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9. Because the Avant-Garde Is Our Playpen

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A Saturday afternoon at the Rist exhibit.  

When Pipilotti Rist’s massive installation Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters) opened at the Museum of Modern Art, nobody knew what to expect. The Swiss provocateur hoped that her circular couch, strange throw pillows, ambient tunes, and gargantuan 25-foot-by-200-foot projections would encourage visitors to “feel as liberated as possible.” But the artist, famous for such pieces as Pickelporno and Open My Glade, could not possibly have predicted that she would so soon become the proprietor of New York’s most ludicrous day care.

By noon, the exhibit was jam-packed with Bugaboos and Maclarens, as scores of kids walloped each other in pillow fights under the projections. Toddlers who might have been watching Nickelodeon in some benighted suburb were instead mesmerized by huge images of rotting apples, snorting pigs, bobbing naked breasts, and what appeared to be menstrual blood. No overprotective parent called the City Council, and no children were shocked (it’s not like toddlers haven’t seen breasts before). They were all too busy wrestling.

As the tiny bodies of the children cast giant shadows on the walls, we thought of how weird their memories would be—and of how utterly comfortable these kids were around art, strangers, and odd new experiences. One giddy boy, no older than 4, stood on top of a cushion and yelled at the top of his lungs, “I want to live here!”


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