Once again the corporate membership at the V&A was going to be used to my utter benefit. What was going on this time, you ask?
Free entry to all their seasonal exhibits for several hours with the other companies that held corporate memberships. There would be a live DJ and bar as well (unfortunately one you had to pay at but you can't win them all I guess), and a spectacular 20% discount at the gift shop. Hoohoo!
I, being the museum dork that I am, definitely leaped on the opportunity and invited Salads. Unfortunately she ended up not being able to make it (last minute meeting and such), but I did end up going with one of my other coworkers, Church, and her group of friends. So that was more than alright.
The seasonal exhibits were definitely something to shout about: there was an exhibit on David Bowie (this had been running for several months now and was so popular that they were extending it past its original run date...this is also one that you normally had to pay extra money to see...and we were getting to see it for free!), Memory Palace (the one I came to the opening for the other month) and a new exhibit that had just opened earlier in the month on 1980's fashion called From Club to Catwalk.
I was excited. Though I'm not a huge David Bowie fan I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about and I did want to see Memory Palace again with different eyes. The fashion exhibit had also been thoroughly mentioned in the lecture I had gone about fashion and BMI. All related. :)
Anyway, Church and I left early to meet her friends at the front of the museum and then we were off to a running start. First order of the night? Getting timed admission tickets to the David Bowie exhibit.
It may have been free to us, but that didn't mean that everyone else with a corporate membership didn't have the same idea. Because of this they were giving people timed tickets so the entire exhibit wouldn't be swarmed. Plus there were headsets that went along with it to get the full experience. Gotta plan that business accordingly.
Luckily we'd arrived right when the doors opened so our time was only 15 minutes away. We decided to get a drink at the nearby bar and drink in the outside coolness. The temperatures have finally started to be summery here for the last several weeks so we've all been taking as much advantage as possible (lunches outside, shorts, sandals...you name it). Naturally this has made every single British person I know start to complain about how hot it is...but when the heat dies down in another few weeks they'll switch to complaining about how cold it is. They always need something to complain about (I mean this in a literal way; complaining is a national pasttime it seems).
Pimm's was the drink of selection, and it was lovely. We drank it in the inner courtyard as we waited for our time to arrive.
Eventually our time came but unfortunately no drinks were allowed in the exhibit (guess we should have figured that). So we quickly finished the rest and entered.
The "David Bowie is..." Exhibit
What followed is what I can only describe as a sensorial clusterf*ck.
The headsets were designed so that as you walked through the rooms, looking at various objects and walking up to monitors playing videos, they would start playing the appropriate audio. This could include playing Bowie's top hits or the audio to the video that you're in front of, maybe some audio clips of Bowie talking about whatever was relevant to the information in front of you.
However, because they were sensitive to where you were in the room, should you pass the invisible line that divided one area from another, the audio would fade out quickly and another would start.
This actually lead to rather hilarious reactions in people. You would see people listening to their headsets and then suddenly a look of anxiety would cross their faces, they would abruptly stop walking, then step backwards to get the audio back that they were previously listening to. Or you would see people burst into spontaneous dance. I wonder if the people who made the exhibit were expecting this kind of reaction.
Anyway the exhibit was actually really well curated. The entire experience was extremely immersive. You couldn't help but be in Bowie's world; be swept into it and engaged. You walked out the other side and were Bowie.
On the other side of things though, it was rather confusing. You would have music playing and sometimes audio clips with people talking, and in many of the rooms there was also loud music playing on loudspeakers, or huge screens playing Bowie concert clips, giving you the full live performance experience. This combined with what was already playing in your headset made things...well, very overloading. A lot of the older folks I could see walking around had to take off their headsets because it was too much to take in at once. I will say that I do think this was on purpose though. Bowie is too much, and at times his life was too much. This combined with the drugs and all of the expression he wanted to get out (whether it was his or not)...well, this just sounds like the life of a musician during that time period.
Also, despite what the intro said at the beginning, there is no way you could go through that exhibit in 45 minutes. Unless you were running, and read nothing, and stopped at none of the movies that were playing. What was stated as "two rooms" was more like six. I barely made it out of there in under an hour fifteen and that's because I needed to use the bathroom. I was the second person from the group to finish and I thought I had sped through pretty decently.
