I have decided that the best way to frame a visit to an art museum with a small child is as a form of Dadaist (huh!) performance art or Invisible Theatre (huh!). This allows you to stand outside the experience (somewhat) and see people’s reactions to your child’s appearance and behaviour as a reflection on them rather than on you.
A few days ago I found myself moving quickly through the amazing collection of modern art in the Centre George Pompidou in Paris, holding my daughter Tilly (who after ten days of tourism was sick of being in the stroller). I was moving moving quickly for two reasons: first, because she was dressed for the Spring day outside and not for the perfect-for-preserving-artworks temperature inside. Second, because of the game she had created which involved sticking her index finger into my ear and then laughing hysterically when I pulled it out.
Now Parisians will look disapprovingly at an ‘under-dressed’ child at the best of times, but if that child is also incredibly dirty from being allowed to crawl around on random Parisian-type surfaces then the looks become murderous. However, the hysterical laughter of a child clearly having a fabulous time tends to throw even murderous disapproval slightly off-balance, leaving the observer unsure how to respond to the parenting (childing?) that they were observing . It was this exotic emotional experience that I considered to be Tilly and my contribution to the contemporary art scene in Paris. I wish I had photos of some of the fabulous facial expression we produced, but the ephemeral nature of these effects, and the way they subverted traditional notions of art, was exactly the point (I decided later). Take it from me though, lives will inevitably have been changed.
I do have a couple of photos of Tilly in the Pompidou Centre though. Want to see them? Of course you do!