Wrocław. Beginning of the winter break, mid-January 2018. Wet weather. The WRO Art Center chose this time for the opening ceremony for SIGNALS / Interactive Playground exhibition. These were perfect circumstances, with parents looking for attractions for both pre-school and school children, who had plenty of free time and energy during their winter holidays. The words: interactive and playground worked like a magnet, and the visitors began to come to WRO.
WRO Art Center, the gallery where contemporary art, new media, and communication are combined. The site where the authorial activities take place and where the power of art mediation attracts children to come to the exhibition. WRO created a venue, especially for the younger participants. The message is clear and is already enclosed in the title. The exhibition is a playground. The exhibition is for those who go to playgrounds, for all children and their parents.
At first, it seems that it is about interacting with new technologies, then with art. Each new media installation responds to the viewer, no matter if it is a small child or an adult. Finally, it turns out that it is also about interpersonal interaction, between a parent and child, between siblings, between friends, between people who have met at the exhibition. Both for children and their parents, it is an excellent fun and quality time.
It is not the most obvious of things to do, to spend time with family in museums and art galleries. At first, it might seem that in such generally serious institutions, there is no place for joint leisure time and for having fun. This is not the first time when the WRO Art Center breaks this stereotype showing that it is possible. No parent with a crying infant or a restless preschooler will be asked to leave, as this is actually a playground. And, if the whole family can visit the WRO Art Center, it becomes possible for them to explore other art galleries and museums. Here, the social campaign #muzealniaki helps, which WRO has actively joined in. The campaign proves that it is possible and worth visiting art galleries and museums with children regardless of their age. It shows that it can be an exciting way of spending family time together.
In 2008, in the newly opened WRO Art Center, the Interactive Playground exhibition was presented. The recipients, as intended by the creators (Paweł Janicki, Zbigniew Kupisz, Patrycja Mastej, and Dominika Sobolewska), were the youngest. It was a very successful exhibition, about which parents asked long after it closed. The Interactive Playground has been mentioned in many places and acknowledged as a place worth seeing and visiting with children. The exhibition itself developed, taking different forms with new installations in various locations around the world.
This risky move – to invite children to the first exhibition in the new gallery 10 years ago – had an unusual effect – a group of regular gallery visitors who grew up with the WRO Art Center. Thanks to this, WRO somehow “brought up” these young visitors.
After 10 years, at the 10th anniversary of the gallery and 10 years from the first art show, the time has come for something new. SIGNALS.
SIGNALS / Interactive Playground is the exhibition that invites you to play with sound and light. It consists of three installations on three floors of the WRO Art Center. The whole adventure begins with the Mickeyphone – associations with Mickey Mouse and a microphone are justified. This kinetic audiovisual sculpture, commissioned by Disney, was created by the panGenerator group. And here, we come back to the Mickey Mouse itself, with its clear associations: fun, movement, joy, and positive energy. The black ball with characteristic ears rotates around its axis, collecting sounds from the room and then transforming them in its own way, illustrating this music with light signals.
Climbing up the stairs, the participant encounters the performance entitled Which Way to the Sound by Izabela Kościerza and Jarek Kordarczuk. It is a kind of musical maze, in which different paths resound with different tones, and the participants interact. The white floor and black objects that emit sound are only part of the installation. The second part is composed of a map displayed on the wall with a music score showing the way to the sound – for sure, not to the exit doors. There is nothing to make you want to leave the place, all you want is to play with movements and gestures.
TeToKi! is waiting at the top! [Technology to the Kids!] by Paweł Janicki in cooperation with Magdalena Kreis. The viewer enters the dark space with a glowing object, screens react to the movement of light – with light patterns and sound. The viewer paints flowers and pixels and thus brightens the darkness. The participant can be expressive using light within the context of the enormous space, like a painter using a brush on canvas, but with additional sound. It attracts both parents and children.
The WRO Art Center turns into the Interactive Playground, Mickey Mouse is waiting at the entrance to greet the children. There is light, sound, fun, but everything, including posters accompanying the exhibition, is in black and white. The lack of motley of colors, when building intense interactions and immersing oneself into the sounds, brings calmness and order. It is important, especially for small visitors, that they do not leave the playground overloaded and over-stimulated. The black and white exhibition posters, which are intended to be interactive, can be used for anything. A small visitor – my almost six-year-old daughter, Ula – treated them as a large-format floor coloring book.
SIGNALS / Interactive Playground is an exhibition aimed at everyone. Accompanying events include workshops for children, Baby Art Walks for young parents and their toddlers, as well as lectures for teenagers. The enthusiasm of children encourages more visitors to the exhibition. Now WRO has become a permanent destination for our walks. We are going to play. Me and my daughter, Ula.
Monika Bronowicka — a musician, historian, blogger, and mother. Professionally she is responsible for educational projects at the Pan Tadeusz Museum. She coordinates the #muzealniaki campaign. After work, she runs the blog entitled Dolny Śląsk dla Uli (Lower Silesia for Ula).