So yesterday was mostly taken up with the Tate Modern, which was gorgeous as always, and at least less infuriating than the last time I was there.
The last time I was there, The Tate seemed to be trying out a new scheme of assigning tour guides to punters, in order to enhance their Modern Art viewing pleasure. This non-advertised, un-bidden and seemingly compulsory scheme. meant that I was followed round given a running commentary by the ‘Stupid’ family of Luton who seemed intent on pressing the opinion that ‘a five-year-old could do that! ’ No matter what the room, the artist, the media, or the scale of the piece.
Every now and again, the statement would be backed up by the justification ‘ooh, that’s just rubbish!’ or ‘ I wouldn’t pay five pence for that! ’
No matter how fast I moved from room to room, Mr and Mrs Stupid followed close behind, when I skipped two floors and went round the rooms backward, they soon caught on, and Mr Stupid’s voice would ring out…
‘Is that a toilet! Good! I need a piss! Ha ha! Ooh, look at that! It’s rubbish! My five-year-old could do that!’
I went to the cafe, in the hope that I’d lose them and they might just go away, and sure enough, one sip into my coffee I heard…
‘Look love! It’s modern art! I call it ‘Expensive sandwich surrounded by sugar’! I could sell that for a million pounds! Ha ha!’
I realised at this or some other point, that since I was completely unable to lose them, it must follow therefore, that I was With them.
They had come to the Tate, obviously not to enjoy the art, but to spend some quality time with me. I found this very touching, although it didn’t stop me from wanting to maim them.
What confused me the most, and I’m pretty confused generally, so this was a feat, was Mr Stupid’s belief that five-year-olds, or maybe just five-year-olds that he spawned, have the ability to do simply Anything. Anything at all. It’s very touching, and I hope that his children benefit from the great faith he had in them at this age. But sometimes it was a little hard to believe.
Saying “my five-year-old could do that” in front of a Jackson Pollock is one thing. I agree that there may be some reasomng in that, and we wonn’t even go into the whole ‘”apability for abstract thought thing” but, hm YES, A five year old could splash paint onto a canvas. So could a meerkat, that’s not the point.
Saying “That’s rubbish! My five-year-old. could do that!” in front of a 18-foot Iron Sculpture is another thing entirely.
NO, Sir, no they could not. Not even with the right welding apparatus. If you would like to let your child try, I’m betting he probably won’t make it to six.
And if you’re allowing your child to play with 18-foot pieces of iron, screen-printing equipment, wood carving tools, sewing machines, florescent light bulbs, chemicals, glues and class A drugs, then that, I believe, is your choice.
If you are allowing these tools to be part of your child’s creative development, and that child is creating great works of modern art with them, then hoorah to that. Your Five year old could Actually do that? Great!
In that case, I would suggest that you simply enjoy your tiny bundle of genius quietly, and don’t boast about it in a loud voice all the way around the Tate modern.