We went wandering through the Metropolitan Museum, a classic haunt for a Sunday afternoon. [The kid loves the mummies: "Tell me about how people are dead and they put them in a box again, daddy." "Have you been getting into daddy's Iron Maiden CD's again, honey?"]
Anyway, all was well until we wandered into the second gallery of the exhibition of video art in the Met Collection. See, the kid loves video art--the day before, we watched Anri Sala's video with Jazz saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc, Long Sorrow, three times straight--and nothing captured her attention more than the When I Grow Up I Want to Be a Cooker, a wall-sized image of artist Maria Marshall's two-year-old son blowing smoke and puffing away on a cigarette.
I'm a pretty sophisticated art consumer, and I can be pretty dispassionate about the buttons Marshall was trying to push and the lines she was trying to cross with the piece [which was her first video, made almost ten years ago.] Even so, it made me wince involuntarily. I don't care that it was CGI; Marshall's kid isn't my concern. I didn't want my kid seeing it.
I mean, it's not like she's been wandering around smoking crayons and straws since then, and it's not like I'm going to stop taking her to museums--or even say there oughta be a warning sign. It just caught me off guard.
There's just something different between a kid seeing some office workers huddled around a loading dock ashtray on the sidewalk and seeing an endless loop of a giant, aestheticized head of a peer taking a drag. For the most part, all the moral and health-related taboos that a toddler smoking might evoke for an adult just don't exist [yet] for a kid; it is what it is.
By not making a big deal--or any deal, really, I just figure/hope it'll fade to one blip on her periphery. Now how to explain the rolled up twenties and why she's ABSOLUTELY NOT allowed to lick the glasstop coffee table.
Closed Circuit: Video and New Media at the Metropolitan [metmuseum.org]