Category Archives: ruminations

“Mortal Remains” of Pink Floyd at V&A difficult to decode

The Pink Floyd exhibit on show at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is not for the myopic.

Overcrowded spaces — due to the apparent overselling of tickets for timed viewing slots — are almost pitch black, information panels feature tiny white lettering on black cards making them illegible from further than two feet away.

Upon arrival at “Their Mortal Remains,” each visitor is issued a headset and a gadget to hang around their neck. The gadget is activated by various signals throughout the exhibition to play audio automatically.

The preset audio only adds to the chaotic atmosphere. Due to the crowds, without a printed guide, numbered displays or any indication about what route to take throughout the gallery spaces, it is impossible  to know if the audio is properly queued to match the exhibits. It’s also impossible to start and stop the audio except by unwittingly moving out of signal range.

People squish in as close at they can in front of exhibits, squinting to read the tiny information panels, while those further back jostle each other in the dark vying for space and access.

There is very little chronologically presented information to help visitors understand the context of the exhibit. I saw no basic timelines or biographical information about the band or band members. Inexplicably, current event news presumably placed to accompany different album releases, is displayed in the classic red British telephone boxes designed by Giles Gilbert Scott. However, tiny headlines and dates on publications are also often impossible to read.

 

 

The pink pig that was flown over the Battersea Power Plant, designed by Scott, and featured on the cover of the “Animals” album, seems to take up an inordinate amount of space — despite the fact that the actual pig was not there.

A highlight of the exhibition was the display of the actual art work for the Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks” album. I thought it was good that the curator chose to explain that people at the time were simultaneously fans of both the Sex Pistols and Pink Floyd, although the two bands were not on good terms.

The 1970s were like that.

The grand finale was a room full of people sitting on the floor watching videos of Pink Floyd. Unfortunately, it wasn’t air conditioned so it was quite stinky.

After an hour and a half spent roaming around trying to make sense of things — my friend and I beat a hasty retreat once we came upon the sit in — we found ourselves in a gift shop packed with Pink Floyd items on sale.

We chose not to buy anything, although we were tempted by some pink enamel pig cufflinks.

When I mentioned to staffers the difficulty of syncing the audio to the exhibit, and suggested a second audio channel and a paper handout, I was told that no one else has complained.