It’s a hard task curating an exhibition, piecing together all the important pieces of Pink Floyd’s cultural resonance. Thankfully, the Victoria and Albert Museum have managed, and incredibly successfully too.
“mesmerises the participant into a sense of wonderment”
Personally, I have to confess my ignorance of some of Pink Floyd’s work and upon entering I was slightly intimidated by the queue of die-hard fans kitted out in tour shirts and Dark Side of The Moon branding everywhere you looked. Still, I ventured in and was struck by the exhibition’s ability to appeal to both the Pink Floyd pleb (Me) and the aficionados. The V&A’s curation follows the entire timeline from the 1960s and the birth of Pink Floyd in the underground club circuit, taking on all the psychedelic aesthetic it can while it’s at it, right up to the band’s latest release. Clearly, that’s an awful lot of context to squeeze in alongside the actual Pink Floyd content. This exhibition is planned expertly, providing historical context through some magnificently decorated telephone boxes dotted around the exhibit. On the topic of decoration, the Pink Floyd exhibition is as much an art exhibition as it is a musical one. The curators have utilised both Pink Floyd’s distinctive visual style and those of every era and it genuinely gives the space a sense of movement both physically and in terms of its narrative, at times making it feel like an acid trip, without the acid thankfully (I’m not sure my stomach could handle it). What became clear is that this curation retains the band’s overtly theatrical style and utilises lighting, projection and sound to build up to some startling reveals, much as Floyd have done.
On the topic of sound, my second moment of worry was when I saw headsets and receivers being handed out to the patrons ahead of me. Now the reason for my worry was that I had faced the same technology (area specific audio feeds throughout the exhibition) at the Star Wars Identities exhibit at the 02. There, I had to change my headset 3 times and could never properly connect to the exhibit. At the Pink Floyd exhibition, the tech (provided by Sennheiser) is seamless; I almost forgot that I was wondering around with the headset on. The sound is all levelled correctly, there were no connectivity issues and you can also turn the sound way up when you want to (and you will want to). It adds a whole new level to the experience and means that there’s never any silence. When you do finally get to take it off, there’s an amazing surprise in wait.
“there’s an amazing surprise in wait”
The Pink Floyd Exhibition really does match up to the band’s innovation. Throughout the exhibition are the details of how the band created their sound along with the original instruments used to make them. Not only is this exhibition a chance to get up close and personal with some groundbreaking technology but it is also an honest insight into how Pink Floyd created “rock and roll theatre”. There’s tons of documentary footage, some immersive activities, scale models and even full pieces from tours such as The Wall. It’s a chance not to be missed if you have any interest in performance history, let alone the band.
This exhibition is easily one of my favourite museum experiences this year. The V&A alongside the remaining members of Pink Floyd have created a space that not only gives insight into one of the most widely respected and culturally important bands of the 21st century but has done so in a way that mesmerises the participant into a sense of wonderment, retaining the band’s eccentric theatrical style and making one feel as though they are going back to 1967. I often feel like I’m copping out when I say “I could go on and on about x, y and z” but I really could. There’s so much to take in but even mentioning it would spoil the wonderfully constructed surprises the V&A has in store.
Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains runs until the 1st of October 2017.
Image: Tim P. Whitby/Getty