Brazilian artists, Helio Oiticica

Hello Helio Oiticica, and a man in a dress talking about bears


(A man in a dress, talking about bears)

We haven’t been to IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) for a long time. They seemed to be constantly renovating large parts of it, with consequently little to no shows to go and see.

Summer Rising at IMMA

This time was almost accidental. We were trying to see a man about a ream of paper. He gave us this venue as a meeting place, and then got consumed in the anti Israel demonstration cum riot going on elsewhere in town. We know he went because we received a series of texts, finally culminating in a photograph of people, and, impressively, a dog, lying down, covered in white, bloodied sheets pretending to be dead. The description of the photo celebrated the fact that his new born had attended it’s first riot!

So far, so bizarre. Luckily there was also a family picnic event in the formal gardens taking place. We knew our potential rendezvous with paper ream man was always liable to fall through, but the art, music and other activities meant that it all still might prove to be something to keep the kids entertained. The day was a Saturday, but that morning I realised when the kids are off for the summer holidays, every day begins at 7 am. One or other of you has to deal with the school free kids, so that the other one can work, sleep, or get anything else done. Weekends become very similar to week days, except the public libraries aren’t always open.

We brought our picnic cooler, we found some hay bales, and even a few rugs to lay over them. Hay bales are such a romantic idea, the reality however is they are really scratchy to sit on. The rugs I liberated from under a table did the job perfectly. Then the kids, naturally, needed the loo. I took the oldest two, through a mini labyrinth of short beach looking leafed trees, towards where the toilets might be.

No success, but instead, a man in a very colourful dress, talking about some kind of bear. I thought he was a man, you can never be sure. However my 4 year old was pretty sure he was a man, so I figured she probably knew. He then left his white easel, walked past us, and suddenly he, and newly appeared assistants began rolling out large tough white squares of paper and packets upon packets of felt tipped pens.

All thoughts of needing the toilet were instantly forgotten and instead the two kids I had with me began drawing. This seemed like a winner, and so, without telling them (terrible parent) I ran back through the labyrinth and scooped up the terrible two year old too. Thereby relieving her mother of any parenting duties. I brought number 3 back, and bingo, all kids were now happily drawing.


This had all worked out pretty well. Yes there were hourly texts about how the demo was turning into a riot, but really colouring with felt tips seemed like the preferable activity for 2, 4 and 6 year olds. I know, call me old fashioned. The event had run it’s course, the man in the dress had gone elsewhere looking for his bear, and we discovered there were no toilets in the gardens. Luckily the kids had been distracted enough it hadn’t been an issue.

We ventured up to the actual museum, even if there was no art exhibitions, the toilets should be open. They were, and there were a few prints on the walls. All good. The two year old quickly set off the alarms, pushing a door she shouldn’t have. Two men in black with walkie talkies came running past me. I busied myself with wheeling the buggy, laden with the picnic cool box, while security tried to look menacingly at the two year old (yes almost 3, but still not really manageable yet).

We reached the actual entrance, realised there was something on upstairs, and that, well, it might kill 5 minutes. I gave their mum another mini break, and said sure I’Il take them up the stairs and you guard the buggy and the cool box. She chose this option unsurprisingly.

We were now into the world of Helio Oiticica. I knew nothing about him or her, from the name I guessed Brazilian, beyond that I had no idea. A lot of the art seemed to use quite lurid colours, vivid oranges, yellows, mixed with ugly concrete breeze blogs. I am an ex artist who believes a lot of art should be touchable. Kids instinctively believe all art should be touchable (and yes lots of people have said my art was quite child like, and that I should stop touching their art work). With this show it was hard to tell whether you could touch the pieces or not.

With all three girls I tried to keep a balance between interacting with the touchable bits, and not touching the other pieces. This one, though was unavoidable.

helio blue cables

We all had to walk through it. This was great fun and they all liked it. The 6 year old is a budding artist, so I wanted to show her that art can be fun, playful, interactive. To encourage and inspire her to follow her own particular vision. We continued though the many rooms, some were good, some a bit more ‘er so what’.

Helio Oiticica installation

Still I figured whatever happened, we had killed 10 to 20 minutes. Well, it probably felt like 20, but was probably only 10. Even so, on these long school free days, it’s still all good. You work in chunks, get through the morning, feed them lunch. Do something after lunch, and oh, is it bed time yet, whew. Naturally the day doesn’t pass that quickly, and it is fun sometimes too, but you get the idea.

So, we’d done all of then, when, … one room left, and some crazy sounding music coming out of it. Wow, what had we found. There was strange music, it sounded like, well to me it sounded like Yoko Ono messing around with Brazilian beats. The lights were low, the heat was high, and there were about 8 kids hyper actively bouncing around.

Helio bouncing room

The room was pretty minimal, and yet the kids were all completely inspired to just run round and round and round. Fortunately most of the other kids left, and mine took to it immediately. Walking in, the floor sagged unexpectedly and I twisted my knee. I hadn’t really been planning to do a lot of bouncing anyway, but that sealed the deal. I sat and watched as my kids cheeks grew redder and redder. All extra layers quickly peeled off. Like many parents before me I sat there thinking, brilliant, they will sleep tonight!

I leaned over and semi shouted to the one remaining parent in the room, also sitting down. He said this was the 3rd time the kids had been to the room today. Ha ha. Even more to my surprise, the exhibition had only opened today too. Will this be the dirty secret of school free summer time parents? Throw your kids in here once a week.

The next morning they slept till almost 9 am!

Thanks Helio.

Helio Oiticica

1937 – 1980.

And yes, it turned out the music was by Yoko.









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