8 November 2013

Tomorrow: Elmgreen & Dragset at the V&A

It was something of a last minute decision to go to the V&A in the afternoon ahead of a theatre date in nearby Hammersmith.

I did not have a firm plan of what to see when I got these which is just as well as an incident at South Kensington (reported at different times as a broken train, a fire and a person under the train) meant that the station was closed. As a result I made the last leg of the journey by bus and I arrived almost an hour later than hoped. Time for a coffee and some cake while doing some replanning.

There were several exhibitions on that day and only time to see one of them so I chose Tomorrow by Elmgreen and Dragset. This was held in a corner of the third floor reached via the silver collection and the tapestries room.



Tomorrow is an installation that purports to be several rooms in an apartment belonging to Norman Swann an elderly and disillusioned architect.

As with other installations that I have seen recently, The Drowned World and In the Beginning was the End, a lot of attention had been paid to the detail and the normal was juxtaposed to the weird. For example, the picture below looks ordinary enough at first glance then you notice the large crack in the dining table that also runs through the plates and chairs.

Unlike the other installations there is no narrative. Or, rather, there are no actors to tell the story. The story can be gleaned from the object or a version of it can be read on the exhibition website.

The rooms on display are the entrance hall, reception room, kitchen, study and bedroom and each is packed with interesting things that become more interesting the closer you look at them.



For example, the books in the case at the far end are a mix of architecture and medicine, including a medical book by JG Ballard. The boy sitting in the fireplace is distinctly spooky and I expected him to move. Even half an hour or so later I looked at him closely still not entirely convinced that he was not real.

I loved the study most of all because it was stuffed full of architectural models and drawings that I go to architecture exhibitions to see. Again the details mattered and there were letters on the desk to read and a noticeboard thick with clippings.

There were a repeated ideas across the rooms, such as the cups of tea, models of horses and scary models of birds. The scariest bird of all was at the bottom of the bed (see the top picture) as if waiting to eat the occupants of the bed as they slept.

My only (minor) gripe with the exhibition is that photography was banned (not that everybody followed that rule) and so I have had to reply on pictures from the exhibition website rather than using my own of my own favourite parts.

I found Tomorrow very interesting and stimulating, even more so because it was unexpected. The V&A majors in quirky and eclectic and Tomorrow by Elmgreen and Dragset is at the top-end of both.

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