Spooky Tokyo Kids Exhibit: Ghosts, Underpants and Stars
Posted by Rachel S on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art is currently hosting a unique exhibit for younger kids that encourages pint sized art fans to break all the rules that make museums dull for little ones. Running, touching and noise are permitted (and even encouraged) in this spooky exhibit. If the notion of letting younglings run amok in the museum is offbeat, the title of the exhibit is a total head-scratcher: Ghosts, Underpants and Stars.
The museum announcement says these are “three keywords that symbolize children.” Ghosts represent imagination, underpants represent children’s growth and stars represent wishes. The exhibit is an indoor haunted house designed by Torafu Architects that children can touch, climb through and explore.
The haunted mini-mansion is decorated with delightfully eerie versions of classic paintings with strange lighting, sideways faces, cut out holes for young guests to put their faces or hands through and opportunities to climb inside the gleefully twisted re-imagined works of art. Talking pajamas, headless people sitting in corner chairs and other oddities enchant (and may frighten a little).
For a nation that brought us “The Ring” with a creepy undead child climbing out of our TVs, this doesn’t seem terribly far-fetched but makes me question if Japanese children have a higher tolerance for terror than kids in America. We tend to shield our young from creepy or scary content until they hit their tween years so you have to wonder how an exhibit like this would fare in the US.
The wall of off-kilter art (most are easily recognizable and iconic) has a backstage area that kids can access by climbing through paintings and frames so they can become part of the exhibit. Once behind the scenes, they can manipulate the artwork from the other side to reach out, frighten or amuse other museum goers. For those who love the museum but struggle to entice your family to come along, this seems like the perfect way to show children (and even short attention span adults) that art exhibits don’t have to be staid.
While the exhibit was developed with kids in mind, adults are welcome even if they have no offspring of their own to bring along. For childless grown-ups that must borrow a kid from a friend to be able to see a Disney movie without being stared at, this is a welcome change. In June, an adult LEGO fan was denied entry to a Legoland Discovery Center because he didn’t bring along an undersized escort. Is this okay or are we too paranoid about segregating unrelated adults and kids?
Japan seems to take a different view than the US on many child-related issues. Sangaria juice advertises in Japan under the proposition that it’s like beer for kids (complete with a head of foam). Perhaps Japanese children are more precocious than ours. If so, the Tokyo museum’s take on scaring small children in the guise of art may be apropos for their culture. No doubt plenty of kids enjoy a mild fright but will others end up with nightmares that potentially put them off of art? Is it the stuff of kids’ dreams or a wee bit extreme?
image sources: japan-attractions.jp, yatzer.com, torafo.com, theatlanticcities.com, archdaily.com