We absolutely love the Barbican. Granted, we are very guilty of forgetting to check-in on what’s on most of the time, but if you’re brave enough to venture into quite a grown up domain and wade through the sea of remote workers, you’re sure to be rewarded with an awe-inspiring space for youngsters to explore, as well as a brilliant (if a little sporadic) programme of family friendly theatre, film and art.
Inspired to reacquaint yourself with the space? Well be quick, because for just over a week (finishing this Saturday) Siobhan Davies Dance has transformed the superb (and free) ground floor Curve gallery into a wonderland of installation and performance art, which plays out as an ever-changing moveable feast.
So what’s it all about?
Having evolved from a dance company into a contemporary arts organisation, Siobhan Davies Dance: material/rearranged/ to/be is a performance installation which explores the relationship between science, movement and the mind, as well as the interaction of art with the space itself. The installation features 10 artists, each performing different works at different times, and in different sections of the Curve. Generally there will be more than one performance going on at a time, with film projections and sculpture seen alongside the performance art.
What’s to love?
The performance art itself is absolutely mesmerising for younger viewers. It was thrilling when Helka Kaski made eye contact with my little one as part of her performance Figuring, while the giant shadows cast behind Charlie Morrissey during his performance Actions from the Encyclopaedia of Experience, made this work all the more compelling. It was interesting to see how much my youngster was keen to copy and mimic postures.
Being completely free and on a 4 hour loop, it’s a much less intense gallery experience for you and the kids. With so many performances going on as you journey through the space, we spent a good half an hour exploring, before moving on to have a break in the cafe and a mill around the site, returning later to see new and different material.
Notes for visiting families
Gallery attendants at the Barbican look panicked by the very presence of youngsters, so reiterate the rules of the gallery with little ones just before you head in (no touching, just looking) and reassure them that nothing will be compromised.
The moveable set which forms a backdrop to the performance pieces, can be tricky to negotiate but forms a really interesting layout, and don’t worry if you want to move past before the end of the work. Plenty of visitors were braving a quick pass in front of projectors to get to the next piece. You’re not spoiling it any more, just because you’re choosing to move on with children in tow.
Beware of Matthias Sperling’s Loop Atlas. This sequence is all about the relationship between the mind and the body, but Sperling’s bearded appearance, accompanied by dark glasses, together with the repetitive movements had a slight air of insanity. It’s brilliant to watch but did slightly spook my sensitive 3 year old.
Finally, it took us a while to work out that the headphones on the audio installation aren’t just for grown ups. They are on a pulley, which means they can actually be lowered and listened to by those in wheelchairs and those under 4 feet tall, and we all know how much kids love a bit of audio.