Under The Same Sun should step into the light to draw more families

Considering it’s locality to my house and the fact that it’s school holidays, it’s surprising that I’ve spent the last few weeks debating whether or not to visit Under The Same Sun – South London Gallery’s celebration of contemporary Latin American art. I studied Latin America at university, I’ve travelled extensively in Latin America, hell – I can even speak quite a bit of Spanish, so what has held me back?

I’ve visited South London Gallery on a number of occasions; sometimes for their current exhibition, sometimes for The Sunday Spot and sometimes just for the scrummy cake in the delightful cafe – and every time it has been incredibly quiet. Not lacking in visitors by any means, instead just seeming to receive very quiet ones. It is this which has always led me to take a deep breath before entering with the children in tow, and what has made me more hesitant to return.

With a rare afternoon to myself (and I admit, not in the spirit of Arts Aloud) I decided to visit alone. Big mistake. Huge.

This summer’s exhibition, which includes drawing, installation, painting, performance and sculpture should be an absolute triumph for the family visitor. As well as being set across so many different spaces (including the newly acquired Peckham Road Fire Station), the variety of the work included is immense and provides plenty of ebb and flow – even for the shortest of attention spans. Plus there are some really compelling themes and stories to tell if you can bring them to life for little ears and eyes – all made possible by an easy-to-navigate exhibition guide.

Reasons I’ll be returning with the kids are:

Amalia Pica – A∩B∩C, 2013
Look at these translucent colour shapes and tell me you’re not hearing Mr Maker’s “I am a shape” reverberate in your head? The images on the website don’t make it clear that it’s performance artists (not the public) that are invited to manipulate these shapes – representative of Set Theory being banned from schools in 1970’s Argentina. The performance only takes place at 1pm every Saturday.

Carlos Amorales – We’ll See How Everything Reverberates, 2012 
Although somewhat inhibited by its space versus the first time we saw this as a family at Turner Contemporary, this Calder-inspired piece is as compelling as ever. I might have only seen one other person play it whilst I was there, but it’s there to be played people, so do it (and be part of the heady mix of chaos in harmony that it is intended to represent).

Short film pieces housed in Peckham Road Fire Station
My children always love picking up the headphones and plonking themselves down in front of a random film. Even if they don’t get the black humour of the Sasha Baron Cohen-style character represented in David Lamelas and Hildegarde Duane’s The Dictator, they will absolutely love the music, the costume and the excitement of the world’s first ever person to cross an international border by being shot out of a cannon (in Javier Tellez’s One Flew over the Void, 2005). Definitely don’t try this at home kids!

Rivane Neuenschwander – Mapa‑Múndi/BR (Postal), 2007
An exhibit that you can keep?? And send to a friend?? Whether they choose to take postcards based on places they’ve been, heard of or simply like the look of, this striking display provides a welcome opportunity to stop and think about how even in deepest, darkest Brazil, there are some places that are just inescapable.

Jonathas de Andrade – Posters for the Museum of the Man of the Northeast, 2013
Kids can play curator in this collection of (fake) posters, created by the artist to advertise an actual (but somewhat sexist) institution located in the northern Brazilian city of Recife. All men featured were real respondents to an advert and had a say in how they’d like to appear. Visitors are invited to (carefully!) rearrange the posters around the display.

On the whole, for visiting families, Under The Same Sun boasts two clear qualities which should prove a big draw; engagement as well as interaction. Throughout the exhibition it is fair to say that both are understated and neither compromise the (sometimes) weighty issues and messages intended by the artist featured.

Even outside of Neuenschwander’s postcards, there appear to be quite a few keepsakes that feature as part of the exhibition. I wondered if this was an indication not just of the very human aspect of so much of the work at play, but perhaps also a statement of intent from the South London Gallery to open itself up to a more tactile style of exhibition. After all, doesn’t that little souvenir make it all more memorable for our children? Just as this exhibition provides a platform to surface so many incredible visual voices from Latin America, all that remains is for SLG to shout that little bit louder about its very own best bits, before they pass all of us by.

Under The Same Sun is at the South London Gallery until 4th September
65-67 Peckham Road, London SE5 8UH
Tuesday to Sunday 11am – 6pm, Closed Monday
Admission Free
The SLG has step-free access throughout its public spaces and accessible toilets