Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Pink Floyd's Fabulous Mortal Remains at the V&A

You might wonder why I'm reviewing an exhibition about a band on art an art blog.

There again you might wonder why a band like Pink Floyd is having a major retrospective exhibition at the Victoria And Albert Museum. The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains opens on Saturday (for 20 weeks until 1 October 2017).

Ummagumma repeat x repeat
However Pink Floyd were a very visual band. I don't find this surprising given that three of the band members were former architectural students who were used to thinking in terms of big designs and large structures. Plus right back at the beginning they knew some very smart design people in Storm Thorgeson and Po Powell aka as Hipgnosis (which it turns out was a word written on the wall of their flat by Syd Barrett. Plus they hooked up with some equally smart visual people as they progressed through their albums.

It's also because Pink Floyd were a constant backdrop to my time spent studying in Cambridge in the 70s.

Boyfriend was a big fan; Dark Side came out while I was in Cambridge and of course they are fundamentally a Cambridge band. My digs in my penultimate year were with a don who lived in Rock Road, literally right across the road from the house where Roger Waters spent his childhood and where his mother still lived. Syd Barrett lived just up the road etc etc. (I loved the Pink Floyd map of Cambridge!!)

I suspect The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains might just become one of the most popular exhibitions ever at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
this exhibition will be an immersive, multi-sensory and theatrical journey through Pink Floyd’s extraordinary world
The first three days sold out within hours of tickets opening for sale.

Before you read on, you need to understand that I am one of those people who got a ticket fast. It's been pinned on my wall above my desk for months and months!

I'll be back there on Monday to see the exhibition with my ex-boyfriend and his wife. Meanwhile I'll be emailing him to say he might want to go and buy himself another ticket - because I think the real fans are going to want to spend HOURS in this exhibition!

Not just because of the subject matter - but also because of how the exhibition has been put together.  That and the fact hard core fans never just go to a concert once.....

I wrote on Facebook while I was sat in the recreation of the Live 8 concert.
Just reached the end of The Pink Floyd Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.It's one of the most visually and aurally creative exhibitions I've EVER been to. It will take fans HOURS to go through. A retrospective with non-stop music on your headphones which changes automatically and constant visual stimulation. Absolutely amazing!
It satisfies on so many levels:
  • it's a retrospective based around the albums and there are masses of detail and memorabilia associated with each - some of it quite extraordinary.
The Early Years and first albums
Syd Barrett wall
  • the sound is constant. The audio is extraordinarily clever. The thing they give you for the headphones works out PRECISELY where you are in the exhibition and plays the music or audio interview which goes with what you are looking at. I've got a four page explanation about all the sound. Suffice to say it is AMAZING!
  • the visuals are quite overwhelming at times - right from the entrance through a giant version of their original van, past the Hipgnosis covers, via the 'unusual photography' and animations, past the huge blowups of the schoolmaster and Pink from the Wall, and Battersea Power Station - complete with Pig through to the end, where you can relive the miracle of the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park in 2005 when the band became four again - and the music plays with visuals on all four walls in a large room which is going to be packed as soon as the exhibition opens.
the original album cover artwork for Wish You Were Here

Battersea (9 metres high) and the pig

Pics of getting the pig to fly over Battersea Power Station
Inflatables for The Wall - Pink and the school teacher
  • underpinning this are the additional artifacts and visuals which tell the story of their story and how it all worked - from storyboards and Nick Mason's cartoons to the letters and the technical drawings for the Dark Side cover and it just goes on and on
Nick Mason's cartoons
Education - visuals and words for Another Brick in the Wall

Layout plan and design for the cover of Dark Side of the Moon
  • plus for the serious musician nerds - you have all the guitars and keyboards and sound systems and you name it. I've photographed a lot of Fenders today!
a room of music equipment guitars, drums and keyboards - and sound thimgummiebobs
  • and all the details of how they got the show on the road - focusing on all those who helped with staging, audio, visuals and lighting.
The Division Bell aea starts to look at some of the technical aspects of doing a show
It's described thus by the Museum and they're absolutely bang on! It well exceeds my expectations - and I thought it was going to be good.
Experience a spectacular and unparalleled audio-visual journey through Pink Floyd's unique and extraordinary worlds, chronicling the music, design and staging of the band, from their debut in the 1960s through to the present day.
I can post images but looking at them back at home they just don't convey the feeling of being in it and part of it.  The organisers aimed to trigger an emotional response and they got it right.

If I have any criticisms,
  • it's absolutely impossible to find a way out (not that I minded going all the way back through it!) and 
  • there are some serious level changes which have not been thought through properly. I nearly fell over four times. So a really serious health and safety issue which needs to be addressed pronto!  Do watch your footing if you go to see it - although hopefully they'll get it fixed.
Bottom line - if you, like me, are in your 60s and Pink Floyd were part of your growing up years, you might like to go and indulge in feeling back in your teens and twenties at the V&A.

But I'd advise buying a ticket fast - I have a suspicion this one is going to be a sell-out.  This one's an out and out 5 star exhibition.

Some of the other reviews

Most of these have been written by people who are far too young!


Unknown said...

Do you know the name of the artwork based on Syd Barretts photo?

Making A Mark said...

Do you mean the big one of the Syd Barrett wall?

It's ".....No Good Trying (Study for Syd Barrett)" by Duggie Fields

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