“Institution has its rules, although it may try not to respect them”
Four major site specific installations, created by invited architects, designers and artists. Three displays, two online commissions and a series of events, all to “examine the role of public institutions in contemporary life”.
We are speaking about “All of this belongs to you” the exhibition that the Victoria and Albert Museum presented in London last spring.
A neon sign, like a special statement, to introduce the exhibition in the South Kensington museum’s main entrance.
This important old institution, devoted to “decorative art and design”, has its foundations in the Great Exhibition of 1851 and its first director, Henry Cole, declared that it should be “a schoolroom for everyone”.
A democratic approach with public life has remained its cornerstone: it was the first museum to have gas lighting, and first museum to have a coffee, two things along with late opening hours meant that the working class could attend museum.
“The V&A’s collection belong to all of us, and the Museum is a space owned by the public.
But what can art, design and architecture really say about the idea of civic identity, about privacy and about our lives as citizens? Martin Roth, V&A Director argued.
“All of this belongs to you is about using art, architecture and design to open up the truly public space of our museum as a platform for debate”.
Distributed across both the physical and online spaces of the museum, with more than 40 new artworks and loaned objects on displays – including the rest of computers used to store top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden – this exhibition has raised a debate with doubts and enthusiasm still questioning and inspiring us.
“Every institution has its limits, although it may try not to respect them” Rory Hyde quoted in a brilliant lecture at the Melbourne University School of Design (Robert Hughes, The shock of the new, 1979).
Curator of Contemporary Architecture and Design at the V&A museum, Hyde pointed up :”More about public space than Architecture, “All of this belongs to you” is a sort of about responding to this challenge like done by Hughes”.
We give credit to this exhibition, regardless what our opinion it is, because, among other reasons, it invites us to be not only visitors but also citizens.
The Ethics of Dust – Installation by Jorge Otero-Pailos
The largest piece in V&A Cast Courts is a replica of Trajan Column, reproduced by artisans in Rome, transported in London and erected in two parts in the mid-19th century.
New York-based artist an architectural preservationist Jorge Otero-Pailos interacted with it in his installation the “The Ethics of Dust”.
Using conservation latex Otero-Pailos cleaned the inside of the column removing dust accumulated over decades. The result was a giant latex “cast of the cast “, exhibited adjacent to the original to reveal the passage of time and to underline the museum’s duty of care to the public collection.
Hyde talked about this as” being a form of conceptual conservation, reanimating the Cast Courts by introducing new ways of thinking about object”.
From conservation and preservation to urban ecology with artist and ecologist Natalie Jeremijenko’s project – Re Public of Air.
Considering the V&A within the wider ecology of the city, Natalie Jeremijenko has placed a series of “AgBags” – advanced grow bags of her invention – on the low walls of the museum to introduce plant life to the stone architecture.
These porous bags allow the compost within to breath while remaining watertight.
“Although higly perishable , flowers are the most nutrient dense things we know of – Jeremijenko says – and are especially important for the ecology of the urban habitat in a pollen crisis.
There is a whole cultural challenge about how you keep, integrate and incentivise flowers”.
Alongside a Phenological Clock in the grand entrance of the museum will depict 12 months in the life-cycle of the flowering plants and insect surrounding the V&A.
Five Eyes, installation by James Bridle.
Five Eyes is the name given by the alliance between Intelligence Agencies in the English speaking nations: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Artist and writer, James Bridle, using an algorithm of the sort employed by these agencies , selected and connected objects based on metadata from the V&A’s digital record.
Each agency has had its how showcase in the museum tapestry galleries, containing a selection of objects from the collection, as well as files from the archives with the history and provenance of these and related objects.
“In this work I wanted to explore the parallels between museums, intelligence agencies and software programmes themselves: reduced to processes, each is an embodiment of a certain set of politics which is not always visible to the outsider” Bridle explained.
More than (one) fragile thing by muf architecture/ art (modern urban fabric)
The Medieval and Renaissance galleries within the V&A museum were designed as an archetypal public space with daylight, sculptures of standing figures and a fountain.
” More than (one) fragile thing”, London-based practice muf architecture/art’project, took placed in this area with a series of activities all provoked by the existing contents of the gallery and the afterlife of the places those objects came from.
For” More than(one) fragile thing”, first muf’s proposal was about a different way to inhabit the galleries. A simple gesture, indeed, a series of furniture pieces, inviting particular relationships between viewers and the historical objects on permanent display.
The other aspect of the project was closed to the collection itself. Muf created a series of after-files to document what has happened to the places where three of the sculptures in this area first stood.
One was about the Virgin of the Misericordia (1445 – 50), moved from the Scuola Vecchia di Santa Maria della Misericordia in Venice, Italy.
“The objects in these galleries are taken from the buildings, squares and gardens of medieval and renaissance Europe. While life continues in the places of their origin, in the museum these sculptures remain untouched by the vagaries of weather, conflicts and everyday life.” muf/art
The Scuola vecchia di Santa Maria was a charity in Venice, in “More than(one) fragile thing’s experience, muf bring something of this contest in the museum. A charity was involved collaborating for the exhibition’s events ; Women for Refugee Women, a London organization prepared several artistic workshops and English lessons too for women refugee in the space of the museo.
By bringing this contemporary context to the gallery, muf enhanced our relantionship with the historic objects and with this and idealised public space. They describe his as “reverse restitution”.
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