The Exhibition Designer I Never Almost Was at the V&A

Over the course of a few days not really doing much in the way of making games because I was in London, I ended up going to the exhibition of ballgowns at the V&A. I’m not sure when I last went to the museum, but it’s pretty extremely great as a place, especially considering how much of it is free. You walk through rooms, unimpeded from when you entered from the street, and come across a massive Raphael or some other such thing. A couple of the ballgowns in the special exhibition were really quite spectacular, but the exhibition itself was not. I thought about how to remake it. And that felt weird.

Because I hardly consider myself as an exhibit designer, you know? Certainly not a designer of exhibitions of fashion. Least of all ballgowns. Nonetheless, I felt very dissatisfied with what I was seeing. Not in the “boyfriend/husband wishes there were a chair to sit on and while away the time” way. And not just because many of the gowns were not, frankly, all that extraordinary – a couple were, Alexander McQueen was kind of unmatched, for my money. No, I wanted the exhibition itself to be better.

The staging of the exhibition just seemed very ill conceived and cheesy, frankly. The various cabinets containing mannequins wearing the gowns included bizarre choices of xeroxed-looking 2D images of objects like bracelets or antique sofas. It was really incongruous and served mainly to make everything look a bit tacky. And then there’s the problem of mannequins more generally – when was the last time they made clothing look good? That’s right, never. The one major success of the show was the project of huge images of various of the gowns being worn by mannequins with strikingly unusual objects replacing their heads – those images looked fantastic.

What could have been done? Well, good question. I didn’t get all that far in my imaginary redesign, but the show certainly could have used either more space or fewer frocks – it really was rather cramped. I briefly saw in my mind’s eye the idea of more static poses of mannequins with each gown separated from the others and with a small monitor running a extremely slowed down frame-by-frame sequence of the gown in question being worn by a real, actually moving human. Say a frame every second or so, to allow the viewer to think of the garment as both a dynamic and static object simultaneously.

Oh yeah, and lose the insanely tacky “giant pearl necklace” on the top floor. Good grief!

13 June 2012
← next words previous words →