Overall I rather enjoyed it; much more than I thought I would. My conclusions about Bowie are this though: he's an androgynous, beautiful man who photographs very well. A gorgeous coatrack for any designer or makeup artist who's wanted to make a bold statement. He has made a brilliant career of pretending to be different people at different times. Well-played, Bowie. As someone who has never really been into Bowie's music, I can respect that to an extent and enjoy it for what it is.
Anyhow, all around rather good. A good experience. Here is information on the exhibit.
After this we did a quick walkthrough of the Memory Palace exhibit. Unfortunately after the sensationalist Bowie exhibit no one was really in the mood for the quiet literary nature of Memory Palace. I still loved it just as much as I had that first opening night, and definitely spent the most time in it from our group, but people weren't really interested. I guess it does take a certain openness of mind and concentration. You do need to read what's written and take in the story and implications.
I tried convincing people of its value but only one of them was interested. He took the time and thought it was good. Well, I guess one is more than none; I'll take what I can get.
From Club to Catwalk: Fashion in the 1980's
I have to admit that I've never loved the 1980's when it comes to fashion. I used to make the joke that I was born halfway through the 80's for a reason - so I could miss the horrible fashion.
Honestly as I've gotten older I've started to believe this statement is maybe a falsity. I think now that it would have been a fantastic time to have lived through, but that there would be so much regret when one looked back at the photos that were taken. I have no idea though, perhaps some of my older friends and family members could verify for me - do you look back at the 80's with fondness, or is it tinged with regret because the fashion was so out there?
It is understood that fashion is just recycling. Certainly the 80's had a lot of that going on. But there was definitely something else going on as well. There was definitely an emergence of something new. Something daring. And a lot of drugs. But that's neither here nor there.
This exhibit focused on different aspects of fashion in the 80's and what clubwear, ravewear, and the more crazy aspects of everyday wear looked like. Naturally since this was in a museum this was geared toward the high-end of things (so any lingerie that was shown was from La Perla, any big collections were from Vivienne Westwood), but still, it was interesting to see, as someone who definitely did not live through that era as a sentient person.
All I can say in conclusion is this: actually it might have been fabulous to have clubbed and raved through the 80's. Looked like anyone could express themselves and get into it, get into the high beats and electro-lure of the music. Be completely immersed in the dirtiness of the subculture and the androgyny that prevailed. Fall deep and hard and not want to come back out. That's what it looks like from the outside at least. I understand the allure now, and don't just see the sort of horrid cheapness that I used to see.
Well, cheers to that. :) Maybe the 80's wasn't such a bad era.
More info can be found here.
After the exhibits
So after the exhibits we had about half an hour before the museum event was going to close. We decided it was time to hit the streets for some dinner before calling it a night. Night wasn't over quite yet.
We walked a block or two down the street to a local sushi restaurant and parked ourselves down. It was one of those restaurants that had a conveyor belt that brought the sushi around in a circle instead of on boats. I'll still never understand why this is more appealing than actually having them float on little boats like they do in the States. Perhaps we've just perfected the art of indoor water systems and other countries didn't think this was a smart idea or something. Anyway, these were on conveyor belts again.
The restaurant was recommended by the half of our group that was going home for the night. They said the prices were reasonable and the fish was fresh. That was enough for us.
We ended up going to town in a pretty serious way. We had salmon maki, some rolls with salmon and avocado, some unusual blends of avocado and mayo or cucumbers and what seemed like mussels, and some delectable fried eggplant with teriyaki sauce. We even had a red bean mochi for dessert. All with free green tea. Not bad I'd say.
And they were right about the prices - only 11pounds per person after we'd split everything and added tip. Perfectly reasonable I'd say, considering we'd decimated 12 dishes between the three of us. Certainly more affordable than the meals I'd eaten at Yo! Sushi recently.
The most hilarious moment of the night: as we were sipping our tea enjoying digestion at the end of our meal, we noticed an errant tempura shrimp that had slipped its plate on the conveyor belt, hoping to make an escape:
We considered for a few moments whether it would be polite to just snag it and pretend it didn't happen, since no one in the restaurant was paying attention and clearly it wasn't going to be put back on its plate now that it had fallen off (now unsanitary)...but a few moments delay in our decision making and it fell off the back of the stand, into a bucket of other fried items (looked like soft shell crab). Well, back to your own kind it seems. Hilarious.
And so after that we called it a night. It was quite a night indeed.
Gotta say I'm loving this whole museum corporate membership. I fully plan on continuing my use of it. Booyah.
Not bad for a Tuesday night. ;)