31 March 2015

All of This Belongs to You: Victoria & Albert Museum

Nobody needs an excuse to visit the V&A. You can go every day for a year and still make new discoveries. Besides, it's a public space and they can't really keep you out.

Part of the remit of such places nowadays is to re-examine their very meaning. A public gallery and museum isn't just a context for work, it is a whole set or multiplicity of contexts and agendas, which must constantly reflect upon itself.

What does it mean for an object that is part of the collection, how did it get to be there, where was it from, who valued and documented it, what judgements have been made about it over time, have those changed according to changing political or socio-economic shifts, and how do we read and respond to such objects and settings in our current climate. Those sorts of things, and many more - in what circumstance was the object made, was it made as a unique piece or one of many, why was it made, what does it signify, what forces were at play at the time, does it betray a vanished or outmoded attitude, was in made under duress or now unacceptable conditions. Was the object made from rare or everyday materials, was it made by artisan or obsolete methods, was it an object of comfort, or function, to repress, or to display wealth.

How does a museum display and care for the object, what information does it display about it, what objects does it show next to it by way of contrast, juxtaposition or harmony. Is the object ever going to be displayed or will it be stored, or disposed of. If broken, will it be repaired, restored, or perhaps copied for display. Will it be shown with historically accurate fellows, or to explain a development over time. Perhaps the object belonged to a particular person which gives it provenance, or it may be poignantly anonymous. I could go on. I really could.

Who owns the object, was it plundered, saved, bought, and if it now belongs to the nation, who may see it or access it, and if it truly belongs to everyone, what of those who never set foot in such a place as the V&A.

All of This Belongs to You is an exhibition that essentially explores aspects of context through the concept of ownership, or citizenship. Objects are spread throughout the museum, some major commissioned pieces, and some more prosaic objects slotted in to curated galleries.

Jorge Otero-Pailos 
The Ethics of Dust 2015

Architect Jorge Otero-Pailos has made an extraordinary piece, The Ethics of Dust, which uses the latex innards cast of the adjacent Trajan's Column, the enormous piece which is itself a cast-copy. The latex has collected all the dust accumulated inside over more than a century. It's a thrilling work - a rubbing of a shadow, which speaks of so many layers of time and history, of presence and suggestion, of authenticity and revised history.

James Bridle
Five Eyes 2015

James Brindle has the wonderfully sympathetic setting of the tapestry gallery for his piece which takes a form of re-codification of the systematic documentation behind various objects in the gallery. He has his own elegant reasoning and rationale behind his work - creating a programme which re-reads the archive to produce new patterns and to throw up relevant information. The viewer can't read the whole story without taking on the script, but the work immediately shows that reordering and reorganising has taken place. The vintage colours of the cardboard files - many of which are still in use, produce a happy correlation between the installation and the tapestry treasures, as if the installation is a way of documenting or remaking the ancient artefacts in a new form.

The remains of the desktop PC and Mac laptop that Guardian editors destroyed under the watch of GCHQ officials after the Edward Snowden leaks.

The exhibition includes in a remote display one of the most extraordinary objects of our time - the very computer which was used by Edward Snowden to leak documents to the Guardian newspaper, with what looks now like comically scratched hard drives and components - all at once we have a comment on the impact of the internet and the use and abuse of information.

All of this Belongs to You
Victoria & Albert Museum
1st April - 19th July 2015



31st March 2015

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