Going to see an art exhibition in a gallery is the kind of thing I used to do Pre-K (pre-kids). Galleries and small children don’t tend to mix well. The last time I went to a musuem with four children, we ended up bypassing all the artwork and headed straight for the cafe. On the way out we had to frantically pull the children off a marble statue that looked to have been there for 200 years. It would have taken them about 20 seconds to wreck it.
So, generally, I avoid this kind of stressful outing. Today, though, I got a chance to take the kids to an interactive art installation they could actually enjoy and which they couldn’t casually destroy.
Sacrilege, by artist Jeremy Deller, is a life-sized Stonehenge made out of the materials used for bouncy castles (jumpies in the United States). The inflatable replica of Stonehenge is touring the country (today it was at Alexandra Palace, a 10-minute bus ride from me) as part of the mayor’s cultural events in London this summer. People are encouraged to jump around the rubbery Stonehenge on a green bouncy platform. Best of all, this cultural event is free.
In a short video about Sacrilege, Deller says he likes looking at history in serious, intense and playful ways. This work is both playful and perhaps a bit controversial. ‘Some people would be very annoyed by it, which is why I called it Sacrilege. Might as well get the criticism in first,’ the artist explains.
I love this kind of art. Of course I enjoy pensively looking at paintings and pretending I have a clue what the artist intended (I always have to read the caption), but this is far more fun. The kids really enjoyed bouncing around the fake stones, too. You get 10 minutes per session and it’s enough. The combination of a rare heatwave and a mild hangover made me feel like an old penny flying loose in someone’s handbag.
All three of us walk off the bouncy Stonehenge feeling winded, thirsty and with a mild degree of heat stroke. I also had that fleeting parental feeling which I find hard to identify because it’s rare. I think it’s what you’d call a sense of wellbeing or maybe it’s satisfaction.
We managed to combine something fun, cultural, educational and free – and I didn’t lose my sanity in the process. The long walk home – over half an hour with a moaning, tired child – did nearly tip me over the edge, but I held it together.
My kids still don’t have a clue what Stonehenge is – and will probably forever associate it with rubber – but that’s just a minor matter.