MoMA Unadulterated

Kids say the darndest things about MoMA's permanent collection


Looking to shake up the context of art as we know it, independent group Audio Tour Hack recruited a posse of kids to provide their own special commentary for their latest venture, “MoMA Unadulterated.” The project attempts to change perspectives on the NYC museum’s permanent collection by enlivening the experience with the children’s youthful analysis in an online tour. “MoMA Unadulterated” is a follow-up to Audio Tour Hack’s previous undertaking “Artobots,” which re-contextualized John Chamberlain‘s show at the Guggenheim as an exhibition on Transformers. This time around, the group takes 30 pieces from the MoMA‘s fourth floor, hacking the adult perspective with audio of children offering their precious and often profound take on the likes of Pollock, Lichtenstein and Warhol.

The opening day for “MoMA Unadulterated” this past Saturday looked like some sort of subdued flash mob. A flock of attendees dispersed among the permanent collection, mingling with regular visitors for a completely different experience. Pretension and institution, at least for certain guests, had to give way to the voice and imagination of children aged 3-10.

We caught up with Mark Svartz and Hal Kirkland of Audio Tour Hack at the opening to find out more about their mission.


How does “MoMA Unadulterated” compare to your first tour, “Artobots”?

Kirkland: Artobots was a truly experimental change of context. We created an entirely different exhibition in the middle of the Guggenheim. It was a good, epic start.

Svartz: People who were on the Artobots tour said afterwards, “If you didn’t tell me that you guys created this, it would have made so much sense for this to be a ‘Transformers’ exhibit.” By changing this entire perspective, it wasn’t a gag, it wasn’t a joke, it was actually changing the way people saw this art. The one at the Guggenheim was only a three-week show, so some people just couldn’t make it. This one is around forever, hopefully, so people can just come at their leisure.

Looking around, who here is listening to Audio Tour Hack?

S: You can kind of tell who is actually on the Audio Tour Hack tour and who is on the MoMA’s tour. The ones who are giggling instead of looking intelligent.

K: Instead of crying.


Tell us about the process of interviewing the kids.

S: We gathered 16 kids, sat them down and just chatted. It was amazing how much they gravitated towards it. They were grabbing the iPad, they were zooming in and everything—it was just a flowing fountain of awesome. We’re all at that age—late-twenties to mid-thirties—where we have friends with kids now. We just put out the feelers and everyone was really willing to help.

K: One of the kids, when his father was taking him through, had this thing where he kept saying, “Museums are not for touching!” There’s a set of rules that kids have to follow, a certain way that they have to behave. It’s a funny behavioral shift when you ask kids to say what they actually have to say.


How did the kids respond?

S: Kids don’t always get to express what they actually feel. Most audio guides tell you what you’re supposed think. Like, “This is how it was made and when it was made and why it was made.” This is the first time where kids are asked, “What do you think this is saying?”

K: I think the Pollock one was probably one of the most interesting responses because the kids were saying exactly what everyone is thinking a little bit. They were very much like, “Oh, that’s a splatter paint.” And they were evaluating how much it would be worth. So they were saying, “Who would pay $100 for some blotches of paint?” Others were like, “I would. I would.”

Watch the hilarious trailer or browse the Audio Tour Hack site to find out more about “MoMA Unadulterated.” If you’re heading to the MoMA, download the walking tour map as well as the playlist or stream the tour straight from your device on location.