Thursday, 24 July 2008

Not suitable for children

One of the Psycho Buildings in the exhibition at the Hayward Gallery (until 25th August) is a cinema, or rather what the creator, Slovenian artist Thomas Putrih, calls an eclectic baroque theatre, though neither of these adjectives seem to me to be in any way appropriate.

It is showing short films by other artists and these weren't particularly baroque or eclectic either. We did not sit through them all and probably didn't miss very much, but one of them we did quite like. It was called Little Frank and His Carp and was filmed at the Guggengeim Bilbao; this has a fish-shaped tower at its heart which I suppose could be a carp, but Little Frank does not appear.

The film follows performance artist Andrea Fraser in the role of a museum visitor listening to the official audio guide and its climax (I use the word advisedly) comes when the guide encourages her to caress the 'powerfully sensual' curves of the fish. This she does, with a will.

When her thong came into view, we heard some commands being hissed at the school party behind us and a dozen (not very young) children scampered down the gangway and were ushered out. This was a sensible precaution on the part of the teachers, for the accounts of the visit given later to the parents might very likely give rise to some concerned enquiries of the school authorities, or even complaints.

What surprised me was the children's reaction: the commands were obeyed instantly, with no giggling. This showed commendable discipline and sense of decorum, but none of them even attempted to dawdle, which suggests that they had been inculcated with prudery. Or maybe they just lacked curiosity.

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