Kids Company: Shrinking childhoods

    KIDS COMPANY:

    SHRINKING CHILDHOODS

    Tate Modern, London.

    Until 17 February 2005

    Star Rating: 4/5

    Children’s art often has innocence but not at this
    exhibition. The subject matter is often raw and uncomfortable with
    work documenting child prostitution, crack dens, rent boys, gang
    violence, abuse and suicidal thoughts. This autobiographical art is
    often dark and disturbing, .

    Each of the six Portakabins, which create an enclosure in the
    grounds, features the work by artists between the ages of four and
    20 that, inspired by contemporary artists, tell stories of hope,
    desire, but also of despair. The unmade bed installation here
    belonged not to an artist (Tracey Emin), but to a crack addict.
    Works inspired by Damien Hirst include aspirational family scenes
    suspended in acrylic.

    The exhibition often dwells on the desperate lives many children
    lead, and while it would have been useful to find out more about
    the therapeutic benefits of the arts projects, this is an
    extraordinarily powerful exhibition.

    The exhibition notes illustrate the plight of hundreds of
    thousands of children living with poverty or violence. The
    exhibition, which rather than simply highlight inequalities in
    childhood seeks to shift our view of children’s welfare
    needs, is more than thought provoking: it is challenging and
    genuinely moving.

    Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark,
    London.

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