In an early, abortive flirtation with art school, I learned the technique of sauntering around a gallery, looking alternately bored and engrossed in whatever happened to be on the walls, the floor, the ceiling, never committing to any emotion, especially one that might betray my absolute befuddlement with a good bit of modern art. I’m happy to look back on that younger self and call him a pretentious dilettante, and happier now that I’m old enough not to care if someone knows that I’m confused, irritated, or genuinely bored with some experimental piece that defies my limited aesthetic categories. One of the things I anticipate most as the father to an already wry and curious one-year-old is hearing her unschooled reactions to some artwork I once fetishized but never really “got,” since there can often be no better means of deflating the pompous auras surrounding high culture than letting kids have an irreverent, uncensored go at it.
Perhaps this is why Audio Tour Hack decided to harness the unvarnished truths contained in “darndest things” with their unauthorized gallery tour entitled MOMA Unadulterated (short preview above). The “hack,” a clever update on often staid and monotone gallery audio tours, features “experts” from kindergarten to fifth grade passing judgment on the work of modern art stars like Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, and Roy Lichtenstein. Unadulterated by faux sophistication and onerous over-educated referentiality? Yes. A tad bid too cutesy? Perhaps. But even so, still a fun idea, with lots of silliness (and if it gets kids interested in art, all the better). At times, the kid critics even drop a bit of adult knowingness into their “anyone could have done this” assessment of, say, Jackson Pollack (whom one kid accuses of “just wanting a lot of money”). MOMA Unadulterated refers to a permanent exhibit and installation of painting and sculpture on the New York Museum of Modern Art's fourth floor. The tour takes in thirty pieces of art, each accompanied by audio commentary from the kid critics. Visit the Audio Tour Hack website to listen to the commentary online and see some delightful pictures of the “unadulterated” commentators.
Correction 9/18/12: An earlier version of this post stated that MOMA Unadulterated was created by the Museum of Modern Art. It was not, nor is Audio Tour Hack affiliated with MoMA in any way. You can find links to MoMA's own audio tours (including tours for kids) here.
Josh Jones is a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.