of other behaviours (including my 18 month old’s recent obsession with hearing his voice echo and loudly!). One particularly lovely woman who had noticed my son’s fascination with numbers took a lot of time to talk to him about the piece he was looking at and explained Miyajima’s dislike for ‘zero’ to him.
Creating Your Own Art
Once we’d made our way around the exhibition, we ventured into the family space which we found to be really worthwhile. My elder son added his own little work of art (using black paper and hole punches of various size) to an installation and my youngest son and my husband used magnetic strips to create numbers on a wall while being filmed for a time lapse video that was projected on the opposite wall a short time later.
The Verdict: We’re Going Back!
Should we have time, we will absolutely be returning to this exhibition. As the weather heats up and becomes more unpredictable it is great to have some indoor activities up your sleeve and this is a terrific place to spend a morning or afternoon. Children of all ages will take something from it and adults will share in their enthusiasm. If your children haven’t been to an exhibition previously or haven’t enjoyed art galleries in the past, this is a perfect first exhibition or perhaps one to change their minds about what ‘art’ is. As Miyajima himself says, ‘A constant is the fact that we are always changing.’ As we all know, nothing could be more true when it comes to children!
ABOUT STEPHANIE: Stephanie Boyle is currently a stay at home mother with two gorgeous children. Stephanie Boyle, ellaslist explorer Prior to becoming a mum she trained as a lawyer and worked in various Government positions. She is currently completing a Masters of Teaching. Stephanie and her Algerian husband Kamel have two sons, Ayman (3 years old) and Younes (3 months) and they are doing their best to raise their sons as tri-lingual global citizens. When Ayman arrived three years ago, it became immediately apparent to Stephanie that neither of them were homebodies and so they set off on what would become three glorious years (and counting!) of adventure and excitement throughout Sydney and its surrounds. Stephanie believes that childhood should be pure magic and she is on a continual mission to make this the case for her sons. She loves discovering new places and activities, throwing amazing parties and running a bookclub for her boys and their little friends. In addition to her reports for ellaslist, you can also follow Stephanie and her boys on Instagram @moukinina