When I first heard about a Swedish baby rave I had questions. Would it take place in a warehouse or maybe a secret forest? Is it legal to take underage dependents to late-night dance parties? Where does one buy glow sticks? What is a glow stick?
This particular Swedish baby rave actually happened in London’s Southbank Centre in the middle of the afternoon, with music played at a low volume and children under the age of seven encouraged to attend. No disco biscuits, just carrot sticks. No gurning, just generous pram-parking.
That a Swedish baby rave was taking place at all is down to the institution’s festival of Nordic art and culture. “The Nordic countries have long been at the forefront of social change,” says the literature. “Their fresh approach to parenting and education puts young people’s rights on the agenda.” Yep: their right to part-aay.
So it is that my three-year-old son Oscar and I, wearing pink T-shirts (naturally), turn up and are met by a mashed-up audiovisual baby feast. On the decks the generously bearded DJ is immediately conspicuous: he’s almost certainly a fallen Norse god with a paunch that suggests a penchant for meatballs. Otherwise there are no obvious nods to this shindig’s country of origin. Apparently baby raves are popular with the Swedes but where’s the evidence? I want tall blonde people, Volvos and herring and I want them now.
Meanwhile, two huge screens behind the dodgy DJ emit kaleidoscopic tie-dye images while speakers churn out Euro trance. Or possibly Euro dance. Swedish speedcore? Dad isn’t down with the kids. What does Oscar think? “I don’t like the music, daddy.”
We negotiate and end up loitering on the stairs near the dance floor. Odd: does Oscar know that this is exactly what I used to do at parties in my youth? Is he picking up voodoo vibes? I’m getting paranoid. Maybe it’s the insistent thump of the techno. Or electro house. Will they play some Abba? Whatever. I talk to some other parents. Are their children having more fun than mine?
First we meet Emma and Chris with daughters Elizabeth and Francesca. Mum and dad went to “all the naughty clubs” in London in their salad days; how does this compare? “The atmosphere’s nicer, drugs are better…” Chris! You can’t say that. “The Calpol [a British children’s elixir] is definitely flowing,” adds Emma. Phew.
And just before Oscar drags me away we meet Tristan, who is here with son Saxon, aged two. “We like acid and techno don’t we, Saxon?” says Tristan. Saxon nods. “And folk music.” Of course. And what about the Swedish baby rave? “It’s amazing. It’s free, it’s for kids and it’s in the day, man. That’s what it’s all about.”
Is it? Great. Got any glow sticks?
The view from Vienna
Stroll around Vienna’s Belvedere museum and you’ll see visitors from all over the world jostling to see works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Yet behind the scenes the cast is decidedly more homogenous: homegrown directors are de rigueur at Vienna’s cultural institutions.
There was an opportunity to shake things up here last July after a lengthy and controversial compliance audit revealed that the blue-blooded director of the Belvedere, Agnes Husslein-Arco, had misappropriated public funds for her private use. The Austrian culture minister Thomas Drozda announced a search for a new director of the revered museum, whose holdings are the closest thing Austria has to a national collection. But after receiving 35 applications from around Europe the minister chose Vienna-born Stella Rollig as artistic director.
In the past five years other Viennese museum directors have also been in hot water for financial scandals similar to Husslein-Arco’s, resulting in numerous positions at institutes such as the Museum of Applied Arts and Kunsthalle Wien coming up for grabs. But in choosing successors, Vienna’s museums stick close to home, choosing natives over newcomers – although Austria is historically multicultural and the art world is increasingly global.
In some ways the Belvedere decision is a missed opportunity: although Austria’s art world is packed with intriguing artists and important collections, it’s notoriously insular. When German star curator Nikolaus Schafhausen launched his first discursive political exhibitions at Kunsthalle Wien, Austrian critics crucified him.
Rollig began at the Belvedere a few weeks ago and considering her laudable experience and history of edgy exhibitions, she could indeed rock the house and do justice to the historical holdings. But hopefully she’ll dare to take curatorial risks that go beyond Austrian borders.