The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo is currently showing a special exhibition targeted mainly at infants and primary school children. Running over the Japanese summer holidays, up until 8 September, the display is called Ghosts, Underpants and Stars—A place where children can be children.

The three key words of the exhibition highlight a focus that symbolises the adolescent audience – ‘ghosts’ (imagination), ‘underpants’ (children’s growth) and ‘stars’ (wishes) – and the concept invites children to consider the paradox of the standard rules of a museum space, such as ‘Don’t Run’, ‘Don’t Touch’ or ‘Keep Quiet’, by permitting kids to do the opposite, allowing them to touch, talk and enjoy.

The exhibition features ‘Transformation Corner’ organised by ZEROZEROESUESU; ‘Ghosts’ organised by: Chikara Matsumoto; ‘Underpants’ organised by: Sakurako Hamaguchi; ‘Stars’ organised by: De-Ta-Ra-Me Constellation Society (Representative: Keitetsu Murai, System: Masato Tsutsui); and ‘Haunted Play House’ organised by: Torafu Architects (Koichi Suzuno, Shinya Kamuro).

Torafu Architects have created an eerie atmosphere in their ‘Haunted Play House’ display, where halls seem to run on endlessly and portraits appear to have gazes that follow viewers around the room. In the spooky hall of portraits, at first glance paintings on the wall appear to be ordinary until strange things start to happen. Moving eyes stare back out at the observer and faces in the frames suddenly change.

Behind the walls, a backstage has been created where an array of antics are unleashed on the unsuspecting. Museum-goers – who’ve previously been on the receiving end of the tricks – can enter a secret room that creates a role reversal, as they become the tricksters from the back side of the paintings. This haunted house not only spooks visitors in a deliciously jocular way, but also interactively engages children and allows their imaginations to run wild.

As museum-goers leaves the exhibition, they must pass the ‘Bridge with eyes’ – a bridge covered in seemingly static printed eyeball stickers. However, as children cross the bridge, the eyeballs follow them, playing on the surrealism of the ‘Haunted Play House’.

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