Introduction To My Experience
On Monday 30th September I went to visit Sky Arts Ignition Memory Palace exhibition at the V&A.
I had already seen it once before but I went again so I could refresh my memory. At the beginning of the exhibition there were the words ”There was the time of Booming. Then the great moral evil of the Lawlords brought the Magnettisation.’
The first piece I’m going to analyse is this:
The honest reason I picked this one is because I thought it would be easier than, for example, this piece:
If I really wanted to analyse this piece I would have needed to write down all the text and looked up who the people mentioned are. It would have taken a long time and it would have been a long piece to read. The fact that it was not readily understandable was off-putting. I immediately felt frustrated because I wanted to understand fully. However, the point is these people cannot remember the past. They have scraps of information which they have put together as best they can. The people probably don’t recognise all the names either and they are unable to look them up. So I haven’t missed the point of the piece even if I don’t know everything there is to know about each name mentioned. It becomes more understandable when you think about it like this. Visiting the exhibition twice gave me a better understanding of it. It’s the type of exhibition where the concept needs a bit of time to sink in.
First Piece of Analysis
This piece has large light screens behind it. Above it were the words ‘We pick about for things we can use. We are stunted, ravaged by disease. My fellow Londoners, can’t you see how we are diminished?’
The left section shows the Olympic Stadium, the Olympic rings, St. Paul’s Cathedral all severely damaged and there are shanty town style shacks throughout. The buildings are badly damaged just like scenes you would see of war-torn countries in the news. This piece shows how the world looks now. This isn’t how they imagine it. They are walking around and exploring which is difficult since roads and streets are no longer accessible due to the destruction. The writing above shows that they know that this is not how the past was. This explains why the people pick about for things to use, why they are stunted and ravaged by disease. To go from a huge sky scraper to a shanty town shack shows they are diminished.
The centre piece shows the BT tower and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the rain. The Underground is shown and there are black shadows in the shape of people. These people have gone down into the Underground to explore. People are having to use climbing equipment to get around since everything has been destroyed. The urban landscape has been turned into something different. Rain invokes the feeling of being cold, sad and discomfort. The dark shadows invoke danger and being frightened because you cannot see who is around the bend.
The right piece shows Canary Wharf, The Shard, two people with a boat, people on top of a sky scraper and people living inside. People cannot use the roads any more so it makes sense that they would use the river to move around. Cars are conspicuous in their absence.
All the pieces were dark and light but not strictly black and white. There was some yellow. The yellow is reminiscent of decay, mould, stains and general uncleanliness. The lack of any colour (apart from black, white and yellow) adds to the atmosphere of the piece. It’s a serious situation and people are suffering. There is no easy way out. The presence of the shanty town illustrates that people are stuck in this situation. The people cannot move around easily. All the pieces also feature well-known landmarks. This gives the piece realism and makes it easier for the viewer to imagine themselves in that situation. It also makes the piece feel familiar to the viewer. The destruction of the capital also helps to create the feeling of fear and devastation.
After the viewer has recognised all the well-known land marks the next thing that can be seen is that each piece shows a scene from different view points. For example the piece on the left shows the Olympic Stadium from the inside and from the outside. There is a bird’s-eye view of the stadium as well as a view looking up out of it. This lets the viewer get a good idea of what is going on. As you look up out of the stadium you see birds flying across the sky. This can be contrasted with the people who are stuck in their situation. The birds can fly away to a better place.
The three pieces together look like a shattered glass window which echoes the way in which their world and their memories are fractured. The way the sections have been framed in an irregular way echo the chaos in the scenes. Although the piece could be seen as dreary and filled with darkness and despair, it also shows humanity striving to explore and improve their situation. The fires burning in the sky scraper echo the fact that these people haven’t given up. The fire inside them has not been fully extinguished by these hard times.
Second Piece of Analysis
The text on the wall reads:
‘Once there were great palaces called hospitals. The tradition of hospitality was revered across the land. It meant helping customers, healing them and seeing their needs.
Men and women greeted each other by asking ‘How can I help you today?’ The doctors performed great feats of surgery and roamed the cities, looking for the sick. It was a time of great wonder.’
As the pictures above show, four model foxes pull a Roman style chariot. The foxes are attached to a frame made partly from Roman style spears. There are two lights at the front with two eyes in between. The front of the chariot is decorated with snakes, wings, leaves, skulls and a monkey head. The figure standing on the chariot is wearing several bead necklaces around his neck with a white finger, ear, bones, eye-ball, skull and an Xbox controller with NHS written on it. He has a whip. His face looks like a mask. He has two mouths and two sets of eyes and one nose. He has two huge hands with white tips and white polka dots. There is a keyboard on his back and a recorder.
