A festival of art for children Children’s Biennale

Advertisement C hildren are noisy, they very quickly get fidgety and they want to touch everything. Not the best conditions for approaching a museum visit. Children and art - do they really even go together? And how! This is demonstrated clearly by the Children’s Biennale at the Dresden State Art Collections.

Text: Rouven Kühbauch

At the Children’s Biennale you are not only permitted to be noisy, you are expected to be. The interactive works of art on display positively invite visitor participation. “All the artworks here are designed to be touched and altered, it is only through and by the visitor that art emerges and lives,” says curator Florence Thurmes.

Art to touch

Take for example the “Sketch Aquarium” installation. Using digital technology, the Japanese art collective teamLab projects an aquarium onto the walls of a room. Here fish, octopus and jellyfish swim all over the walls. What is brilliant is that every visitor is invited to colour in a sea creature and then scan in their picture. Their drawing then joins the aquarium and the other inhabitants there and continues to “live” in it. Children can even feed the fish virtually.

Kunst auf der Kinderbiennale: Kinder malen an Tisch, dahinter wird ein Aquarium an die Wand projiziert
The "Sketch Aquarium" by the art collective teamLab creates an interactive world which develops a life of its own. The fish, drawn by the public and later scanned, swim in an enormous digital aquarium.

The theme of the Children’s Biennale is “Dreams & Stories”. The exhibits approach this in many different ways. Véronique Joumard’s “Orange”, for example, consists of a wall painted in bright orange heat sensitive paint. When visitors touch the wall, the warmth of their bodies leaves behind a pale imprint that can still be seen even after they have left the room.

A children’s council selected the artworks

The Children’s Biennale is a collaboration with the National Gallery Singapore, where it appeared last year for the first time. “Orange”, “Sketch Aquarium” and the other artworks were all selected by the target group themselves. Curator Florence Thurmes took advice from a children’s council made up of a group of children aged six to thirteen from a youth club in Dresden and the Dresden International School. She presented them with 40 potential exhibits. “The young people were extremely discerning,” Thurmes tells us. One piece made from polystyrene for example was rejected as the material could not be reused.

bunter Schaum umfließt Betonsäule
Stephanie Lüning created a studio and a laboratory for the Children’s Biennale in which both she herself and anyone who cares to can get creative, experimenting with coloured ice cubes that are available in a freezer.

The supporting programme is also based on wishes expressed by the children. A printmaking workshop, a photo competition in which children have to illustrate their dreams through photography and a theatre workshop are all designed to complement the exhibition.

The council were also critical of how museums are often not very child-friendly places. “The children requested more music, more interaction and to be allowed to touch the exhibits. They also asked that everything is not too quiet, so that they can be allowed to be noisy in the exhibition,” says Florence Thurmes. The Children’s Biennale took all these wishes on board, and it works. For many children one visit is not enough. “A couple have told me that they have already visited the exhibition three times.”

The Children’s Biennale runs until 24 February 2019. Admission is free.

Participating artists include Ólafur Elíasson (from mid-November), Félix González-Torres, Susan Hiller, Véronique Jourmard, Mark Justiniani, Jan Kunze (colouring book), Lynn Lu, Stephanie Lüning, Rivane Neuenschwander and teamLab.

Japanisches Palais, Palaisplatz 11, 01097 Dresden, Tel. +49 (0)351 49142000