'Imaginäre Reisen' Exhibit Showcases Contemporary Arts For Kids

Nov 27, 2012

At the Amerika Haus in Berlin, an adult travel guide tells a group of five-year-olds to collect a postcard from their trip.

Their trip was a couple of hours spent traveling through ArtPod's "Imaginäre Reisen," an exhibition curated by American Laurie de Chiara and German artist Rebecca Raue. 

"The idea is that it's real artwork that is not made for children but made for a normal grownup audience," Raue says. "Laurie curated the show in a way that all these artworks are really interesting and touching for children."

Twenty-four international artists are participating in"Imaginäre Reisen," or "Imaginary Trips" in English. Among them are big names like Olafur Eliasson. His piece of drift wood is often used as a balance beam, says Curator Laurie de Chiara.

"I love the conversation when the people try to figure out, 'Is this art?'" de Chiara says. 

The American curator, who used to have a gallery in Berlin, had no problem finding artists for her project.

"I think some of the artists were extremely excited to have a younger audience being interested. For example, Max Frey who does this half pipe ping-pong sculpture. He's been making ping-pong sculptures for a quiet a while. For him, it was exciting. This is what he normally does, but now it's like the main audience is looking at his work." 

The main audience on this Wednesday afternoon is under six years old and likes to travel through the exhibition without shoes. The idea to create a space filled with contemporary art that is available for kids and adults alike was conceived a couple of years ago.

Raue and de Chiara, the founders of ArtPod, wanted to encourage a different kind of viewing, an open approach to art, and also inject some humor. A lot of pieces in  "Imaginäre Reisen" can be touched, or played with, including pieces like a giant red umbrella.

"The famous Mary Poppins umbrella, which is Katharina Lackner. She is from Austria, and this piece is called "The slide." A lot of her work has to do with flying and traveling and having adventures. A lot of the artist works are keeping within the idea of the exhibition. It's for 70 kilos, and you can glide across the room. It is well used," de Chiara says, laughing. 

There are rocket ships you can climb into, a mobile that creates drum sounds when you throw balls at it, a kicker table for up to 20 players that resembles a landscape, and some less physical pieces such as collages, wall murals, and videos.

The five-year-olds seem to be fascinated with a video by artist Guy Ben Ner that shows him and his six-year-old daughter re-enacting the story of Moby Dick in their kitchen, using minimal, readily available props.

"We have tried to design the exhibition where there is one section where it's hands-off. So we have symbols that say that, and those are the quiet rooms, and the kids really respect that. They say, 'Oh that's what you normally do at a museum, but at this place you can do both.'"

So far, the response has been extremely positive. Kindergarten groups, school classes, and adults alike have been traveling through the playful exhibition. De Chiara hopes to establish a permanent space for their future projects.

"One of my very strong feelings about art is that art is something that doesn't have answers and that it should be accessible to everybody. You can go to an artwork, and see something, and see it from a different perspective."