The figure which may be a Doctor and his chariot are heavily decorated. This decoration sets him apart from other people and it shows that he is an important person with an important job to do. The chariot may be pulled by foxes because they were able to survive the destruction of their surroundings and other animal such as horses weren’t so the people used their imaginations and inserted foxes. This ‘ambulance’ looks like a drawing come to life. The black and white colours are quite striking. The figure looks very bizarre, powerful, slightly intimidating and the piece leaves the observer with an uneasy feeling.
There is a figure lying down in the back. He has a ‘Gin’ drip in his arm. There are many small items in the back which have slogans written on them. Some of the slogans are ‘I can predict your past’, ‘Brain yoga’, ‘Jesus lives’, ‘All past is fiction’, ‘el hombre invisible’, ‘griffin tears’, ‘a to z of doom’, ‘pox off extra strong’, ‘bone syrup’, ‘smart pills’, ‘rat juice organic’, ‘the end is now’, ‘are you suffering from a spiritual growth, don’t prolong the pain, get Dr j kyles miracle tv cure’, ‘happy pills’, ‘blow away the cobwebs’ and ‘psychic tv’. Some of the items include two eye balls in a gravy boat, a gun and a feather head dress. On top of the chariot there is a weather vane with a pigeon on it.
It is interesting how the people have mixed the information and memories they do have and used their imaginations to make some kind of sense of it all. Hospitals did exist, operations took place and people were healed. The people have used their imaginations to fill in all the details. For example the slogan ‘I can predict your past’ and ‘all past is fiction’ refer to the problems from which they would like to be healed. All the slogans seem relevant to the people and their current problems as opposed to an accurate representation of the problems and illnesses that took place in the past.
The piece makes a big impact on the viewer and it is a lot more effective than a 2D drawing. It is very memorable.
My experience of the piece
Since there is a feather head dress on the back I searched the internet for the term ‘medicine man’. I can now see that the figure is indeed a realistic representation of a Shaman. I did not know that people wore this type of garb in the past.
Third Piece of Analysis
This piece is taken from ‘Making It Up: Photographic Fictions’ which is being shown at the V&A.
This piece shows a white apartment complex reminiscent of the type of white building that can be seen in the Mediterranean. The building itself looks like a model. The scene is set at night-time and all the lights are on inside the building. The people who live there seem to have a decent standard of living since the building is in very good condition, they all have electricity, the windows have window boxes with flowers growing and there is some greenage around the building.
There is a woman standing on one of the balconies looking worried. She is dressed in a dressing gown. To her left there is a naked man climbing over the edge of the balcony holding onto his clothes. In his haste he has dropped his shoe. To the woman’s right there is a man who has just been dropped off by a car and is about to walk into the building. It appears that the woman is having an affair and is trying to avoid being caught. She is running a risk.
The text above is extremely helpful in explaining the meaning behind the piece. Without this explanation the viewer may have trouble realising exactly why the woman in this picture is acting in this, some might say, immoral and selfish way. The text explains that the woman has been driven to cheat on her husband because she is cut off from others. Perhaps she doesn’t know her neighbours. Neighbours and other residents are conspicuous in their absence; there is no one else in the image apart from the three of them. The car drops the man off in the darkness which shows that he finishes his day late and so is away from her for a long time. He may have chosen to socialise with others after work instead of coming home. Perhaps he isn’t happy either. Sitting at home all day with nothing to do and no one to talk to has driven her to look for attention outside of the man she lives with.
Urbanisation and industrialisation will, by their nature, change the way people live. China is going through massive changes. The woman may have been brought up in a culture where friends and family are continually in close proximity. It would be a big change to move into a modern apartment with strangers for neighbours. This may change the way she interprets her own identity. Before she knew and experienced herself through others. Now she has only herself. Moving away may feel like the emotional equivalent of having your arm amputated. Danwen is showing that there are downsides to development. Modern apartments look great but relocating people means the destruction of the culture that was there before.
My experience of the piece
I thought this was an example of tilt shift photography although I later found out that is incorrect. Tilt shift photography is when a picture is taken of a real scene, not a model and is then made to look like a model. I think the thing that confused me was that the figures in the picture looked very realistic and I wasn’t sure if they had been super imposed or not. After reading the text above which explains how the picture was made I now understand that the building is a model and the figures are images of real people who have been super imposed onto the image. Without the text to help me I am not sure I would have understood the entire meaning behind the piece.