Pink Floyd Exhibition: Mortal Remains review

Let me state at the beginning: I’m not a Pink Floyd fan. If you are, then by all means go now and you’ll have a brilliant time. Should you go if you are not a fan? I guess, go ahead, if you think it might be for you and if you don’t mind the excessive admission price.

The slogan of the exhibition is “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’m not convinced that there is anything spectacular or unparalleled about the audio-visual journey. The exhibition uses more multi-media and innovative presentation methods than your average exhibition of – say – Rembrandt paintings, but in terms of innovation I wouldn’t give it more than 5 out of 10.

Nearly everything that is cool and innovative about this exhibition does not have much to do with the curator Victoria Broackes’ work, but all with the object of the exhibition. Many things having to do with the curation of the exhibition have not been thought through or only half way. Why, for example, place nearly all of the video screens at a height of about 1.5m? I’m 2m tall but I hardly ever managed to see more than half of a screen, they were just mounted too low and it was very crowded. I also would have preferred much more use of ultra-large screens with scenes from live concerts. In my view there was not enough focus on the music.

The audio tape does not require you to give input or push buttons, it’s supposed to automatically read out the relevant section you pass by. I would have preferred to be able to choose myself. During our visit I heard various sections of the tape several times while passing through the respective room, and, I’m sure, missed out on others. The quality of the Sennheiser headphones was relatively high, but most of what you hear is talking and in any case, it would have been more important to sell tickets at a reasonable price rather than the outrageously high £20 to £24.

 

That said, we did enjoy our visit. It’s great to hear some of this music and learn about these awkward geniuses and their creative process and development as artists. Everyone loves the stage set of Brick in the Wall with the 10m tall angry school teacher and his cane. Other highlights were the two original 6m high Easter-Island look alike heads facing each other in The Division Bell stage sets, the lightbulb men, the burnt business man, and many others.

   

I had listened to Pink Floyd songs many times before, but even my wife, who did not associate much with them, recognised a large number of their songs and their artwork immediately.

 

Pop’s most anonymous band sold nearly 250m albums worldwide. One of the world’s most commercially successful bands (all its members are among the richest musicians in the UK), but at the same time also very experimental and progressive in developing and influencing the music of their time and of later generations. In the 60s this mix was more common (cp. Jimi Hendrix etc.), but these guys pulled through with it well into the times, when no one would beat a boy band on the billboard.

I really enjoyed the part where you could mix your own version of ‘Money’. One room of the exhibition had 3 or 4 mix-boards and people were queuing to get their go.

 

The broadly chronologically presented exhibition spends an equal amount of space and time on the music and the musicians of the Pink as it does on all the other contributors, designers, film makers, engineers, stage builders, photographers, animators, caricaturists, and architects, which is a great combination. We’d give the exhibition 3 out of 5.

Directly before the Pink Floyd exhibition, we had done the Balenciaga exhibition, also at the V&A. Other recent exhibitions include Hockney at the Tate and Picasso at the New Portrait Gallery.

 

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